Here’s a good rule of thumb: whenever you find yourself copying a document for reuse over and over again or find yourself filling in the blanks in a document, it’s time to save with automation. Zapier lets you automatically populate Google Docs templates based on triggers from other apps.
My team at Slack uses Google Docs to prepare all of our artistic briefs for our blog. They’re designed to be seen and used by dozens of people, and creating a new one was previously a five to ten minute process that gets added when you do it a dozen times a week. This process now takes about a minute. Here’s how we did it at Zapier.
Step 1: Design your Google Docs template and create a Google form to create it
The best place to start is at the end of defining what you want your final document to look like, and then creating a template based on it. Use images, formatting and all that is necessary to make it scannable and useful for all who use it.
Then create a new questionnaire with a field for everything you need in the final document, using Google Forms. Give each question a descriptive title that you can use later in the results. Each title should consist of one or more words separated by a character (such as Writer_Name).
Make sure to put instructions in your form indicating that empty fields will require a response (such as N / A or none) and set each field to required.
Go to Settings and activate Collect email addresses. You will use it later to send the finished product.
Test your form, then check your Answers tab. You will see a link to the responses in Google Sheets. Click on what you will need for the next step in your Zap.
Step 2: Create a zap to trigger when new rows are added to your Google Sheets results
Create a new Zap for Google Sheets that starts every time a new row is added.
Select your Google Sheets account on the next screen. Then select your Google Sheets spreadsheet containing the responses from your Google form and be sure to choose the correct spreadsheet (there should only be one).
Run a test to make sure all the data can be seen by Zapier, then it’s time for Google Docs.
Step 3: Create a Google Docs template and wire it to Zapier
Make a copy of the Google document you designed in the first step. Give this document template a descriptive title that you can easily find in Zapier.
Wherever you want your original Google Form answers to appear, type the title of each question in the document surrounded by square brackets (two on each side of the title). These will be replaced by actual data in the next step.
Go to Zapier and add another step to your Zap. Select Create document from template in Google Docs.
Then fill in your Google account details as in the previous section. Choose the template you just created as the template document.
Personalize your new document by giving it a new document name (use the title of your first question in the form) and change your sharing preference to something open enough so people outside your organization don’t need to to request access to read it. Next, you will need to match each model field found in the document with a field in your spreadsheet. It’s a bit tedious if your form contains a lot of questions, but you only need to do this part once.
Run a test to make sure everything looks good. We’re almost done!
The final step is to notify someone when they submit your form that their new Google document is ready, which you can do in a number of ways (email, Slack, etc.).
Step 4: notify the user who submitted the form by DM in Slack
When we generate a new Google document from our template, we need to notify the person who filled out the form that it is ready, and for that we will use Slack.
Add another step to your Zap to search for a user by email in Slack. This works if your Google mail connection matches the one you use in Slack (which many companies automate with Google Apps and Slack SSO).
Go to the next step to link your Slack workspace to your account. Then in the next step, look for the column of emails in your Google spreadsheets that was automatically saved when the form was submitted (using the Collect email addresses option).
Test it and continue when it works.
Add a fourth step to your Zap to send a direct message in Slack.
Then link your account to your Slack workspace much like in the previous step. Customize the user name To to send the message to the user name found in the previous email search step, then add the title of the Google Doc template and a link to display it in the text. of the message. Customize all other aspects of the DM, then test it to make sure everything works.
You have finished!
If everything works, every time someone fills in Google Forms, moments later, they will receive a DM in Slack with a link to their document. From there, they can share it at any time.
The linked document in the DM will contain all the formatting and display settings you used in the template. It will be automatically visible and readable by anyone with the URL, so it can be transmitted to anyone who needs it in our case, to artistic directors, illustrators or artists under contract.
Customize this Zap for your use case
If you want to use this workflow, click Use this zap and get started.
It can be easily modified to send the finished model in a Slack channel instead of a DM. Or you can add another step that adds it to a new Asana task or to another project management tool as a support document to be followed by project managers. Whatever your use, template automation can help you replace repetitive business processes with something faster and easier.
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