Google Apps Ninja Stories

I haven't been too easy lately on Google Apps in relation to Microsoft Office 2010. This isn't a bad thing: if Google wants users to abandon Office (or at least end the upgrade cycle) and fully invest in Apps, then they need to be really compelling and competitive, both for average office workers and power users.

I haven't been too easy lately on Google Apps in relation to Microsoft Office 2010. This isn't a bad thing: if Google wants users to abandon Office (or at least end the upgrade cycle) and fully invest in Apps, then they need to be really compelling and competitive, both for average office workers and power users. The recent rewrite of Docs and its associated improvements are definitely a step in the right direction and I'm convinced that Google is intent on changing (for the better) the way we work together and create content.

There are still plenty of things that Office 2010 (and 2007 for that matter) does really well and full-blown office suites aren't going anywhere anytime soon for many of our users. However, with the introduction of Google Apps Script in the latest updates to Docs, some pretty impressive functionality can be added to Apps using standard javascript. As noted on the Apps Script site,

With scripts, you can:

  • Create your own custom spreadsheet functions
  • Automate repetitive tasks (e.g. process responses to Google Docs forms)
  • Link multiple Google products together (e.g. send emails or schedule Calendar events from a list of addresses in a Spreadsheet)
  • Customize existing Google products (e.g. add custom buttons or menus to run your own scripts)

Yeah, but why should I have to write javascript when Office already lets me do so much of this sort of thing? Because Apps sits in the cloud; providing users with the ability to customize the way Apps not only work with each other but also work with other services and data stores on the Internet is incredibly powerful. Perhaps more importantly, Apps Script provides a glimpse of future functionality that will be built into updates and potentially lets you meet the unique needs of your users in novel ways, leveraging Google's open APIs and the cloud itself.

To that end, I'm starting a series of posts that I'm calling Google Apps Ninja Stories. These will feature applications, customizations, tips, and tricks that will impress even the most jaded of cloud users. Just how much can you do in terms of office productivity natively in the cloud, and how can Docs change the way we collaborate? Check back soon for Ninja Stories that highlight what "power user" means in the cloud.