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Uploading attachments in new Google Sites

The new Google Sites are much easier to use than the old version, although they are still in a bare bones stage. Many of the teachers I support are using new Sites for their teacher websites.

One issue they have run into occurs when they want to add a file, usually a Word document (and they should be using Google Docs because we are a GAFE district, but I’m not going there now), to their website.

Here’s what typically happens. The teacher uploads the file from their computer to the site.

Word Doc Uploaded

They check in Preview mode and everything looks great.
Doc in preview

They publish their site and someone complains because they can’t see the document.

Where is doc?

This happens because, by default, uploaded documents are shared only with the editors of the site. They are not viewable by the general public. The file needs to be shared, just like something you add from Drive, but this isn’t immediately obvious.

Here’s the fix. Click on the document to select it. You will see the editing box appear; click the pop-out icon.

Pop out

Click the 3 dots (which always give you more options in the Googleverse) and choose Share.

3 Dots

Share the document either with Anyone with the link OR make it Public on the web. (You may have to click Advanced to see these options). Be sure to save your choice.

Anyone with the link

The document is now viewable by anyone with access to view the site.

Doc is viewable


Alternative to the Subscribe to Post Button

Google Sites are a great tool for teachers and students. They can be student e-portfolios, collaborative writing sites, and much more. On the teacher side, they are a wonderful way to communicate information about your class to students and their families. If you create a page using the Announcements template, you communicate current news and information or homework assignments and keep the newest posts at the top. Families can subscribe to the page and get an email message whenever you update it.

The problem, though, is that the default “Subscribe to posts” button that appears on the page doesn’t work for all browsers and can’t be removed. The good news is that there is another Google tool, Feedburner, that gives people a way to subscribe to your updates. There are several steps, but it’s actually very easy to do.

  1. Log into your Google account. Create or go to the page on your website that visitors will subscribe to. Make sure you the page uses the Announcements page format. If you need to change the page format, click the gear menu in the upper right and go to Page Settings.
  2. Scroll down the page until you locate the orange “Subscribe to posts” button. This may not be visible until your site is public.
  3. Right click on the subscribe button (control + click on a Mac) and copy the subscription link. Depending on your browser, you might see different wording (Copy link location in Firefox, Copy link address in Google Chrome, Copy link in Safari).
  4. Open a new tab (File > New Tab or Command + t). Go to Feedburner. Because it is a Google service, you should already be signed in and see your email address in the upper right corner. Locate the box marked “Burn a feed right this instant.”
  5. Paste the URL you copied in step 3 into the box. DO NOT CLICK NEXT!
  6. Edit the URL. Change https to http. Now you can click Next.
  7. Give your feed a name. This is the title people will see in their email when they subscribe. Make it short but descriptive. Do not worry about changing the feed address. Click Next.
  8. At the bottom, click the tiny “Skip directly to feed management” link.
  9. On the screen that appears, click Publicize, then Email Subscriptions, then Activate.
  10. Scroll down the page and copy the email subscription code. Be sure to highlight all the code before copying.
  11. Return to the tab with your website. Click on the pencil icon to edit the page, then click on the HTML link at the upper right.
  12. Paste the code you copied in step 10 into the box, then click Update.
  13. Add any extra text you want to the page, then save your changes. For example, you may want to add something along the lines of: “Please be aware the Subscribe to posts link below does not work correctly for all browsers. To receive an email message when this page is updated, click the Subscribe to Class Announcements by Email link here:”
  14. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!

Embed PDF in Google Sites

One of the things I have been struggling with lately is how to embed a PDF in a Google Site. It turns out if you have the PDF saved in your Google Drive, it’s not that difficult. All you have to do is click on the PDF in your Drive, pop it out into a new window, and copy the embed code. Then you head over to your site, click to edit, choose HTML, and paste in the code. Update and save, then sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

See the step by step instructions and animated GIFs of the process below.

Step 1: Open PDF in your Drive and click on the Pop Out window icon. This step is the key; you can’t get the embed code unless you pop out the window.

Pop-out window location

Step 2: In the new window, click the 3 vertical dots (more options) and choose Embed item…

Get embed code

Step 3: Copy the embed code.

Copy embed code

Step 4: Go to the page on your Google Site where you want to embed the PDF. Click the pencil icon to edit, then click HTML.

Open HTML editor

Step 5: Paste the embed code into the HTML editor. Click Update at the bottom.

Paste code and update

Step 6: Don’t forget to save!

Don't forget to save!


Animated GIFs of the process:

Getting the embed code
animated GIF of part 1 of embed process

Pasting the embed code
animated GIF of part 2 of embed process



add background

No more disappearing Google Site header images

upload header image

I love Google Sites. They are easy to use and infinitely flexible. My district recently adopted Google Apps for Education and I have created and/or worked on more of them than I can count.  I love how adding a background image to the header can make even sites using the same template look very different. Usually, everything works as it should.

Strangely, in the past two weeks, I ran across the same problem on three different Google sites. We had beautiful header images for them, but every time we changed the title font or made any of a number of other changes to the site colors, themes, and fonts, the header image disappeared upon saving and we had to reupload it. Again. And again. And again.

It turns out that the reason is that the filename for each of those images had spaces in it. Renaming them and then reuploading solved the issue. So, if you find your header image disappearing, try making the spaces in the filename disappear instead.

Include an EdShelf webmix in a Google site

I have been playing with EdShelf, an online tool that helps teachers organize lists of apps and other resources they use into webmixes. It is free and so far has been easy to use. Basically, you create a collection (or more than one) and add the tools to it. Each tool is in the database with a brief video, reviews, and pricing info. One feature that is especially nice is that if you choose to print the list, it automatically adds QR codes to link to the website for each tool. You can embed your collections on websites to share with students, parents, and other educators.

Unfortunately, the embed code they provide doesn’t work well with Google sites. Google is pretty particular about what kind of embed codes they allow. There is a workaround, though. What you need to do is to insert the entire webpage into a frame on your Google site. Just follow these steps.

  1. Log into
  2. Find your name on the right side, click it, and select the webmix you want to include.
  3. When the webmix page opens, select and copy the url.
  4. Log into your Google site and click where you want to embed the webmix.
  5. Choose Insert from the menu at the upper left.
  6. Choose More Gadgets, then Include gadget (iFrame). Click Select.
  7. Paste the url to your webmix in the box marked URL to content, adjust your other settings, and click OK.