Google Apps Hacks Paperback – Apr 27 2008
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About the Author
Born in 1977, Philipp Lenssen is a web developer, blogger and author from Germany. Since 2003, Philipp runs Google Blogoscoped at blogoscoped.com, a daily news source started in Malaysia covering all things Google, from Gmail, Orkut and web search to Google Docs, usability issues, YouTube and everything in-between. The blog also spawned a book called 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google. Philipp likes to tinker with programming, drawing, writing and game design, and has a special interest in the intersections among those areas.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This Google apps book has more of a user focus and a bit more hand-holding than other Google app books I have taken a look at lately. (Google Apps Hacks)
The 13 chapters are divided into 4 parts:
1) Setting up with Google and using the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation creation software.
2) Using Google e-mail, communication and calendar applications.
3) Customizing the Google home page and creating Web pages without HTML knowledge with the new Page Creator.
4) Using Google applications within organizations. This last section went into administering users and facilitating team collaboration. This was interesting and something I had not seen in other books.
This "Missing Manual" is pretty thorough and has a good index. If your goal is to *use* Google applications (rather than program them), this book is an excellent reference and guide.
This book WOULD have been an easy 5 stars but the lack of color really hurts this release, so much so I dropped a star off. I don't understand why some books that need color are denied this at pre-release time while other books that don't need it get the full treatment.
Great book, just could have been even THAT much better.
**** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
A book about Google Apps is bound to be awkward, because they are not a single subject and are aimed at several different audiences. In general this book assumes the reader is already familiar with the type of application being discussed, and just needs to learn how to use the Google version. In particular the presentation focuses on individual features and doesn't say much about workflow. For example, although Google's spreadsheets are simple, and well-described here, I don't believe anyone who was unfamiliar with spreadsheets would be able to figure out how to use Google Doc Spreadsheets from this book.
The section on Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheet, slideshows) goes fairly quickly through the available editing functions. It goes into more detail on the collaboration functions (since documents are stored on the web, you can collaborate with anyone else who can get on Google), version history, and reconciling online and offline edits. This section of the book works well.
The section on Communications (email, talk, calendar) really does start at the beginning and assumes you've never done this before. This also works well, although it is a little overwhelming for Gmail because there are so many features.
The web design section is confusing, not least because it combines two very dissimilar apps without telling you what they are for, or what the difference is. iGoogle, which has a very complex discussion, merely creates a custom start page. Page Creator, although it does create pages, is in fact a complete web publishing system, but you don't find this out until late in the chapter (Google lets you have a limited amount of web space and bandwidth for free on googlepages.com). These two chapters are basically OK, but they need more extensive introductions to orient the reader.
The last section deals with Google Apps for organizations. Google offers an enterprise-level version of the same apps discussed earlier in the book. These are basically the same as the individual versions, but they provide a way to control the sharing and customization for the whole enterprise. This section of the book deals with the system administrator's job in managing all this. The book admits on p. 482 that the remainder of the book is "aimed at techie types". It assumes the reader is already administering the enterprise's computers, and describes all the admin steps for Google apps. These chapters look plausible to me, but I don't know enough about that kind of operation to evaluate them in depth.
Sometimes I wonder how Microsoft can presume to compete with Google in the Web world. So much depends on search nowadays -- the Internet is one big store of valuable information. Yet I have to use an unsupported freeware utility to search my little Windows XP hard drive because the search feature that comes with the operating system is so slow and inflexible.
**Google Apps Hacks** introduced me to a Google universe that was even bigger than I had expected. I expected --and got-- lots of material on plugging into Google maps (lots of people are taking advantage of the possibilities here) and lots of tips on using GMail, gadgets, calendars and news feeds.
The biggest surprises for me were contained in the chapters on Google Docs. Part of the material was basic "how-to" and "did you know that..." information to help get acquainted with the features of Google word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. In fact, it appears that this book itself was collaboratively composed by Philipp Lenssen along with O'Reilly staff with Google Docs.
I was most impressed by how easy and flexible the spreadsheet application is to use. The author provides a pile of tricks and tips useful for both the ordinary user and the programmer.
This book should attract programmers (and other Web citizens) who want to investigate and test drive the latest cool things that many people are having fun with -- and a bunch more are making money from.
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