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Three things Google Apps is Missing: What to Add to Make it a Real Cloud Computing Contender

Posted on December 30, 2008 by Zach

Recently we began moving our users to a full roll out of Google Apps, email, calendar, docs, sites, and the whole shebang. Needless to say, from the user perspective, it's been quite an interesting experience. Along the way I found a few items which I think would really improve the overall usability and experience of Google Apps for its users.

One of the largest gaping holes in Google Apps is any kind of task or project management solution to increase collaboration between their products. They have e-mail, calendaring, docs, chat, web pages and sites, though there is really no service to tie that all together to gain extra value from collaboration and management. I can see overwhelming opportunity here; the user’s ability to manage and share documents, calendar items, resources, web pages, sites, with the ease of one collective tool could help streamline department activities as well as interdepartmental activities throughout the organization.  By adding this function it would, in my opinion, take the product that extra mile and make it much more valuable to the small, medium and large businesses or groups of people collectively using Google Apps. But all hope is not lost, I have recently heard from a trusted source that Google is looking to break into this arena and round out their Google Apps offering.  Hopefully that solution will be pushed out soon so that we are able to reap the benefits of a more well rounded office and collaboration application.

The storage of other files and document types is my next issue. Since I already use Google for my e-mail, calendar, documents, web pages, sites and homepage, it would make sense to have the ability to store files that I may need (especially for work), which are not documents or formats Google apps uses or other items which I deem important. Having access to an online storage application that is built into the solutions I already use would be great.  If this was the case, I then care little about the computer I am using or location, everything I need is online in one location, ready for me to use. I understand the email and Google sites can, to a certain degree, handle this functionality; however, let's face it, it's no Amazon S3.

A transition from Microsoft Office is still not as smooth as it could be. I transferred my mail, calendar, contacts and many docs to Google Apps, I had issues with all of them except my documents. With email I had issues importing my folders and creating labels (I am still not happy with how that is working for me, I had hundreds of folders in Outlook).  I was also unable to get my contacts imported with all information and in the groups I had in Outlook. My entire calendar appointments were imported but all information regarding reoccurring appointments and attendees was not present. Those are just a few of the issues I had so, needless to say, I have had much smoother transitions to and from other platforms.

Finally, while these are not main features I would like to see or think would complete the product; these are some minor issues that continue to bug me that I think should be looked into.

Pasting into a Google doc without formatting: Nothing aggravates me more than trying to copy text or information from a website and have the formatting such as text size, color and spacing carried over into my Google Doc with no easy way to remove it. Typically I end up opening note pad, pasting the text there and then copying and pasting the text into a Google Doc.

Calendar notifications are not turned on by default. When rolling this out in my department we had a heck of a time trying to figure out why no one was getting notifications for new calendar appointments, we finally realized that notifications at least for us were turned off by default so appointments were being created and no one realized it! More than once, I ended up in a conference room by myself!

The Google Chat App sucks (even the online version is not much better).  Again, don't get me wrong I like Google Chat, but their chat client is just not up to snuff. I know that the online Google gadget has been upgraded but in all reality why isn't chatting with multiple people available in the client and why does the gadget pop out functionality duplicate my instant message conversations?

If you can answer any of these questions or have found ways to work around these issues your comments are welcomed and appreciated.  For now I think there are quite a few improvements that could be made to round out my cloud computing experience.


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