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!

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