Feeds

Google opens Docs and Sheets to tinkerers with new add-on APIs

Users can add new features from an online store

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

In a bid to make its online productivity software more competitive with Microsoft Office, Google has announced that Google Docs and Sheets users can now install add-ons that bring new capabilities to their documents and spreadsheets.

The online ad-giant launched the experimental new feature alongside a handful of preview add-ons for Docs and Sheets that can be downloaded from an online store.

Among the initial offerings are add-ons that help users create tables of contents, embed Twitter tweets into their documents, run mail merges, connect with Google Maps and Google Analytics, and add new fonts to documents, to give just a few examples.

What Google is really hoping for, however, is that developers will latch onto the new add-on APIs and produce a whole slew of components that will help drum up interest in Google's web-based productivity suite.

Add-ons for Google Docs & Sheets

Google would like developers to build new features as add-ons to Docs and Sheets

The add-ons themselves are conceptually similar to the new, web-based Apps for Office that Microsoft launched with Office 2013. They can add new menu items to Docs and Sheets, present web content in a sidebar, programmatically edit documents, and connect to other Google services.

As with Apps for Office, developers build add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets using their existing HTML and JavaScript skills – which makes sense, given that we're talking about entirely web-based software.

In a departure from Microsoft's method, however, add-ons for Docs and Sheets aren't built using strictly web-standard technologies. Instead, they're written in Google Apps Script, a derivative of JavaScript that runs on the Chocolate Factory's servers, rather than in the user's browser.

That makes them powerful, but it also allows Google to impose restrictions on them, especially during this early developer preview period. For one thing, they can't modify existing features of Google Apps. For another, they're mainly designed to respond to direct user input and can't run autonomously or detect what users are doing when they're not interacting directly with the add-on.

Another thing Google doesn't provide – at least for now – is a way for developers to charge customers for their add-ons, although they're free to roll their own payment systems if they think it's worth the trouble.

As is typical of so many modern developer programs, the only way for authors to make their add-ons available to Docs and Sheets users is to publish them in Google's store. That means all add-ons are subject to Google's approval, and the Chocolate Factory has published a set of guidelines to ensure the add-ons that developers submit are up to snuff.

Google Docs users can start installing and using add-ons immediately. For Google Sheets users, however, it's a little trickier – they must first switch to the new, experimental version of Sheets, which removes some features and could have some stability problems.

Google says to expect lots more add-ons in the Docs and Sheets stores shortly after this initial launch period, and add-ons for Google Forms are coming soon. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.