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2010/04/30 - Google Mail and Apps Administration Enhanced

posted Oct 29, 2010, 4:14 PM by Rick Anderson

Google has been add it again providing additional updates to Google Mail as well as making it easier to administrate Google Apps.

Google Mail Updates Allow Drag & Drop and Inserting a Calendar Invitation

Google Chrome users rejoice!  When using Google Chrome and Google Mail, simply drag the file you want to send into the mail compose window and it will upload as an attachment.  Cool!  Also works with multiple files - awesome!

Additionally, there's now a new link in the compose mail window titled Insert Invitation.  Allows the user to see a dialog box that displays your availability as well as the availability of everyone addressed in the e-mail (as long as you have permission to see their calendar).  Sending the message adds the event to your calendar and the calendar of those addressed in the e-mail.

User Logout Ability

Now Google Apps admins can reset the sign-in cookies for any user from the Google Apps control panel. This will log out a user from all current browser sessions and require new authentication the next time that user tries to initiate an browser session to log in to Google Apps.

Admins can do this by going into the Google Apps control panel, click the Users and groups tab, then click the user's name.  In the Password section, click Reset sign-in cookies.

More Access Control for Viewers in Google Sites

Site owners now have the option to allow viewers of a site to also see (a) site activity and (b) site revisions.  This gives a bit more control to site owners in that both of these can be set to all viewers or collaborators only.

The resultant is a link at the bottom of each page in the website:

Site Activity - link is Recent Site Activity which displays a time-line listing of all updates to any page within the website.  

Site Revisions - link is Revision History which displays a time-line listing of all the revisions to that single page the viewer is reading.

Access to these controls is located from the More actions drop-down menu - then select Manage site, then General and at the bottom of the page is the Access Settings section.  Each setting has a drop down selector to choose all viewers or collaborators only.

By default the site activity is all and the site revisions is collaborators.

Summary Email of Form Responses

When generating a form it's possible to collect respondent's Domain username.  When setup in this manner the form knows the users e-mail address and now provides an option for the user to receive a summary of their responses in an e-mail.  At the bottom of the form, an enable/disable the checkbox to Send me a copy of my responses is made available to the user.

2010/04/13 - Google Improves Docs with Etherpad Technology

posted Oct 29, 2010, 11:04 AM by Rick Anderson

Back in December of 2009 I wrote a blog article entitled Do No Evil, A Case Study in which I discussed in great detail my thoughts on Google's acquisition of a little known company called Etherpad and their technology which allows really real time collaboration.  Initially the Etherpad team was pushed over to the Google Wave product, but my gut instinct was that Wave is too complex of a product and that putting the technology into Google Docs was a better solution.

Now, Google announces that the really real time collaboration technology is now in it's flagship Google Docs products on an opt-in basis if the administrator has pre-release features turned on!

From Google:

Google Documents
- Key features: New ruler for margins and tab stops, floating image placement, new commenting structure in the document margin and instant messaging in the sidebar.
- Performance improvements: Documents now supports character-by-character real-time collaboration.

Google Spreadsheets
- Key features: Faster loading and scrolling of large spreadsheets, drag & drop columns, formula editing bar and formula highlighting, auto-complete, improved sheet navigation.
- Performance improvements: Improved speed of initial loading, scrolling, cell freezing, collaborative editing, and more.

Google Drawings
- Share drawings just like any other Google Doc
- Download in a variety of formats
- Co-edit and view changes in real real-time
- Chat with other editors
- Use web clipboard to easily insert into other Google Docs
- Publish drawings as images and embed anywhere

The integration of the really real time collaboration technology puts Google in the lead for teams needing to work collaboratively together.

2010/03/10 - Google Apps Marketplace Launched

posted Oct 29, 2010, 10:16 AM by Rick Anderson   [ updated Oct 29, 2010, 10:43 AM ]

Following upon the likeness of the Android Market for Android based phones, the Google Apps Marketplace has been launched by Google.  This has actually been around for awhile, but as of today it's not only a website, but now it's tightly integrated into the system administrators control panel:

Access Marketplace from your administrator control panel by clicking on 'Add more services' to see the option to shop the Marketplace.

To add an application from the Marketplace:
1) Click "Add it now"
2) Agree to the vendor's Terms of Service
3) Grant access to the data that the app is requesting (some apps require data access, some don' only grant access to apps you trust)
4) Turn it on

The updated website is quite a bit better in its information - each product has a webpage with an image, potentially a video, description, user reviews, and a specifications section.  The specifications are important as it describes how the product integrates with Google Apps.

Of course, I will continue to document and highlight the best integrated apps on my Google Apps Integration page.  What I'm looking for is not just utilization of the login, but deep utilization of the Google App products as the foundation.  In other words, a good integrated app utilizes Google Mail/Contacts for e-mail and hosting contact information; Google Calendar for dates and scheduling; Google Documents for writing, spreadsheets, and charts; Google App Engine for database, Google Picasa for pictures; and Google Sites for web page building.

2010/03/02 - Google Apps Improvements in February

posted Oct 14, 2010, 10:05 PM by Rick Anderson

A couple of nice improvements were added to the Google Apps products during the month of February.


New Saving Buttons are easier to understand:

A clickable save button "Save now" means your document has edits which haven't been saved yet and the timestamp lets you know when it was last saved. You can either wait for autosave to happen after a few seconds, or you can manually save at any time using the keyboard (ctrl S on PC, cmd S on Macs), save button, or by going to through the file menu.

A disabled button reading “Saving” means your document is currently being saved, and should complete in a second or two.

A disabled button reading “Saved” means all data in this document is now saved, and the timestamp tells you when the last change happened. You can safely exit the application or continue editing the document.


New web clipboard allows saving clips into the cloud for a month:

A new icon has been added to the to the icon bar within the google apps - docs, spreadsheet, and presentations that allows the user to temporarily store clips for up to a month.  The user can then paste the clip into any of the other documents across the suite of applications.

When pasting, simply select the icon again and a drop down appears of the clip with a brief clip intro - hovering over the intro pops open a window with the full text of the clip.  Selecting the clip intro pastes the data into the current application.

A great way to grab and move data between multiple browsers or computers!


Six Gmail Labs have graduated and are now features of Gmail

I just happened to have five of the following six turned on in labs (all but number 2) - these no longer appear in the labs menu and are now part of the continuous improvement that is Google Mail!

1. Search Autocomplete - Gmail will suggest terms to help you find your item more quickly - simply start typing in the search entry box at the top of the page and a list of possibilities will magically appear!

2. Go To Label - If you have keyboard shortcuts enabled, typing in the search box will autocomplete and suggest a label name - same functionality as number one, but will also display mail labels as well as content during your search.

3. Forgotten Attachment Detector - Gmail looks for phrases in your email that suggest you meant to attach a file and alerts you if it looks like you forgot an attachment - my absolute favorite lab - has saved my bacon a number of times - glad to see that it "graduated".

4. YouTube Previews - If you receive a message with a YouTube link in it, you can now watch the video right below the message.

5. Custom Label Colors - Create your own custom label color.

6. Vacation Dates - Set your dates in advance, enable vacation responder and Gmail will turn it on when the date arrives.

2010/03/01 - Do You Think That's Air You're Breathing Now?

posted Mar 1, 2010, 7:13 PM by Rick Anderson   [ updated Oct 14, 2010, 9:31 PM ]

My favorite scene from the Matrix movie is the
program scene - so many great lines from Neo's first statement, "I know Kung Fu" to Morpheus' explanation about rules, "....What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent, others can be broken. Understand?" and finally he drills his point after giving Neo a whooping when he rhetorically asks, "Do you think that's air you're breathing now?".

I received an e-mail today from a Google Sites webmaster asking how to insert an animated GIF within Google Sites.  Animated GIF files are picture files that have some sort of animation - in this case it was a set of advertisements that display for a couple of seconds and then change over on a continual basis giving equal time to each advert (in this case a sponsor).

According to Google's documentation, animated GIFs are not possible unless they are hosted outside of Sites.  Hmmm.... not quite true.  Some rules were meant to be broken.

An animated GIF can be displayed as long as the hosting website is different than the displaying website.  Since Google Sites allows an unlimited number of websites, then the solution is possible within a hosted Google Sites account.

Here's the core of the work-around - create a new website within your hosted domain and call the new website gif.  Upload the animated GIF file to the website and copy the url.  Paste the copied url into the insert image dialog box and enjoy your animated GIF!

Here's the step by step process (it looks much longer than it is - this is a 3 minute solution)...

1) from your mail webpage - select the Sites link
2) select the create new site page (depending on your browser settings this may create a template in a new tab)
3) name your site: call it gif - open up the More Options and check the box to Also let anyone in the world view this site (make it public) - select Create site button
4) select More actions button --> manage site
5) select Attachments
6) select Upload button
7) select your file in the dialog box and upload
8) select the View link to view the animated gif (the animated gif will work)
9) copy the browser url - it will be something like...
10) go back to original website and edit the page
11) select Insert --> Image --> Web address and paste the copied url (the animated gif will display in the dialog box) - select ok
12) save your page and admire the results!

Having trouble?

If you are having trouble getting the animated GIF to display, it may be that Google's new SSL security policy and system rights is getting in the way.  If all viewers log into the website - it's a non-issue and everything works as above.  If your viewers are the general public - Google locks them out and the animated GIF shows up as a big fat X - not exactly what you were hoping for when using the above work-around.  So you'll need to use a second work-around and that's to display the animated GIF in an iframe.

At step 11 - select Insert --> More gadgets --> Featured --> Include Gadget (iframe) - paste the url and configure the gadget

Here's the bonus to this method - you don't need a separate website!!!  You can skip steps 1, 2, and 3.  Simply upload the image to your existing website by starting at step 4!  At step 10 you will go back to the page where the animated GIF should be placed. Then use the new Step 11. 

This is the same animated GIF - but it's coming from the zingodia site and not the gif site:

2010/02/03 - Google Scripts for All Google Apps

posted Feb 3, 2010, 8:56 PM by Rick Anderson   [ updated Feb 3, 2010, 9:51 PM ]

Scripts was initially released in August of 2009 - this was exciting news at the time as it gave Javascript developers a powerful platform to develop business automation for those with Google Apps Premier accounts.  Google has upped the ante by releasing this ability into all versions of Google Apps.

The Google announcement with various links to helpful pages and examples.

From the Google Apps Script welcome page:

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)

Google Apps Script provides:

  • Easy interaction with different Google Products and capabilities using JavaScript APIs
  • Fast development:
    • use standard JavaScript
    • use Google's online Web Script Editor or your favorite Desktop development tool
    • Basic collaboration and sharing support
  • Execution and hosting of scripts on the Google cloud
  • Basic support for event handling that can run even when users are offline
  • Easy deployment and maintenance
  • Standard methods of security using OAuth: users or domain administrators have to grant each script access to the data it needs to run.

Users write scripts in JavaScript using libraries designed to provide a powerful interface with Google products. If you already are a JavaScript developer, a key difference is that scripts run on Google Servers instead of user browsers. As a result, direct operations on the client-side DOM are not supported, although some restricted functionality is provided. Your code executes server-side, and operates on the Google products you've coded for.

2010/02/03 - Google Cloud Storage is Here With Thumbnails

posted Feb 3, 2010, 7:43 PM by Rick Anderson

It's finally here - the Google G-drive has been implemented into every Google Apps account as well as every public Google account.  As noted on my January 12th announcement, each user has a 1gb virtual drive in the cloud they can use to store their personal files.

Here's what we knew when first announced:

* the user will be able to select multiple files using the shift for inbetween selects and ctrl for specific selects.
* files converted into Google documents, spreadsheets, or presentations does NOT count towards your 1gb 
* additional storage beyond 1gb is $0.25 per gb per year for personal gmail accounts (minimum upgrade to 20gb) and $3.50 per gb per year for Google Apps accounts
* additional storage upgrade for personal accounts is shared between gmail, picasa, and documents

Now that its been released, we can answer a couple of questions which we posed at the time:

* file limitations - the help file said 100mb, the announcement said 250mb - the actual limitation is a file size of 1gb!!!
* searching - yes, it's possible to search by file name, but not by the contents within the file - only if the option to convert is selected will it index the contents within the file
* revisions - does not keep track of multiple revisions - instead it treats them as separate files with the same name - each file therefore counts against your total
* executable files - yes, it's possible to upload executable files
* amount of file storage in use and used percentage of 1gb limit is displayed at the time of uploading a file
* sharing - its possible to share an uploaded file just like a document
* pictures - yes, it's possible to upload pictures - AND VIEW...

Which brings up a new feature - the ability to view thumbnails of files.  In the upper right corner is a list view icon and a thumbnail view icon.  Selecting thumbnail view displays the files using their thumbnail for Google docs, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, PDFs, and pictures.  Other files simply display a file icon.

2010/02/03 - Google Kills Internet Explorer and Gets Serious About Security

posted Feb 2, 2010, 9:55 PM by Rick Anderson

Call it the fallout of the China attack part 1 - shortly after China attacked Google's accounts through an IE6 vulnerability (the next day), Google announced the setting of secure https access as the default.  It's been an option since mid 2008, but now it's the default for Google Gmail accounts and Google Apps accounts.  As an additional move, https site security (what used to be a Google Apps Premier benefit) has now been quietly added to all versions of Google Apps.

If you're a Google Apps administrator, run to your machine and turn on this level of security...

* open your mail - from there click on Manage this domain (upper right corner)
* select the Domain settings tab and now you're in the General sub-tab
* scroll down to SSL and check the box Enable SSL

SSL is Secure Socket Layer and is what causes the browser to go from http:// to https:// and turn on the lock function (that padlock icon).  Now, all of your Google Apps products - including mail, calendar, documents, and sites will be accessed using a secure communication channel.

Call it the fallout of the China attack part 2 - yesterday Google announced through an "important notice" e-mailed to all Gmail and Apps users the phasing out support of Internet Explorer 6 as well as other older browsers.  Starting March 1st, Mail and Sites will no longer function properly in IE6.  Later in the year the remainder of the Apps suite will no longer function on older browsers.  While Google cites advances in browser technology, the reality is that Google wouldn't have been hacked if they weren't using IE6.

The tech industry has been trying to kill off IE6 - websites such as as well as a consortium of web companies have been trying to kill IE for months.  Now with a heavy hitter like Google, it might actually happen.

Zingodia Systems recommends using Google's Chrome browser as a primary browser along with IE8 for compatibility with sites utilizing active-x.

2010/02/02 - Google Rolls Out Chrome 4 - Speed, Extensions, and Sync

posted Feb 2, 2010, 6:30 PM by Rick Anderson   [ updated Feb 2, 2010, 8:31 PM ]

Over the past week, Google has been rolling out the latest version of its Chrome browser to (36714).  Speed improvements (400% faster than the initial release of Google Chrome), extensions to cool utilities and the ability to sync your bookmarks across multiple computers lead the list of what's new.

Go Fast

In store are major speed improvements to page load and javascript that takes what's already the fastest browser to new stratospheric levels (how about 42% faster than the previous version of Chrome!).  This is exciting news for Google Apps users as not only will your web pages load faster, but all applications within the Google Apps suite will benefit from the improvement in speed.

A couple of tests have been performed by Lifehacker - the first was back in September, 2009 (Chrome 4 has been in beta for a long time) and the second was released in January, 2010 (after the official release).  In both cases Chrome sped past everyone - particularly in javascript and anything in regards to processing (what Google Apps users care about).  The best part... Google's not resting - Chrome 5 is just around the corner with even more speed!

In addition to speed (do we really care about anything else?) is the release of extensions and bookmark sync.


Extensions are... wait for it.... extensions to the Chrome browser.  Basically, think of these as an SDK or a third party development tool that puts additional features in your Chrome browser - that's pretty cool.   I've been using the beta version of Chrome 4 for a few months on a test computer.  A couple of useful extensions that I've found are:
  • Chrome Showcase - manage your tabs and tab preview.
  • Google Tasks - quick access to your Google tasks list
  • Secbrowsing - plugin version checker - great way to keep your extensions up to date
  • Tab menu - a vertical display of your open tabs
While those are helpful - my two favorites are Google Dictionary (by Google) and 1-ClickWeather for Chrome.

Google Dictionary (by Google)

Google Dictionary (by Google) is the ultimate partner to Google Chrome's native spell-checking ability.  By itself, Chrome will provide a squiggly red underline to misspelled words and the ability to right click on the misspelling for the suggestion list of possibly correct spellings.  While this is an outstanding feature - I found myself consistently going to a new tab and typing in define:word (with word being the word I was interested in defining) for Google's definition lookup.  Now, I no longer need to leave the page I'm working on - with the new Google Dictionary extension, the definition is simply a double-click on the word away and the definition presents itself in a pleasing to look at bubble box with basic information and a more link for the full dictionary.  Here's an example of double-clicking on the word computer:

1-ClickWeather for Chrome

1-ClickWeather for Chrome was developed by the folks at the Weather Channel - they've been making widgets, gadgets, and notification icons for years - so it comes as no surprise that they have one of the best Chrome Extensions to date.  The extension displays as an icon next to the browser page and customize/control icons in the upper right corner of the browser showing a weather picture and the current temperature.  One click on the icon drops down the current details, Doppler radar, and the current outlook for the remainder of the day/night as well as tomorrow.  In addition, it has various hyperlinks to detailed information and active alerts.

Syncing Bookmarks

Located within the Customize and Control Google Chrome icon (that's the wrench icon) is the ability to synchronize your bookmarks across all computers.  Selecting this option copies your bookmarks to your Google Gmail account.  Go to another computer running Chrome, select the synchronize option, log-in, and like magic... all your bookmarks are there!  This works great among a few different computers that I use for personal and business use.

The downside to this feature is that it currently only works with Google Gmail accounts and not Google Apps accounts.  At some point, someone at Google is going to wake up and get smart by figuring out how to link a Google Gmail account with a Google Apps account so that you have easy access to various files and global settings.


Did I mention how fast the new Google Chrome is compared to every other browser?  All that speed does come at a price - memory.  Yes, Google Chrome and all those extensions are memory hogs - but that's ok as users start to live in the browser with limited need to go outside of the browser.

2010/01/16 - Scripts on Sites, Do Not Be Afraid

posted Jan 16, 2010, 7:58 AM by Rick Anderson

Part of the Google Apps suite, Google's Sites is a great product for developing internet and intranet (wikis) sites.  Easy to use, Google Sites allows rapid development of team collaborative information.  

One of the challenges of making a product easy to use is to balance simplicity with flexibility.  Simplicity is adding content by utilizing wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) editing, simple gadget insertion for functionality and document integration versus the open flexibility of generating HTML commands and script programming.  

Google's Sites makes a very good attempt to be simple and flexible.  Google's editor is wysiwyg and creating web pages is easy as typing an e-mail.  Additionally, thousands of gadgets add all sorts of content from sports scores, stock tickers, music, videos, pictures, charts and graphs, etc.  If that's not enough, Sites allows integration with the entire suite of Google Apps Docs - documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  In order to be flexible Google Sites allows direct HTML manipulation for the coding geeks that enjoy writing cryptic HTML tags.  Each page's HTML content is available by selecting the edit HTML icon within the page content.  However, adding scripts always generates the dreaded script error - "Your HTML either contains unsafe tags (iframe, embed, styles, script) or extra attributes. They will be removed when the page is viewed."

Bummer!  There's a wide array of third party gadgets, widgets, and tinkering that can be done with just a little bit of scripting.  Forget about what you've been told or Google's tyrannical message - scripts can be used in Sites - you just have to know how by receiving a little help from others on the web - the following is an expanded example from Mori's tips and tricks site.  I wanted to insert a Yuuguu widget into my Google Apps page to make it easy and enticing for potential customers to see a demonstration.  Yuuguu is a fantastic piece of free or low cost software that allows people across the internet to view your computer screen.

On the Yuuguu site is the ability to generate a custom widget to display on your website - going through the mini-wizard produces the following code:

<!-- Yuuguu Widget Code START --> <div id="yuuguuWidgetWebshareEmbeddedContainer" style="height:230px;width:305px;"> <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script> <script type="text/javascript">displayYuuguuWidget( "", "blue" )</script></div><!-- Yuuguu Widget Code END -->

Placing that code into a Sites page causes the dreaded Google gestapo to remove your code because of the scripting.  The basic concept of what needs to be done in order to run scripts on Sites is to place a wrapper around the javascript.  This is done by opening a textpad editor and pasting in the wrapper top, the javascript, and the wrapper bottom - then save it as an XML.

Wrapper top:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<ModulePrefs title="Custom Gadget" /> 
<Content type="html"><![CDATA[ 

Wrapper bottom:


The end result when you combine the wrapper top and bottom with your javascript and save the file as an XML (you'll need to overwrite the default .txt by using save as type - all files and putting the .xml at the end of the filename) looks like this:

Once the file is saved as an XML it now needs to be hosted by Google Sites - this is done by utilizing your Sites management tool.  From any web page on your site, select the More Actions button (it's located in the upper right hand corner) and then select the Manage Site option.  This action will bring up Google Sites Management.  On the left column is an Attachments link - selecting the link displays the web file management - simply select the Upload button - this will place the file onto your website.  Now, right-click on the Download link and copy the link address - you'll need this in the next step - you'll get something like this:

(note: if you don not have administration rights to your Site, the above step can be done by creating a page type of file cabinet and uploading the file to the cabinet)

It's time to display the code results onto your Google Sites page - this is done by going to the page you want to display the script and inserting a gadget.  Select Insert --> More gadgets... --> Add gadget by url and paste the link address.  Make sure to modify the width and height accordingly - preview your gadget and when ready select the OK button.  Final results - a script on your Google Sites page!!!!

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