Spreadsheets and Forms Get A Boost

The following new features are available in Google Spreadsheets:

  • A mobile-friendly view with filtering, sorting and row-by-row editing
  • The ability to define attributes of a cell and require that input meets those data validation rules, improving how spreadsheets can be used to gather and manage data
  • A form summary page with information about completed responses, making it easier to review response information saved in the underlying spreadsheet

With these features, Google has improved the capabilities of Forms as a tool for data gathering and entry.

Google Calendar User Interface Upgrade

Last week, Google added five new User Interface improvements and features to Google Calendars (all editions):

  • Collapsable screen area for all-day events
  • Ability to add Google Docs files to events
  • Streamlined settings for sharing, unsharing and deleting calendars
  • New ‘Save and send emails’ option for new events
  • Better accessibility with improved support for screen readers

Being able to include documents with event invitations and the streamlined buttons for sending emails when you save the event both enhance Calendars for most users.

Previewing the Print Preview Feature

In early February, Google announced a new Print Preview feature for Google Apps (all editions). For those familiar with Google’s nearly flawless PDF generation capabilties, the preview function looks familiar.

In fact, Google is using the PDF engine to provide the Print Preview, with a helpful index of page thumbnails as well.
If you haven’t created PDFs from your Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presenations, try it out as you try out the print preview. The accuracy and clarity is impressive.

Google “gets it” with Groups

Google Apps Premier Edition has been update with new email list features. As importantly the provisioning APIs available to qualified resellers makes it easier to use these features.

Google Apps email lists are now called “groups”

Admins can now set permissions to determine who can send to each group:

  • Group owners
  • Group members
  • Domain members
  • Anyone in the world

Groups can now contain other groups, making it easier to reuse frequently-referenced groups of users.

Verdict Out on ActiveSync and Google

In “Google Time”, the availability of ActiveSync for calendar and contact synchronization with iPhone, Windows Mobile, and other PDA’s is old news (announced on 09-Feb-2009).

Currently, the team at Horizon is prepping our contacts and calendars so that we can fully test the new features.

The big caveat is that starting up ActiveSync replaces all Calendar and Contact entries. As we juggle multiple calendar and contact lists, we are “cleaning things up” before we test.

I will post again in a few weeks with the results. In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences with ActiveSync and Google Apps Premier Edition

If Microsoft Resellers Don’t Like Licensing Options …

If Microsoft’s resellers don’t like the licensing options available to small and mid-size businesses (SMB’s), why should you?

Yesterday, ChannelWeb (A CMP Publication) reported that Microsoft was mulling over changes to its SMB volume licensing programs, again. This is just another salvo in the ongoing debate over licensing complexity championed by David Schrag and other SMB experts for years.

Microsoft Licensing is overly complex. For every server, there are Client Access Licenses (CALs) to be bought. Volume licensing gets you access to features, training, and a limited number of support calls. Tracking and managing licensing and its related benefits burdens your IT staff with more administration.

Why bother?

For many applications and services, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions meet your business requirements without the licensing hassle. Most SaaS solutions include a reasonable startup fee and annual per-user fees. While user fees for services like Salesforce.com have tiers based on functionality sets, others like Google Apps include all service and application options at a single fee.

Either way, the licensing is relatively simple, you pay as you go, and your IT staff do not need a MS in Licensing (pun intended!).

Pundits Mix, Match, and Misunderstand Google’s Enterprise Solutions

On February 11, Keith Ferrell posted a blog entry at bMighty.com entitled Google Apps: Right For The Small Business Buck? (And Does Google Even Want Your Bucks?). In the article, Mr. Ferrell confuses the market positioning of Google’s Message Encryption Service, part of the Google Apps Security and Compliance Suite, with Google Apps Premier Edition as these services apply to small and mid-size businesses.

In my response, I clarify the differentiation between services targeting companies with internal messaging infrastructures and those for which Google Apps can provide the messaging services. I also point out that Google is not walking away from companies with fewer than 50, or even 250 users.

More Offline Features

Google Apps Premier Edition offline (Beta!) now includes offline, read-only access to your calendar.

This represents another example of the continuous, incremental development and improvement strategy behind Google products and services.

Google Apps Contacts Mature

One of the differences between Google Apps Premier Edition and MS Outlook with Exchange is that Google Apps does not have the concept of the Global Address List. Companies use the GAL to share contacts and distribution lists, even though the GAL is a separate entity from the Personal Address Book, which is also separate from the Contacts folder. So while contacts within Outlook/Exchange is not pretty, the information is available.

As announced on 11-Feb, the following new features are available in Gmail contacts:

  • You can combine multiple contacts into a single entry
  • The new ‘All Contacts’ group includes ‘My Contacts’ and other people with whom you have corresponded
  • You can remove contacts from ‘My Contacts’, leaving them in ‘All Contacts’
  • You can search across all contact fields

What do these features mean?

Contacts and groups are starting to look more like emails and labels, where all contacts are kept in a single place (like All Mail), but you can track your contacts and group contacts more easily. If “All Contacts” becomes a shareable resource, Google Apps will include the GAL functionality some businesses miss, but in a fully integrated way.

Short term, though, you get better organization and search, making Google Apps Premier Edition that much more easy to use.

Incremental Improvements in Gmail Should Help Enterprise Adoption

Google Apps Enterprise Edition users have seen some a number of small changes to the user Gmail user interface. While some are cosmetic — colors, borders, highlights — others should ease user adoption and comfort with Gmail. One of these changes is the Move to button that appeared this morning.

One of the big differences between Gmail and other email servers, like Microsoft Exchange, is the difference between folders and labels. With folders, when you move an email from your Inbox to the folder, the email actually moves into that folder. To find the email, you need to browse the folder or include the folder in your search.

Gmail labels work differently. In Gmail, all of your email resides in “All Mail”. Gmail uses the power of Google’s search technology to find and display your messages.

When you label and Archive your message, you are removing it from the “Inbox” and adding the labels to the message. While clicking on a Label name looks like opening a folder, you are in effect searching for all messages with the Label.

Labels offer more than traditional folders in that: (1) You can put multiple labels on a message without having to copy the message into multiple folders; and (2) Searching and finding messages in Gmail is fast (no comparison to Outlook).

The Move to button adds the label and archives the message(s) in one click. As such, it looks and feels like you are moving a message into a folder.

User Interface enhancements that mask some of the differences between Gmail and other email systems will only enhance users’ acceptance. With this feature, users can work with the familiar “move” concept without loosing Gmail’s superior search capability.