RealTime IT News

Google Begins Testing New Scripting for Apps

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google has begun limited testing of Google Apps Script, a feature that gives users of Google's online spreadsheet program the ability to automate actions -- such as reading and changing values in cells and ranges, changing formats and formulas and creating custom functions.

Company officials said Apps Script, currently in a private beta, addresses a common request by enterprise customers, namely, the ability to automate custom functions.

"Within the spreadsheet, you'll be able to automate, create, edit and host those scripts and trigger the running of those scripts with [on-screen] buttons," said Jonathan Rochelle, group product for collaboration at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), in a media briefing here late Wednesday at the company's Google I/O conference.

While scripting is far from a new feature, Rochelle argued Google's cloud-based offering takes the idea further than traditional desktop spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3.

"This goes beyond the spreadsheet. You can reach out to your calendar, create events, and send e-mail," he said. App Scripts also lets you link to services like Google's search engine and translate to and from other languages.

In a blog post, which also includes a brief video demo, Rochelle said about a thousand organizations are testing Apps Script.

Microsoft was somewhat dismissive of Google's initial release of its online spreadsheet several years ago, noting it lacked many features Excel had years earlier. But Matthew Glotzbach, who manages Google's enterprise product lines, said he thinks Google's spreadsheet has evolved rapidly.

"There may be a perceived feature gap, but there is a whole host of features that are never used" in Excel, he added. "Thinking of one as a power user and the other [as] lightweight are misconceptions. I'm a power user, I can do things I can't do in a traditional offline spreadsheet like grab information from gadgets. And I can do it on [someone else's] computer that would take hours to program."

In response to a question about Excel, Rochelle said some Google Apps customers have asked for the ability to import Excel macros, but he said the company is still undecided on whether it's a feature important enough to add.

On the broader question of security and cloud-based offerings like Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Glotzbach said it's becoming less of an issue for the customers and organizations Google's been talking to about its Apps Suite.

"More and more, the security risk is at the endpoint, the mobile device and the thumb drive," he said.