Customer Reviews: Google Apps Hacks
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on June 8, 2008

This Google apps book has more of a user focus and a bit more hand-holding than other Google app books I have taken a look at lately. (Google Apps Hacks)

The 13 chapters are divided into 4 parts:
1) Setting up with Google and using the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation creation software.

2) Using Google e-mail, communication and calendar applications.

3) Customizing the Google home page and creating Web pages without HTML knowledge with the new Page Creator.

4) Using Google applications within organizations. This last section went into administering users and facilitating team collaboration. This was interesting and something I had not seen in other books.

This "Missing Manual" is pretty thorough and has a good index. If your goal is to *use* Google applications (rather than program them), this book is an excellent reference and guide.

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VINE VOICEon September 23, 2008
As a long time Google sycophant, pretty much anything this company puts out I love and the case is no different as it relates to the Google Apps suite of products. Released within the last couple of years these programs have quickly taken the world by storm and I rarely ever create a document or spreadsheet outside this environment any more. The Missing Manual line of books always does and incredible job of teaching regular joes and janes how to get around their computer and this book is no exception. Focusing on all the popular apps like Spreadsheets, Gmail, Talk, Calendar, iGoogle, Page Creator and more this book covers all the angles in 700+ pages of great writing and content.

This book WOULD have been an easy 5 stars but the lack of color really hurts this release, so much so I dropped a star off. I don't understand why some books that need color are denied this at pre-release time while other books that don't need it get the full treatment.

Great book, just could have been even THAT much better.

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on February 13, 2009
This is a good overview of a number of useful free web-based applications put out by Google. It is especially helpful for alerting you to some non-obvious features of the apps. Google Apps are an exciting development not only because they are a free way to perform most common computer tasks, but because they permit a high degree of collaborative work. They are also pleasing to those of us who prize simplicity in computing (I like the phrase "hyperlink carnival" used on p. 411 to describe the typical dotcom home page, contrasted to Google's simplicity).

A book about Google Apps is bound to be awkward, because they are not a single subject and are aimed at several different audiences. In general this book assumes the reader is already familiar with the type of application being discussed, and just needs to learn how to use the Google version. In particular the presentation focuses on individual features and doesn't say much about workflow. For example, although Google's spreadsheets are simple, and well-described here, I don't believe anyone who was unfamiliar with spreadsheets would be able to figure out how to use Google Doc Spreadsheets from this book.

The section on Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheet, slideshows) goes fairly quickly through the available editing functions. It goes into more detail on the collaboration functions (since documents are stored on the web, you can collaborate with anyone else who can get on Google), version history, and reconciling online and offline edits. This section of the book works well.

The section on Communications (email, talk, calendar) really does start at the beginning and assumes you've never done this before. This also works well, although it is a little overwhelming for Gmail because there are so many features.

The web design section is confusing, not least because it combines two very dissimilar apps without telling you what they are for, or what the difference is. iGoogle, which has a very complex discussion, merely creates a custom start page. Page Creator, although it does create pages, is in fact a complete web publishing system, but you don't find this out until late in the chapter (Google lets you have a limited amount of web space and bandwidth for free on These two chapters are basically OK, but they need more extensive introductions to orient the reader.

The last section deals with Google Apps for organizations. Google offers an enterprise-level version of the same apps discussed earlier in the book. These are basically the same as the individual versions, but they provide a way to control the sharing and customization for the whole enterprise. This section of the book deals with the system administrator's job in managing all this. The book admits on p. 482 that the remainder of the book is "aimed at techie types". It assumes the reader is already administering the enterprise's computers, and describes all the admin steps for Google apps. These chapters look plausible to me, but I don't know enough about that kind of operation to evaluate them in depth.
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on April 29, 2008
Sometimes I wonder how Microsoft can presume to compete with Google in the Web world. So much depends on search nowadays -- the Internet is one big store of valuable information. Yet I have to use an unsupported freeware utility to search my little Windows XP hard drive because the search feature that comes with the operating system is so slow and inflexible.

**Google Apps Hacks** introduced me to a Google universe that was even bigger than I had expected. I expected --and got-- lots of material on plugging into Google maps (lots of people are taking advantage of the possibilities here) and lots of tips on using GMail, gadgets, calendars and news feeds.

The biggest surprises for me were contained in the chapters on Google Docs. Part of the material was basic "how-to" and "did you know that..." information to help get acquainted with the features of Google word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. In fact, it appears that this book itself was collaboratively composed by Philipp Lenssen along with O'Reilly staff with Google Docs.

I was most impressed by how easy and flexible the spreadsheet application is to use. The author provides a pile of tricks and tips useful for both the ordinary user and the programmer.

This book should attract programmers (and other Web citizens) who want to investigate and test drive the latest cool things that many people are having fun with -- and a bunch more are making money from.
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on July 29, 2008
The word 'Hacks' implied secrets, insider information, or the ability to do something others cannot. I checked the index before I bought it. I wanted some insight on how to program my own Google Apps. I thought this book had some. But there was really nothing useful for a programmer here. The book gave little more than what you can find online in tutorials. Nice book in terms of explaining what Google Apps are and how to use them in a Google domain, but no insider information here.
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I happily take advantage of a number of Google applications such as Gmail, iGoogle, Google Calendar, and a few other things. But there's more to the Google Apps family than that, and I know I'm not getting all I can out of the offerings. After going through Google Apps Hacks by Philipp Lenssen, I have a number of new tricks to try out both on stuff I already use as well as a few other apps. Fun stuff!

Meet The Google Docs Family; The Google Docs Family - Google Documents; The Google Docs Family - Google Spreadsheets; The Google Docs Family - Google Presentation; Become a Gmail Power User; Customize Your Google Home Page; Manage Your Events With Google Calendar; Keep Up On News With Google Reader; Manage Your Photos And Videos With Picasa and YouTube; Create Your Own Home Page, Blog, or Group; Dive Into Google Maps, Google Earth, and Sketchup 3D; Google Analytics And Beyond - Market Your Site, Track Visitors
Credits; Index

This book follows the same format as other O'Reilly Hack titles. For each of the chapters, you get a number of tricks, or "hacks", that show you how to do things that may not be intuitively obvious. There's a difficulty meter after each hack title that gives you a clue as to whether its something that is easy to pull off or something that takes a degree of technical skill. The first couple of hacks in each chapter tend to be introductory in nature. They explain the package and get you started. For instance, the first hack in the first chapter is "How to Get Your Google Account". Likewise, the first hack in the iGoogle chapter has you adding Google tools to your iGoogle home page. The hacks get more in-depth after that, such as "Backing Up Your Email" or "Create Google Maps Overlays On the Fly". I personally was intrigued by some of the possibilities in the Google Spreadsheets area. "Add Live Data to Your Spreadsheet" was interesting, as was "Automatically Complete Lists of Related Items". That one is completely unexpected, and shows the power of integration with the Google search engine results. There's also a way to import data from web sites into a Google spreadsheet. That has some particular interest for a project I'd like to do. Finally, there was a *really* cool hack to show how to track packages via RSS using Google Reader. That one will be getting some significant use with my next Amazon order...

As with all Hacks titles, some items will be absolute gems for you, while others will hold no interest. That's OK, and it's to be expected. All it takes is one or two hacks to make a radical change in the way you do things. In terms of usefulness, Google Apps Hacks ranks up there with the best of the Hacks titles.
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on August 14, 2008
Thorough, well-written book that opens up new, er, vistas in Google. Not full of techie twaddle. Works for real people.
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on August 3, 2010
Things like "There's something inspiring about a brand-new calendar..." aren't useful for me and yet the actual instructions are mixed in with narrative like that. for the 'missing manual' I'd hope for clear step by step instructions with the background to make it more intuitive. I'd like a book that speeds up my learning time on new software, not slows it down.
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on December 21, 2008
If you use any Google Applications this is the book for you. I liked it so much that I had to get another one and give it away as a gift. While Google applications are always changing this book gives you 90 % of what you need and it even covers information that I didn't know. It's well worth the price and is the only book out there that tells it all. for example, I didn't realize that if you register a domain name with google that you can switch it over to since that's who actually registers the domain name for them. It tells you that and how to transfer evertything properly. No more printing out of help text to find out how to do things.
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on March 12, 2012
To call it "The Missing Manual" is quite a misnomer. This book only covers the bare-bone basics of these Google services. If you can get your way around the Microsoft Office suite comfortably and are looking for a guide to the finer points of the Google Apps, then while this book might offer a couple useful tips, at least 98% (or 99.8%) of it is stuff you can already do intuitively without any additional guidance.

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.
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