5 steps to help your users get started with Google Workspace

Three words: Install (with Chrome and Google Drive for desktop icons below it), Configure (with Gmail and Calendar icons below it) and Intro (with Google Drive icon below it)


A walk-through of the basics will help new employees get set up to use Google Workspace on a Windows or macOS system. Here are some areas to cover that will help them get off to a great start.

Three words: Install (with Chrome and Google Drive for desktop icons below it), Configure (with Gmail and Calendar icons below it) and Intro (with Google Drive icon below it)

Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Behind the scenes, a Google Workspace administrator takes all sorts of actions before a new addition to the organization begins work. This includes hundreds of configuration settings that affect how the various Google Workspace apps operate. And, it also means the creation of an account for each person new to the organization.

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However, an additional task remains on the very first day people join the organization: the need to help people get set up, signed in and ready to work. It’s easy to overwhelm people with too much information in one session — especially on their first day.

The following five steps are the ones I’ve found strike a nice balance between too much and too little information. These steps, specifically, are ones I suggest you use to help people who are setting up Google Workspace on a Windows or macOS desktop or laptop. (Chrome OS and mobile device Google Workspace setups require different steps, which I’ll cover separately soon.) So, on the first day that someone joins your organization, I recommend you have someone on the IT team help the new person through the following activities and information.

SEE: How to use Google Meet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Install and sign in to Chrome

First, download and install Chrome (Figure A). Google Workspace apps work in most modern desktop browsers, such as Safari, Microsoft Edge and Firefox. But some features, such as offline access for Gmail and Google Calendar, work only with Chrome. I strongly recommend that people who use Google Workspace for work or school on a computer do so while signed in to Google Chrome. 

Figure A

Screenshot of Google Chrome download page in Microsoft Edge on Windows. Indicates

First, download and install Chrome and sign in to your Google Workspace account.

After you have installed Chrome, sign in to your Google Workspace account in Chrome. I recommend you allow Chrome to sync your settings. This allows bookmarks, history and other settings associated with your account to sync across systems. Should you ever sign in to Chrome on another computer, sync helps provide a consistent experience in Chrome not only across different devices (e.g., a desktop and a laptop), but also across different operating systems (Windows, macOS, etc.).

2. Install and sign in to Google Drive for Desktop

On Windows and macOS systems, I recommend that you download and install Google Drive for desktop (Figure B). Once installed, you may browse, open and save files stored on Google Drive much as you would access files stored on your computer. Drive for Desktop makes it much easier for people to use Google Drive not only with Google Workspace apps, but also with locally installed applications. For example you may create a new document with Microsoft Word locally and then save it to Google Drive. And, of course, Drive for Desktop lets you browse and work with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files.

Figure B

Screenshot of Google Drive for desktop download page in Microsoft Edge on Windows, with a message

On Windows and macOS systems, download and install Google Drive for Desktop.

3. In Gmail, enable Chat and Meet

With a tweak of two settings, Gmail can serve as the central communication hub not only for email, but also for chat and web meetings. In Gmail, select the Settings sprocket | See All Settings | Chat And Meet (tab), then make sure that Chat is set to Google Chat (not Off) and Meet is set to Show The Meet Section In The Main Menu (Figure C). Select the Save Changes button to make both Chat and Meet available in Gmail.

Figure C

Screenshot of Gmail Chat and Meet tab settings, with Google Chat on and Meet set to show.

In Gmail settings, choose to turn on Google Chat and to Show The Meet Section In The Main Menu. (Note that Chat, Spaces and Meet display in the lower-left corner.)

Additionally, when I help someone get started with Gmail, I typically point out four items on the page:

  • The Compose button, to create new email
  • The Search box and Show Search options icon, to find email
  • The side panel, for access to Calendar, Keep and Tasks within Gmail
  • The app launcher, to access Workspace and other apps

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

4. In Calendar, configure time zone and working hours

When you properly set both your time zone and working hours in Google Calendar, you at least help reduce the chances that you’ll be accidentally invited to meetings at inconvenient times. In Calendar, select the Settings sprocket | Settings, then scroll to the Time Zone. Adjust it, if needed, to accurately reflect your location (Figure D, left). Optionally, you might also choose to display a secondary time zone. Typically, this might be either a location where many of your colleagues work or UTC / Coordinated Universal Time. Scroll down to Working Hours & Location (if available) and select Enable Working Hours. Customize the hours for each day to reflect your standard schedule (as shown in Figure D, right).

Figure D

Screenshots of each of the features: (left) Time zone set to Mountain Time, with a secondary time zone of UTC also selected to display; (right) Working hours enabled, with MTWTF hours set differently, 9 - 5 on MWTF, and Tues set to 9-11,13:00-15:00, and 19:00-22:00.

In Google Calendar, check your time zone (left) and enable and configure your working hours (right).

When I help someone get started with Google Calendar, I typically point out:

  • The View switcher, to change the time-span displayed
  • The Add Other Calendars option, to discover and display a colleague’s schedule

SEE: How to use Google Calendar: 6 tips (TechRepublic)

5. Briefly introduce users to Google Drive

With those two essential configuration changes made, I proceed to introduce people to Google Drive. That means opening Google Drive and covering the basic differences between My Drive, which holds folders and files you may access (but that may or may not be shared with other people), and Shared Drives, which holds folders and files with access levels that vary based on each Shared Drive member’s permission level (Figure E, left-side menu).

Figure E

Screenshot of Google Drive on the web, with My Drive and Shared drives both displayed along the left-side menu. Search in Drive box at the top, and the 9-dot app launcher icon in the upper right.

Introduce Google Drive and explain the difference between My Drive and Shared Drives.

While on Google Drive, I also typically ask the person to select My Drive, then click on the + New button. This brings up a menu that offers options to make a new folder, upload items or create a new file (new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, etc.).

I suggest you also point out the search box (and search options icon) and the app launcher icon.

SEE: How to get started with G Suite shared drives (TechRepublic)

What steps do you recommend?

Of course, there are many other setup steps that a person new to Google Workspace might find helpful. Some people set Chrome to automatically open Gmail as the homepage. Others bookmark frequently used Workspace apps (e.g., Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs). Often, people configure Gmail, Calendar and Drive for offline access. 

What steps do you take when you help people get started with Google Workspace on their first day in your organization? Do you cover a much longer list? Or do you focus on far fewer setup steps? Let me know what core Google Workspace knowledge you cover, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber). 

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