Using Files and Docs

Docs can be found in the top menu of a group’s home page. Files and Docs sound very similar, but here’s the difference between them:

  • Files are files (images, Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs) attached to a group from someone else’s computer so that everyone can download them to use on their own computer.
  • Docs are text files that can be edited by more than one person. They’re created on the Commons and can be edited and read online.

An example will help illustrate these features’ uses. You might have a two-page description of a project that you’ve written in Open Office on your computer that you want to share with everyone else in the group. If you use Files to upload the .odt file, everyone can download and read it. However, if you want to work collaboratively and allow group members to easily make changes to the text, it would be more useful to share your project description using the Docs feature. See instructions for creating a new doc below.

You won’t see the Docs feature in every group. Docs is optional, and the group administrator can turn it on or off for the group. And not every group will use Docs the same way. Docs can also be set up with different permissions: one group admin might restrict access to it, while others might allow everyone to create docs.

But you don’t actually need to belong to a group that’s using Docs to use the feature yourself. If you click on your avatar at the top right of any screen, you’ll see a menu on the left that contains a Docs button.

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The first time you click Docs, here’s what you’ll see:

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This, by the way, is exactly what you’ll see in the group version of Docs if there aren’t any docs in the group yet. When there’s at least one document, a search field will appear allowing you to search through all docs in the group. For now, let’s make a new doc.

To create a new doc, click Create New Doc. You’ll be taken to the New Doc page, which looks like this:

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If you’ve created a blog post or used the group discussion boards on the Commons, this should look pretty familiar. You need to give your new doc a title and then write it. If you created it outside of a group, you’ll be asked if you want to share it with a group. You’ll also be asked who should be able to read, edit, and comment on the doc.

Group Folders allow you to organize your docs, while assigning a Parent doc creates a hyperlinked relationship between this doc and the Parent.

If you want people to find your text, you might add some keywords in the Tags section. If your doc is only for yourself or your group, you probably don’t need to bother with this.

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When you’re done, click Save. You now have your first doc! Here’s what you’ll see:

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This is the reading mode. If you click Edit, you (or other people, if they’re allowed) can change the text. History shows a list of who’s edited the doc over time—no one so far. If you click Show Details in the green box that says Access: Public, you can see the doc’s privacy settings.

Below the text of the doc there’s an area headed Discussion. Here people can add comments to your doc, the way you would to a blog post or a discussion topic. These comments will be seen by anyone who reads your doc.

Getting back to your doc from elsewhere on the Commons is pretty easy. Click Docs in the dropdown menu in your avatar at the top right of the screen, and you’ll see a list of all your docs.