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Every year on November 1, thousands of people aim to start and finish a 50,000-word novel by 11:59pm on November 30. This fun, seat-of-your pants approach to creative writing is called National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), and we think it’s pretty awesome. But you know what could make it even more awesome -- doing it together... live!

To celebrate we’ve invited three of our favorite writers to get creative together. They won’t be writing a full novel, but on November 18, they will be collaborating in Google Docs to write a short story in just one hour. You’ll be able to watch the whole thing as they swap sentences in real time. Afterward, we’ll have a Q&A with the authors moderated by NaNoWriMo director (and dedicated participant), Grant Faulkner.

Of course, every great story needs a great beginning, and that’s where we need your help! You’ll tell the authors how the story should begin, whether it’s with the classic “Once upon a time…” or something completely random like “Before he came to Tuberville, Roger Pickens had never seen a chicken.”

To participate, send us your opening line ideas until November 12th. Then, on November 18, you can tune in to view the winning prompt, and watch as the writers transform that sentence into a one-of-a-kind story, right in front of your eyes.

One prompt, one Doc, one hour. Three talented writers. And the tale unfolds from there...

Meet the collaborating authors 
(Edan Lepucki, Tope Folarin, Mike Curato)
Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and has been the #1 bestseller on the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists. California was also recently chosen as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Tope Folarin made his fiction debut in Transition with 'Miracle' in 2012, for which he won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013. In 2014 he was named to the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 40. Tope currently lives in Washington, D.C. where he is at work on his first novel.

Mike Curato’s debut children's book, Little Elliot, Big City (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Macmillan), has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The first in a series of three, Little Elliot, Big City recently won the 2014 Founders Award from the Society of Illustrators, which is given to the most promising new talent in the field of children’s book illustration. Curato lives and works in Brooklyn.

Posted by Andrea Freund, Communications for Docs, Sheets, & Slides and closet writer

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Google Drive makes it easy to keep your stuff safe and accessible from any device, but it doesn’t stop there. We want you to easily find and share your documents, photos, and PDFs with others. So, in addition to a Material Design facelift, the latest update for Android gives you new ways to add, locate, and share from Drive. Improved Search
The search tool makes it even easier to find the content you’re looking for by updating results as you type each letter into the search box.
Better Sharing
Now, you can add a custom message when you share a file so your collaborators know why you sent it—for example,  you can add a note asking for feedback. You can also turn on link sharing to make the file “public” and set access to view, comment, or edit. This automatically copies the link to the clipboard and allows you to paste it wherever you want.
Enhanced PDF Viewer
A new PDF viewer lets you find, select and copy text in PDFs, plus, it’s built right into Drive so you don’t need to launch another app.
Look for these updates to roll out over the next several days. If you don't have the Google Drive app, you can download it from Google Play.

Posted by Ganesh Shankar, Product Manager, Google Drive for Android

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Google Forms is a free and simple way to collect information--from quickly polling your friends about who'll be attending your trip to the haunted hayride, to getting thousands of responses to an awareness survey for work.

Over the last few months, Forms has been getting a bunch of updates to help you make good looking surveys, like new theme choices and the ability to create your own personalized themes.

To give you even more flexibility and options, we’re introducing add-ons for Forms—new tools, created by developer partners, that deliver even more features to your surveys (just like add-ons for Docs and Sheets).

Add-ons bring handy extras to your survey building experience, like setting a survey end date, sending custom emails based on responses, storing lists of choices that you frequently add to questions, and more.

You can access add-ons from the “Add-ons” menu in Forms, or by directly visiting the Forms add-on store.
Here are just a few of the growing list of add-ons that you can use today with Google Forms:
  • formLimiter: Close your survey automatically, after a maximum number of responses is reached, or at a date and time of your choosing. 
  • Ultradox Trigger: Create custom emails, reports, invoices, newsletters, etc., based on information that people enter into your form. 
  • Form Values: Store and pull from lists that you use regularly in Forms, like a list of staff, students, rooms, resources or anything you want. 
We hope these new tools make your Forms creation process even easier and more useful--and stay tuned for more--our developer partners will be launching even more add-ons in the coming weeks. 

PS: If you’re a developer with ideas for creating your own add-on for Forms, here’s some documentation to get you started.

Posted by Saurabh Gupta, Product Manager

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Sometimes to get an image just right in a presentation, you need to make some small tweaks. To help you do this without leaving Slides, a few months ago we made it possible to crop and add borders, and today we’re giving you even more control of your images with a set of new editing options.
You can now select “Image options...” from the toolbar, format menu, or right-click menu, where you can adjust the opacity, brightness, and contrast of an image, or recolor it to match the theme of your presentation.

Check out some examples of how you can edit images inside Slides in the animated gifs below.
Change the opacity of your image
Recolor your image


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Earlier this month, Google Forms got snazzed up with new customizable and pre-designed themes that let you easily create beautiful surveys—and today’s updates give you even more ways to build and share those surveys.

Find what you’re looking for 
Similar to Docs and Slides, you can use the “Search the menus” shortcut to get quick access to nearly all the features in Forms, without having to dig through the different menus at the top of the page. To find a feature, simply press Alt+/ or look under the Help menu.
New ways to manage your questions 
You’ll also be getting new tools to control how your survey questions appear to others. For example, you can now:
  • mix things up by randomizing the order of questions on quizzes or surveys with the new “shuffle questions” option. 
  • make sure you only get one answer per person by turning on the “only allow one response per user” feature in settings. 
  • limit people to one response per column for grid-style questions using the new option under “advanced settings.” 

Get the word out with shorter URLs 

And of course, what’s the point of creating a survey is you can’t share it with others? To make this easier, now when you click the “Send form” button, you’ll see a checkbox for creating a tidy URL to share. 
Learn more about all the ways you can use Google Forms at google.com/forms/about and stay tuned to our +page and Twitter account to follow along with the latest updates for all the Docs editors.

Posted by Elynn Lee, Software Engineering Intern

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Cross posted on the Official Google Blog

Imagine trying to keep track of another person’s real-time edits in a document—using only your ears. Or trying to create a table from spreadsheet data—without being able to clearly see the cells. Whether you’re backing up a file in Drive or crunching some numbers in Sheets, it should be easy to bring your ideas to life using Google’s tools. But if you’re blind or have low vision, you may need to rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille displays—and that can make working in the cloud challenging. While screen readers can parse static webpages (like this blog) relatively easily, it’s much harder for them to know what to say in interactive applications like Google Docs because the actions they need to describe are much more complex.

With these reasons in mind, today we’re announcing some improvements to Drive and all our editors—Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms—specifically designed with blind and low-vision users in mind.
Improved screen reader support in Drive and Docs 
In June, we introduced a new version of Drive that’s sleeker, easier to navigate and much faster. But just as importantly, the new Drive also includes better keyboard accessibility, support for zoom and high-contrast mode and improved usability with screen readers.

Across Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings and Forms, you’ll find that it’s now much easier to use a screen reader, with nicer text-to-voice verbalization and improvements to keyboard navigation. You’ll also notice other updates, including:

  • Support for alt text on images in Docs, so you can tell a screen reader what they should say to describe an image 
  • Better support for using a keyboard to edit charts and pivot tables in Sheets 
  • Additional screen reader improvements specifically for Docs, Sheets and Slides, including support for spelling suggestions, comments and revision history 
  • The ability to quickly search the menus and perform actions in Docs, Slides and Drawings (and soon Sheets and Forms)—even if you don’t know the action’s key sequence 
Collaborating with others is easier too: in Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings, screen readers announce when people enter or leave the document, and you’ll now also hear when others are editing alongside you.

Refreshable Braille display support 
If you use a Braille display, you can now use it to read and enter text in Docs, Slides and Drawings. Even if you don't use a Braille display, with Braille support, your screen reader’s settings for character echoing are automatically followed. Enabling Braille also dramatically reduces the lag between when you press a key and when it’s announced by your screen reader, and improves the announcements of punctuation and whitespace. Learn how to enable Braille support in our Help Center.

Get up and going faster
The first time you use a screen reader or a Braille display, getting up to speed can be a daunting task. But it’s simpler with new step-by-step guides for Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms and Drawings.
You can also access the in-product “Help” menu at any time without interrupting your work, or use the updated shortcut help dialog to easily search through keyboard shortcuts if you don’t remember them.

Finally, we’re offering phone support for Google Drive accessibility questions. If you get stuck, visit support.google.com/drive to request a phone call and someone from our team will reach out to you.

What’s next
Referring to recent updates to Google Drive, Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said at this year’s National Convention: “The progress...during the last few months has just been positively extraordinary.” We’re pleased the community has welcomed these improvements, and will continue to work with organizations like the NFB to make even more progress.

Everyone, regardless of ability, should be able to experience all that the web has to offer. To find out more about our commitment to a fully accessible web, visit the new Google Accessibility site at www.google.com/accessibility.

Posted by: Alan Warren, Vice President, Engineering

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One of the perks of using Docs, Sheets, and Slides—along with any other file types you’ve saved in Drive—is that you can invite others to view, edit, or comment on any file or folder you choose.

Today we’re introducing a new sharing experience that makes it easier and faster to invite others to access your files.

As you may already know, anything you create in Docs, Sheets, and Slides or upload to Drive is automatically set to private, which means only you can view it. But when you do want to share a file or folder, there are a few easy ways:
  • Like always, just click the big, blue “Share” button at the top of an open file, or if you are in your Drive list, you can now click the person icon at the top of the page after you’ve selected one or more files.
  • A box will pop up, and from there, you can add individual people to share with directly. But as a new addition, if you want to create a unique shareable link, you can now just click the “Get shareable link” button.
The shareable link will be set to view-only by default. And if you are ever wondering whether you’ve already made the link shareable, just look at the icon next to the button. Green means yes, grey means no, just like on your Android device.
If you want anyone with the link to be able to do more with your file, like leave comments and suggestions or make edits, just change “can view” to “can comment” or “can edit” in the dropdown. Check your accounts for these updates over the coming days.

Posted by Ajay Surie, Product Manager