Google Apps Premier Edition Launches - One Small Step Towards Google Office

google apps

The big news tonight is that Google has released a premier edition of its Google Apps package (previously known as Google Apps For Your Domain). I've been following the Web Office trend for a long time and, like everyone, have been particularly obsessed with Google's gradual progression towards a Web Office suite. Tonight is another step towards fully challenging Microsoft Office, but there is still a ways to go. More on that in a minute, but first a quick overview of what's in Google Apps Premier.

The new 'suite' includes the existing Google Apps tools - Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Page Creator and Start Page. New to the package is Google Docs & Spreadsheets, a significant edition considering that word processing and spreadsheets are mainstays of Microsoft Office. A comparison between the free edition and premier is here. Also new of note is APIs "to integrate with your existing infrastructure" and ability to integrate with 3rd party applications and services. 'Best of breed' web apps is another theme we obsess over here at Read/WriteWeb - so APIs and 3rd party features will go a long way towards making Google Office an attraction for external developers and startups. Google wants to be the center of the Web Office ecosystem, a very wise strategy.

For now, I'm a bit more cautious about this news. I see it more as just another step for Google towards a full Office suite. There's still no presentations app, CRM.... or JotSpot for that matter! Google Apps is still a fairly loose package of web-based office apps, not as integrated as it could be yet. The strength of a Web Office suite is collaboration and other web native functionality - whereas desktop office suites have much more sophisticated functionality. There's also the small matter of offline functionality (which is starting to appear in web apps, but slowly) and whether businesses want to host their office with an external party like Google.But the gap is definitely closing, no doubt about it, between Google and Microsoft in office software. I'm waiting with interest on Google's next step - which I'm guessing will involve more integration between their apps, a la something like Basecamp or Central Desktop. I'm also waiting to see some of the new web native features that JotSpot (a Google acquisition last year) had, plus of course missing apps like presentations.

Top 10 Gmail tips and hacks

Gmail offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to the way you manage your email. Innovative features like labels, a dedicated mobile phone client and rich script-ability via Firefox's Greasemonkey plugin create a unique appeal for users from nearly all walks of life.


  • Greasemonkey repository at Google Code: Started by Mihai Parparita, a Google employee (though unaffiliated with Gmail), this Google Code repository has some of the coolest and most functional Gmail scripts for Greasemonkey, an add-on for Firefox. Scripts for adding colors to labels, saving searches and even integrating Gmail + Google Reader can all be found here.
  • The Macros script: Found at that Google Code repository, I firmly believe this is *the* essential Gmail trick to end all Gmail tricks. It adds a serious dose of productivity that can make Gmail more functional than any desktop email client on the block. This script has shortcuts for label navigation, simultaneously marking as read + archiving, labeling messages on the fly and much more - all from the keyboard. Once you get this script installed, pressing 'h' should display a slick overlay of all available shortcuts.
  • Trick your labels: Using unique characters to prefix label names brings them to the top of the alphabetized list of labels. The @ symbol, numbers and even underscores are all useful for bringing important labels out of their standard organization, and they make labels more accessible to other hacks like the Macros script.
  • Join the Power Users group: The Gmail Power Users Google Group attracts many users just like you, looking for ways to extend and bend Gmail to their will. If you find yourself getting as hooked on Greasemonkey scripts as I have, this is a great place to find other people who are customizing them to their specific interests.
  • Quicker Contacts: Gmail includes a built-in chat feature with a clever pop-up window for easy access to some of the contacts with whom you communicate the most, but why limit this handy functionality to the tiny chat area? Quicker Contacts is another fantastic Greasemonkey script that adds this pop-up window to every message in Gmail. One catch, however, is that you need to be using Gmail's standard + chat mode in order for this script to work. If you don't like chatting inside of Gmail though, the good news is that you can simply sign out of chat and collapse the panel to avoid being bothered with it.
  • Bookmark any label, folder or message type: Another apparently undocumented Gmail trick is the ability to bookmark a label, a standard folder or even a message type such as 'read' or 'unread.' It isn't quite as easy as bookmarking a website, but it's useful: simply copy and paste this link into your address bar: and then add any label name, folder or message type after the colon (examples: fs=1:todo, fs=1:Drafts and fs=1:unread). Press enter, and then bookmark that page once Gmail loads.
  • Backup Gmail offline: Some Gmail users can occasionally find themselves needing access to their email when they're offline somewhere, or - worst case scenario - their account might have accidentally disappeared. No matter what the reason is, it's always a good idea to have a backup of your data, and email from an online service is no exception. Gmail offers instructions for accessing and downloading your email to a desktop client, with a ton of customized instructions for nearly every client in the book. As an added bonus, it seems Gmail has recently introduced a "recent" mode just in case you want to download your email with more than one client.
  • Manage multiple Gmail accounts: For one reason or another, many Gmail users find themselves opening multiple accounts. Throw the ability to run Gmail on your own domain with Google Apps for Your Domain, and things can get complicated. Gmail Manager is an add-on for Firefox that untangles your Gmail web by allowing you to manage, swap between and receive new message alerts from multiple Gmail accounts, including those run on Google Apps.
  • Fetch your other mail: A recent and quietly introduced Gmail feature is Mail Fetcher, which can check up to five other email accounts and download all that mail into your Gmail. To help keep things organized, Mail Fetcher can automatically label and archive all this incoming mail.
  • Bookmarklets: These are typically javascript-enabled bookmarks that do something instead of simply 'mark something. To make Gmail more functional, there are two bookmarklets which the Gmail community have cooked up to make the web service feel more like a desktop app. The first is Compose (drag that link to your browser's bookmark toolbar or 'mark as you see fit), which skips directly to opening a compose window in Gmail (sidenote: To save my life I can neither find nor hack this one to open a new window; if any readers were more successful, I would join many others in thanking you if you shared in the comments). The second bookmarklet is really handy for sharing whatever page you're viewing: Gmail This opens a new, smaller composition window with the title of the front-most webpage in the subject and a link to the page in the body of the email. If you selected any text on the page, this will be added to the message body as well.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

After a year-long public gestation period, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software has attained "gold code" status and will soon be available to the world. Along with Apple's Mac-only<!-- start ziffarticle //--> Aperture<!-- end ziffarticle //-->, the cross-platform Lightroom belongs to a new breed of digital photo software oriented around workflow: the process of getting the photos off your camera, organized, enhanced, and output to the medium of your choice. Lightroom by design works primarily (though not exclusively) with RAW-formatted images, and it certainly qualifies as an exceptionally useful and accomplished piece of software.


If you're one of those who only uses Photoshop for its core photo editing capabilities, and doesn't need the dozens of other graphic arts features or the complex user interface, then Lightroom or one of the new breed of photographer specific editors is just the ticket for you. In this issue of DigitalPro Shooter we'll look at the newly announced Adobe Lightroom and also talk a little about how it compares with Apple's Aperture and LightZone from LightCrafts.

The first big change in Photoshop's editing paradigm since Layers came with the introduction of Camera Raw. Camera Raw allows non-destructive application of some fairly sophisticated image processing directly on the camera's raw data. The obvious question photographers began to ask is why they couldn't have those same powerful functions for use with their JPEGs (like Bibble offers) and in Photoshop itself. Changing Photoshop entirely to address the needs of photographers is impractical, so Adobe has built Lightroom "from the ground up" (their words, not mine) to meet the needs of the serious photographer.


Lightroom Beta 4 also features:

  • Groundbreaking changes in the way tone curve adjustments are made and displayed, giving you the highest quality results in an interface that's easier to use than ever before.
  • More streamlined and elegant user interface - We've made several changes to the look and feel based on your feedback in the earlier beta releases.
  • Customizable interface - You can now display only the controls you want to be visible.
  • Precision white balance selection tool
  • Facility to easily rename and convert files to DNG after they've been imported to the Lightroom library
  • Increased interaction between Lightroom library organizational structure and the underlying file system
  • Filter and search presets to more quickly find the photographs you want
  • Better performance and improved interface for the Web module features
  • Develop control improvements based on community feedback, including comments from the Pixmantec user community (welcome!)