Google Apps Hacks Paperback – 27 Apr 2008
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About the Author
Born in 1977, Philipp Lenssen is a web developer, blogger and author from Germany. Since 2003, Philipp runs Google Blogoscoped at blogoscoped.com, a daily news source started in Malaysia covering all things Google, from Gmail, Orkut and web search to Google Docs, usability issues, YouTube and everything in-between. The blog also spawned a book called 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google. Philipp likes to tinker with programming, drawing, writing and game design, and has a special interest in the intersections among those areas.
Top customer reviews
That misunderstanding meant that I had to adjust my expectations of the book somewhat. Instead of a book aimed at developers explaining the inner detail of a technology, I got a book which was firmly aimed at end users.
I don't often read computer books aimed at end users. I find that I'm not in the target audience. Unless an application is very complex then I like to think that I can work out how to use it without resorting to manuals. Of course that means that I often end up using only a small fraction of the functionality of an application.
The Google application set is no exception to this rule. I've been using many of the Google applications for some time. In particular I've started to write a lot of documents and spreadsheets using Google Docs, the online office suite which is intended as a replacement for Microsoft Office. I tend to work on several different computers so having my documents available on a web site means that the latest version is available to me on any computer.
Google Docs is one of the most widely-used parts of the Google application set and it's a good place for this book to start. The first four chapters present an over view of the applications and then one chapter each concentrating on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. As expected I found that I already knew most of what was described in the early parts of the chapters, but I found myself saying "oh, that's useful" quite a lot towards the ends of the chapters as I read about features that I hadn't come across before. For example, I had no idea that the spreadsheet application was able to access data from external web sites and extract information which can be used in your calculations. I'm sure I'll find that useful in the future.
The next chapter talks about what is probably the best-known Google application - Gmail (or, as it's known in the UK, GoogleMail). I have a Gmail account, but currently I only use it for a couple of high-volume mailing lists. I certainly learned a lot about Gmail and I'll probably start using it a bit more now. This chapter, however, demonstrated the obvious problem about using a book to learn about this products - improvements to the Google applications appear frequently and some of the information in the book is already slightly out of date.
Subsequent chapters go into other parts of the Google application set in a similar level of detail. Google Calendar, iGoogle (the customisable Google homepage) and Google Reader all get a chapter to themselves. Then we have a few chapters that cover multiple projects. There's a chapter on Picassa and YouTube, one on Google Maps, Google Earth and SketchUp (the last of which I had never heard of) and one on Blogger. The final chapter is about tracking the success of your sites using Google Analytics. In just about every chapter I learned something that will be useful to be.
All in all, I found this book well worth reading and I'd recommend it to anyone who has an interest in making better use of the Google applications. There are only two caveats that you should consider. Firstly, there's the fact that it's a very wide-ranging book and I think that few people would use all of the applications and therefore find all of the chapters useful. Secondly, as I mentioned above, all of the Google applications are being updated and improved at an incredible rate, so this is definitely going to be a book with a rather short shelf life.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I have to chuckle and agree with the reviewer who complained about its being too "chatty." The author does attempt a casual tone, perhaps to lighten the perceived boredom of manual reading (and writing), but much of the effort ends up muddying up the instructions, making the most relevant points of each section harder to spot, though if you do want to read the whole thing through, then the chattiness might just help you get through the toil.
While the various Google services have evolved a long way since the book's publication, because the stuff it covers are the most basic know-hows, it's still helpful for a beginner, but you will have to spend some time locating the correct buttons and places on the menus on your own, because the current look no longer matches the screenshots.
The reason for the 1-star: it is severely outdated. I feel bad about the 1-star but how else can you rate something that is no longer relevant?
Given the dynamic nature of Google Apps I should have known that any "hacks" I might employ would be of limited use. I ordered this book earlier this year and finally pulled it from the shelf today for a nugget or two of usefulness. I tried two of the most dirt-simple hacks listed in the first few chapters and both failed--even the websites referred to in the text for more info didn't exist anymore! Naturally I have no interest in wasting my time finding out what parts of the more advanced hacks listed in the book are outdated as well.
I'm sorry to say that this book appears to be worthless. Very upset with this purchase.
This book is maybe 600 pages, and has some very good sidebars and in-depth info on using various features. I've stalled and can't read more for now... It's comprehensive. Kinda boring, but I guess I'm glad I have it, in case I need to look anything up. This is a great resource.
I also purchased Google Apps Administrator Guide which was recommended on the same page and IT was the one that had the information that should be in this book too. There was very little mention about the business implementation and administration of the actual Google Apps. This was a how-to book for users of Google Docs, rudimentary usage of Google Sites, and being a "power user" with Gmail. Not a "hack" book of the business version of Google Apps.
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