Sunday, January 6, 2008

Google Apps Review

Starting a business and need office automation tools and a web site? Google Apps,, allows you to host your entire corporate infrastructure at Google. This includes Email, Documents, Calendar, and your Web Site. Best of all, it's free. Google is providing a significant amount of functionality at no charge.

Setup is really very simple. Within an hour of getting my free Google Apps account, I was able to get things going. To really customize the site, you need to do a little domain management to point your C-Records and MX-Records at the right locations, and a few minutes later, you're in business. You can use your own domain name if you already have one, or you can create a new domain name as part of the setup.

Your custom environment starts with a home page that looks a lot like iGoogle (a customized Google home page). If you have a Google GMail account, you already know the Email functionality. Google Docs is a reasonable tool for producing and managing your important documents. And finally, you have Google Page Creator for creating a managing your Web site. This is one of the shortcomings of Google Apps today.

Google Page Creator, while free and easy to use, is very limiting when you start thinking in terms of a basic corporate web site. You essentially have to manage each web page independently, there is no good use of common header/footer functionality (that I have found). Also, you don't have access to the raw HTML files. However, you can directly edit the HTML that makes up each section of the web page. It really does live up to it's name, "Google Page Creator", because that's all your doing, creating pages.

What I'm guessing is in the works is "Google Site Creator". This would be the mother of Google Page Creator. Google Site Creator would allow you to pick from 100's of free Web Site Templates that include standard navigation, including pages like "About Us", "Contact Us", "Privacy Statement", etc. You could easily manage the style of the site through common "Style Settings", and naturally provide common Header and Footer support. Also, the Page Editor will be much more advanced, allowing you to place and position different elements on each page in a WYSIWYG manner (and there will be a library of elements and widgets to choose from).

But until "Google Site Creator" is born, you will need to live with a fairly limited and painful web site experience. Naturally, you could host your web site elsewhere and just use Google Apps for Email, Calendar, and Documents. But I'm really hoping that Google can come through and complete this nice suite of functionality they are providing!

Free Web Sites: Google Page Creator

Google's quest to provide a free, online operating system for any user wouldn't be complete without the ability to create and manage your own web site. That's where Google Page Creator comes in.

Google Page Creator allows the user to create a web site (for free), and provides online page creation tools to help accomplish this. This is being offered as part of "Google Labs" at the moment, but it is obviously an essential component in helping them fulfill their online Google Apps mission (the ability to provide a complete office automation offering online and free of charge).

Google Page Creator appears to be in it's early stages of maturity, but does offer some impressive capabilities. It allows you to create and manage a multi-page web site. You can easily customize the layout of your pages, and you can easily add any "Google Gadget" on your pages (the same gadgets used on the iGoogle home page).

Currently, if you are using Google Page Creator (GPC) stand-alone, it does not appear that you can establish a custom domain name for your website. Instead, your site is published with a domain that looks like this "". However, with the full Google Apps offering, you can use your own domain. Naturally, if you are going to do anything serious with your web site, you should have a custom domain name. Until GPC provides the ability to fully use that custom domain, you will have to live with domain forwarding, but at least you can use your custom domain to arrive at the site. It's only a matter of time before they enable the custom domain feature for GPC since it is an obvious feature, and since they support this with their Blogs today.

So, if you are looking for a quick and easy (and free) way to create a web site, look no longer...Google Page Creator is here!

Take care,

The Online Operating System

You hear more and more about the "Online Operating System". Basically, this is the trend towards providing all the application functionality you need directly from the internet (and a browser). More and more providers of online applications are appearing every day, with Google leading the charge. Google provides a entire suite of online products for free to consumers and businesses. Google Apps is the entire "office suite" online, and allows you to host these services using your own domain name. Everything from e-mail, to word processing, to spreadsheets is available. Google's Blogger, the site that is hosting this blog, is another great example of a free application making it possible for any and every internet user to easily publish material and talk to world (or whoever is listening ;-)

Google not only is leading the charge in online application functionality, but they are currently setting a great trend to provide this functionality "for free". Google's advertising network, and other networks like it, have fueled the ability to provide online applications for free to the consumer by allowing the service provider to easily collect ad revenue from the traffic these sites generate. And further, Google's online advertising network has sparked a huge number of "affiliate" networks, allowing both online service provides and internet users in general to reap the benefits of online advertising revenue.

In this blog, I will try to review the interesting online applications that are available. I will try to point out cool trends in this area and keep you posted on the latest developments.