All the basic pieces of a personal computer word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, images and email desktop are available on the internet through Google's Apps.
Google Apps Hacks by Philip Lenssen, published by O'Reilly, price #29.99 is a guide to Google's Internet application suite.
If you go to google.com and click on the top row item "more" you see the top layer of Google Apps. To explore further, you must sign up for a Google account. If you have email on Google, you have an account.
The advantage of the Google Apps Hacks book is it is a nice stable book that you can read and annotate.
I find it very helpful use the table of contents and simply focus on the specific hacks that I see will immediately serve my communication purposes.
For example, I have a Google blog. I used the Google Apps Hacks book as a starting point for deciding to use the Google blog application. I have embedded a graph from a spreadsheet, using the book as a starting point.
There has been an interesting side effect showing how the apps are interconnected. The photos and drawings I uploaded to my blog also appear on the Google image site Picasa as a photo album.
The state of Google Apps is the apps are changing as I write. On the word processing side, one requested feature is "import and edit PDF files." I didn't expect that photos and images from my blog photos appeared on Picasa as a photo album.
But all I can say is, that is great. I have been exploring a discipline of creating a photo to match every blog entry. I really enjoy seeing the images aggregating into a restatement of my blog.
Presently, my wife has made off with my copy of Google Apps Hacks. My wife does consulting with clients in other states. She is your classic Microsoft Word user who is migrating to OpenOffice and Gmail. She already uses gmail.com as her storage area for documents she receives and sends.
Right now, I feel there is more utility and less direct cost to migrate to Google Apps and away from the venerable Microsoft Office the CD product.
Presently Microsoft Office is offered at $250 in the Small Business edition or $90 in a student and home edition.
The contrasting expenditures for accessing Google Apps is first a book ($30, optional). The next expenditure is a portion of our internet access charges, I figure $30 a month. Finally, Google Apps warrants an investment of time and thought.
Here are the limits or edges I feel Google Apps presents:
Google Apps sharing: The model and way in which sharing, posting and editing privileges work isn't really clear to me. For my wife, we need to enable sharing based on email addreses of messages she gets to her gmail account. I'd like to enable sharing based on some kind of time limited key that I could send to a group of people. Alternately, how about if I could select a group of my documents and share them to anybody I send a document-group-key?
Google Apps has a primary personality as an extension of a personal computer desktop. It doesn't directly support a group structure like a small business where you would want to add and delete users and have functional areas like accounting and sales. Only a few business type applications are supported in the spreadsheet templates group.
There are a lot of interesting things that could be done with the ability of Google Docs to roll back a document to previous versions. I find roll back invaluable when working with Google spreadsheets.
Another thing I haven't yet found in Google Apps is a way to tag everything with a name or URL. Blogger offers url naming, but it is not a featured service like some other blogging websites.
So I am guardedly delighted with Google Apps, and I credit the book Google Apps Hacks with changing my entry into the blogosphere. To a certain extent, my home desktop is now redundant. I feel a little bit uneasy that Google Apps is free and my data is being stored for free.
So with those concerns stated, I post this review.