10 August 2016

How to Monitor your Website’s Uptime with Google Docs


Would you like to receive instant alerts as soon as your website goes down or is inaccessible to users? Would you like to receive these downtime alerts as an email message or text on your mobile phone or both?

Most website monitoring services follow the “freemium” model – they have free plans for basic downtime & uptime monitoring of a website but need to pay for unlimited email or SMS alerts. You may also need to upgrade to monitor multiple websites. There’s a good alternate though.

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Create your own Website Uptime Monitor with Google

You can create your own website monitor that runs on Google servers and sends email alerts or SMS when your website goes down or is up again. It logs everything in a Google Spreadsheet or you can even store the downtime activity inside Google Analytics.

How to Setup Website Monitor

Here’s how you quickly configure Google Docs to monitor the uptime /downtime of your website. This has to be done just once and the spreadsheet will continuously monitor your sites in the background. Let’s get started:

  1. Click here to copy the website monitoring Google sheet into your Google Drive. You may either use your Gmail or Google Apps account to sign-in.
  2. Go to the Website Monitor menu (near Help) and choose Configure. You may have to authorize the sheet the first time you configure the monitor.
  3. Specify your website URL and the email address where you wish to be notified. You can put multiple addresses separated by commas.
  4. [Optional] Enter the Google Analytics Id (e.g., UA-123456-78) and the site monitor will log downtime / uptime events in  your Analytics account.
  5. You can turn on “Get text messages” to receive download alerts by SMS* on the mobile phone connected to your Google account.

Click the Start button and the Google sheet will start monitoring your website in the background. You can close the sheet.

The uptime and downtime times are logged in theGoogle Spreadsheet so you can use that data to analyze the performance of your web hosting company.

How Website Monitor works with Google Docs

Internally, a Google Script attached to the Google Sheet is doing the monitoring and logging events in Google Sheets and Google Analytics.

The script triggers every few minutes and then tries to fetch your website using URLFetchApp, a Google service similar to wget or curl. If the HTTP response code is anything other than 200, it indicates that there’s an issue with your website and an email alert is sent.

Sending SMS Alerts via Google Sheets

Google Apps Script can send email messages through Gmail but uses a workaround for sending SMS text messages. It creates an event in your default Google Calendar with an SMS reminder  – the event is set to expire in 30 seconds and thus you get an instant text alerts on your mobile.

Also see: Get SMS Alerts for Important Gmail Messages

*The SMS option is however only available to Google Apps for Work accounts. If you aren’t getting text alerts on your phone, please ensure that your phone number is associated with Google Calendar as detailed in this tutorial.


The story, How to Monitor your Website’s Uptime with Google Docs, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 10/08/2016 under Google Analytics, Google Docs, Internet.

08 August 2016

How to Set Expiration Dates for Shared Google Drive Files


When you share any file or folder in Google Drive with another user, the shared links will work forever unless you manually change the sharing permissions. For instance, if you have shared a document with an external vendor, they’ll continue to have access to the file long after your business contract may have ended.

In such a situation, wouldn’t it be nice if you could set expiration dates while sharing files in Google Drive? For instance, share a document temporarily for, say, 10 days and access to the file should be revoked automatically after that period has passed.

Add an Auto-Expiry Date for Shared Links in Google Drive

Google Drive does let you set expiration dates for shared links but this option is only available to paid Google App for Work accounts.

Well, no worries. If you have a free Google account, you can still create temporary links that auto-expire after a certain time. Here’s a step by step guide:

  1. Go to labnol.org/expire and authorize the web app to access your Google Drive.
  2. Open the File Picker and select any file or folder in your Google Drive that you would like share.
  3. Enter one or more email addresses (comma separated) of users who should be given viewer (read-only) or editor (read & write) access to your file.
  4. Finally, specify the time period after which the access should be limited. You can say 5 hours or 3 weeks or even 2 years.

Click the “Set Expiration” button and you are done. The Google Script will set a time-based trigger that will automatically remove the specified user from the access list after the specified date and time.

You can also use the Google Drive Auditor add-on to analyze the shared permissions of every file in your Google Drive and know who can see your files.

The auto-expiry app will list all the files and folders that are set to expire after a certain period. You can click the “cancel” link against any Drive link to prevent that shared link from expiring automatically.

Select File in Google Drive

Auto Expire Google Drive Shared Links

Also see: Make a Google Drive Tree (video)


The story, How to Set Expiration Dates for Shared Google Drive Files, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 08/08/2016 under Google Drive, Internet.

How to Make Pixel Paintings with Google Spreadsheets


You may have been using Google Spreadsheets for budgeting and project management but did you know that the same sheets application can also help you create impressive pixel paintings in minutes? The Google blog recently published a story of two illustrators who created a bright and beautiful wall mural using Google Spreadsheets.

Marina and Mallory connected on Google Hangouts to plan and sketch out ideas, and creatively “hack” Sheets in order to make art: resizing cells into thousands of pixel-like squares, merging cells to create color blocks, creating vibrant color gradients with conditional formatting and cell values, and other cool things we had no idea you could do with Sheets.

The idea is simple. Each cell in the spreadsheet corresponds to a pixel in the painting. You compute the color of the pixel and make it the background color of the corresponding cell. Now resize the spreadsheet cells in small perfect squares and your spreadsheet will look exactly like the original artwork.

How to Paint with Google Spreadsheets

If you would like to create your own spreadsheet art but don’t have the time to carefully paint every cell manually, here’s a simple workaround for you. You can take any photograph, vector art, or any other image and use a Google Script to convert that bitmap image into spreadsheet art.

Watch the video tutorial  or open this Google Sheet for sample artwork.

Create Pixel Art with Google Sheets

It takes few easy steps to make pixel art with Google Sheets. You can use any free image but make sure they are 300 pixels or less for optimal performance.

  1. Open the Google Spreadsheet template and copy it to your own Google Drive.
  2. Go to the Spreadsheet Art menu, choose the Image Upload option and select the picture that you’ve downloaded in the previous step.
  3. The sheet will now parse every single pixel of your image and write the corresponding hex color codes in the spreadsheets cells.
  4. Select the “Apply Colors” option and the Google Script will set the background color of every spreadsheet cell equal to the cell value.
  5. The cells in the spreadsheet are rectangles whereas pixels are perfect squares. Select step 3 to resize every cell in the spreadsheet as a square.

And that’s it. Your spreadsheet art is now ready.

The end result may appear slightly pixelated (video) because we have used a small image as the source template but impressive nonetheless. You can download the Google Sheet as a PDF file or save it in Microsoft Excel format.

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Pixel Paintings made with Google Spreadsheets – Link


The story, How to Make Pixel Paintings with Google Spreadsheets, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 08/08/2016 under Google Docs, Software.