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Google Office To Get an API 118

Orange Crush writes, "Google's new office applications, Docs & Spreadsheets, will provide APIs for custom apps. Johnathan Rochelle, project manager: 'We definitely want to build out APIs, especially for the spreadsheets side, as spreadsheets are more data-oriented, but maybe also for the word processor. People will be able to do mashups with our tools for other things, and not be stuck behind our dev cycle for everything they want. If I've already got data somewhere you can't really rely on manual cut-and-paste to make it collaborative. Imagine pulling data from any application you've already got in use... you get that data over to the hosted app, make it collaborative, then bring it back... that's what we'd like to enable at some point.'" Eating their own dogfood: Rochelle said that "Everybody in [Google] is using the tool" already.
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Google Office To Get an API

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  • Editing (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "We definitely want to build out APIs, especially for the spreadsheets side, as spreadsheets are more data-oriented, but maybe also for he word processor," Google product manager Jonathan Rochelle said.

    Repeat after me... Spellcheck does not replace good editing. Spellcheck does not replace good editing.
    • Re:Editing (Score:4, Funny)

      by Jesterboy ( 106813 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:18PM (#16431091)
      I was scanning through the headlines, and I didn't even notice the mistake you mentioned. I just thought Google's office was getting an API, which made me think something like...
      public void(ProposedAction action) {
      if(action.notEvil()) {
      • Oops! Looks like you missed the emergency patch from last year:
        if( (action.notEvil()) || (action.potentialProfits==kHigh) ) //include support for communist markets
    • but maybe also for he word processor
      Repeat after me... Spellcheck does not replace good editing. Spellcheck does not replace good editing.

      Repeat after me... A spell checker would not find this error, but a good grammar checker would. A spell checker would not find this error, but a good grammar checker would.

      • Re:Editing (Score:4, Funny)

        by WilliamSChips ( 793741 ) <full DOT infinity AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 13, 2006 @07:42PM (#16431983) Journal
        Repeat after me: Grammar checkers are the kings of false positives and are practically useless. Grammar checkers are the kings of false positives and are practically useless.
        • Oh yeah, I never use the things myself. Grammar checkers can't tell when you're utilizing slightly incorrect grammar for effect and their primary function is to bug the shit out of me. Regardless, pretty much any grammar checker would have found that error. Or at least, it looks simple enough :D
          • Dunno about Word 2003 but XP's grammar checker never spots typos like that. I'm sure it's very clever and all but sometimes you think "why has it marked that" and the explanation when you right click usually confuses you more.
      • There exists such a thing as a good grammar checker?
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by CmdrSanity ( 531251 )
        Maybe this isn't the right forum to point this out ;), but the new Office 12 contextual spell checker will correct this error (it looks at every word in the sentence and tries to figure out of the word makes sense in context, pretty cool).
        • by Firehed ( 942385 )
          Contextual spellchecker? Sounds like marketing-speak for grammar checker to me.
          • by swv3752 ( 187722 )
            Except, grammar checkers suck in English. Something that could check contextual spelling, would work pretty well. Especially, as most things that one would think a grammar checker should fix, would be caught by a good contextual spell check. (ie There, thier, they're)
            • Sounds like a different label for the same thing to me. What could the "context" of the "contextual spelling checker" possibly be, if not grammar?!

              Or is it just that a "contextual spelling checker" would just do less, because it wouldn't try to correct the structure of the sentence?

          • It does correct alot of grammatical errors that result from bad spelling, but it can also fix grammatically correct sentences that don't make sense semantically. For example, if you input "Are the fishes in the dish-washer?" It will correct fishes to dishes. Input "I drove in to work in a bar" and it changes bar to car. These are kind of stupid examples but the system can fix much more complex things as well. People make these kind of mistakes in English around once in 2.5 pages of text. In Spanish and lan
    • by qska ( 1014149 )
      I think the APIs are great news, anyway - you can create custom applications (charting/import/export/website publishing/anything) for the Google Spreadsheets - great stuff!
  • api (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:39PM (#16430611)
    what the heck is an api for the non-nerds out there?
  • I did a quicky review [] of Google's Spreadsheet when they released it six months ago. Since then, it would appear that Google has fixed some of my complaints. In particular:

    1. Cell borders have been added.

    Umm... that's all I've got. :(

    Everything else still appears to be an issue, including the calculation errors I spotted. And while Cell Borders have been added, there is no way to apply different styles. I'm pleased to see that Google is adding a new API for their "Office Suite", but they really need to fix some of these issues before they can be taken seriously.

    Also, the continuing lack of charting is really sticking out. Data visualization is an important feature in a spreadsheet, whether you're preparing a market analysis or just balancing your household budget. The fact that plenty of web technologies exist to accomplish charting (SVG, round trip images, Flash, Java, etc.) only makes it stick out that much more. Now the API might allow external coders to help in this area, but so far I'm still not impressed.
    • by SimplexO ( 537908 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @08:53PM (#16432571) Homepage
      Let's take a look at that list from someone who uses the Spreadsheet app daily (personal finances):

      1. Formulas are edited in the cell rather than having a text field on top. This is REALLY annoying to anyone who uses a spreadsheet program regularly. There is an uneditable text field at the top (doesn't work right in Mozilla 1.7.12), but it's not useful for anything other than ogleing at.

      Let's not mock Google for trying something different. Because they use "ribbons," that bar up top is only visible when the formatting ribon is selected. I know that you've got Excel muscle memory and you want to go up to that function bar, but why should you have to click on a cell and then click up on the formatting bar when you can just edit by double clicking a cell and staying there. Open your mind and try something different. It might be better.

      2. Auto-resizing by double-clicking doesn't work. This is a core feature that I should think that everyone uses.

      You're right, double-clicking a column header's edge doesn't auto resize, but since cells auto word wrap based on their contents, you can just resize a column until rows no longer wrap. This feature should be added -- it would be nice. It should also be easier to grab the column header's edge.

      3. No size indicator when changing cell sizes.

      This is a nice luxury feature I'd like to have (when resizing similar sheets to have the same column widths). Regardless, I don't really NEED it to do my work. That's just me though.

      4. You're limited to 100 x T cells. If you're one of those people with a lot of data, good luck. It doesn't look like Google will let you store it without manually inserting enough rows or columns to hold it all.

      If you highlight all the rows and then go to insert, you'll see that you can insert however many rows you have selected. For instance, if you select 100 rows, you'll get an option to add 100 rows up or 100 rows down. You can also right click on the row headers to get this option. Works the same for columns, too.

      5. The formatting menu is useless. It's got a few data types, and that is IT. If you need a custom style, or a date in one of the billion other formats, you're SOL.

      You're not SOL, but you do have to do some work: You need to use the TEXT() function. Check this out [] to see what you can do with that function.

      6. No cell borders. Raise your hand if you tend to mark headers with a cell border. (/Me raises hand.)

      It's simple, but it works. Frustratingly, it seems that the common solution to most problems are to download, and open it in excel then update online. Maybe that'll change as the project matures.

      7. The "Freeze Rows" command makes no sense. Why are you choosing the number of rows from a menu, when a multiple row-select exists?

      I don't know if you don't understand what it's supposed to be doing, but it emulates the pane feature in excel, where you can keep one or more header rows frozen as you scroll down. This works well for my financial stuff that I do. It'd be nice if they had the first couple of columns freezable too.

      There are some downpoints, noticably the speed, especially when you've got lots of data and you do lots of calculations on it, or when slashdot covers it on the front page. When typing things, they stay up on the page while the server gets updated and that works for random text being added, but if the data you are changing changes other data, you'll have to wait for the server to catch up. Like I said, the column dividers could be easier to select. And the autofill feature could be smarter. That really hurts my productivity.

      In excel, you could have two cells with values of 2 and 4 and then autofill the next couple of cells and you'd get 6 and 8. In Google, you'll get 3 and 5, then 4 and 6, and so on.

  • by solafide ( 845228 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:41PM (#16430641) Homepage
    I was reading a article on zdnet a couple days ago about how the problem of Web2.0 and Web2.0 storing its data online was that you couldn't use this data when you weren't connected to the internet. Here's the answer: a small app that reads and writes using this API, but can store to your computer for later online storage when reconnected to the internet. I can't wait till it comes to Linux.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:46PM (#16430695) Homepage
      It'd be nice if someone could make something that will sync your Google documents into a folder on your hard drive, maybe in .odt and ods format? It seems like the first thing I'd want from Google Docs&Spreadsheet.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by zcsteele ( 924719 )
        There is an export feature. I'm not sure if it's new, but I just tried it out (Google Spreasheet -> OpenOffice *.ods) and it works fine.
        • Yes, I know. But I was saying I hope someone invents something that will sync your files to your hard drive in a specified format. I'm assuming that one of the things Googles API will allow is to upload/export files. If so, you should be able to write something that syncs all the OOo/MSO documents between a given folder and your Google account, which would allow you to keep a local copy in case you wanted to edit your documents offline.

          The reason I bring this up is, I probably won't use any of this onli

    • by sydneyfong ( 410107 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @10:47PM (#16433115) Homepage Journal
      EditGrid Sync []

      (Plug: I wrote that...)

      At the moment it's more like a backup tool than a fully operational sync tool (it doesn't automatically upload locally modified files). But it's open source, so if you find it somewhat useful but not powerful enough, feel free to check out the code and change things.

      And it runs Linux too. (wxPython)
    • I seem to remember a little product called Lotus Notes by Ray Ozzie, who has now become the head of Microsoft. Their special little replication concept seemed to endear itself to a lot of people.

  • by biendamon ( 723952 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:43PM (#16430655)
    As I mentioned on an earlier Google Office thread, the word processor doesn't permit the kind of page formatting options that are an absolute necessity for a professional writer. Specifically, you can't define front-page headers, subsequent headers, or 8.5x11 inch page sizes with 1 inch margins.

    Without those features, it's still OK, but no writer will use it as their word processor of choice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      As I mentioned on an earlier Google Office thread

      (blah blah blah karma whoring blah blah blah)

      As people have been mentioning off and on since this thing was announced, it's not for everyone, and it never will be. Even after all the features everyone wants have been implemented it'll still store your data someplace else.

    • Why a processional writer would expect a word processor to do anything other than very basic, inexact layout is beyond me. I would much rather see them make a completely separate compiles-to-pdf layout tool than to smash those features into a word processor. Then you could link your formatted text documents into a layout program to get things like exact margins and arbitrary headers, just like on the desktop.
      • Have you even looked at a modern word-processor? They do all that by default, now. A professional writer wants to be able to open a manuscript, write in the manuscript, and then print that manuscript. If it requires more work than using a typewriter to get a page layout that editors like, why in the world should a writer use it?
        • I have, and I hate them. I'll take Word 5.1 over Word 2003 any day. Why on earth would a professional writer be trying to do print layout in a tool designed to produce formatted text? God forbid we separate the functions of content production and layout into two tools to meet the different workflows of text editing and layout.

          Seriously, why do you think tools like InDesign and PageMaker and Quark exist? *Those* are layout tools. *Those* are what professionals use to create print-ready documents. If you real
        • by whoop ( 194 )
          why in the world should a writer use it?

          If writing is your profession, why are you expecting much from a free product? You may just have to spend a little money to get every feature you're looking for.

          And we all know Google's target with these apps are the 0.002% of the Internet people who are professional writers, not the 99.998% soccer moms who don't need $500 worth of MS Office to make sappy birthday party invitations and other junk...
    • As I mentioned on an earlier Google Office thread, the word processor doesn't permit the kind of page formatting options that are an absolute necessity for a professional writer. Specifically, you can't define front-page headers, subsequent headers, or 8.5x11 inch page sizes with 1 inch margins.

      I'm really not sure what you mean by a "professional writer," but in the publishing industry, a professional wouldn't use a word processor. Second, he most definitely wouldn't use 1" margins on 8-1/2x11 paper!

      • No, I'm pretty sure I meant what I said. Look at the web pages of just about any fiction market, and you'll see what editors prefer: 1 inch margins on 8.5x11 paper, double-spaced, and preferably with a Courier font. Of course that's not the layout the final product is going to be in; that will be determined by the medium the story will be printed in. But it's the format the editors want so they don't go blind reading a gazillion stories a day.

        Want a guaranteed method the editor will skip yours? Send them a
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
      I can't imagine doing serious professional writing using word or openoffice either...
      Both applications have far too many bugs and quirks, having to use them day in day out would drive you insane. Latex is the best tool i've found for writing large volumes of text.
  • by daeg ( 828071 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:45PM (#16430685)
    Hooray for Google allowing disallusioned bloggers to create mashups of other disallusioned bloggers using data from Google Spreadsheets into a Google Map where you can click on each user and write a message to them through an API to Blogger while simultaneously overlaying sixteen YouTube videoes while embedding a chat control to GTalk and Gmail and embedding a moon phase widget in your Google Pages tray bar along with a world clock showing the time in thirty-seven timezones simultaneously while using Google Sets to locate good stocks to show charts through Google Finanance in an expandable IFrame using Google UI Controls and integrating Google Search and Google News to be tied into the page so it automatically searches Google whenever you click on any word on the page and if you click on a non-alphanumeric it searches through Google Code Search and every image will be linked to Google Image Search and Google Image Labeler.
  • The API I want is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LeDopore ( 898286 )
    direct hooks between Google Office and my word processor of choice. As soon as Google Office respects .odt enough so that it can keep track of all changes people make (even if the web interface isn't yet able to let you use all of .odt), you should be able to get the collaborative benefits of Google Office along with all the benefits of having a local office app.

    Think: all open standard word procesors could instantly have the best collaboration system on the planet (i.e. real time co-editing, with backups
  • The article mentions a Google employee who uses a traditional office product while commuting, and then gets into the office and (ironically) switches to the Google product. So how does he merge the changes he made while on the road with the changes others may have made in the office? That would be a great feature to have built in for a product with such a strong collaboration focus, but I don't think they have it.
    • I just had a thought today about the hints of Google-Apple love... Wouldn't it be great if Apple's iWork suite were updated with hooks into the Google apps? Maybe that's what they're waiting for in order to release their Excel competitor. Imagine that; a desktop product which automatically integrates with an on-line, open collaborative storage system... That'd be awesome!

      • I wouldn't jump to any conclusions there. Google and Apple seem to get along, but Apple and Google aren't that close. There isn't even an office Google Talk client for OSX. Yes, Google has been filling out their support for OSX lately, but Docs still doesn't have support for Pages documents.

        I would add, also, that this seems to me to be the sort of thing Apple would like to do themselves. It's only my opinion, but even if it were a fairly open solution (the Pages and Keynote document formats are both r

        • > ...people get a little carried away with Apple rumors.

          Guilty as charged!

        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
          The default iChat program that ships with OSX is capable of connecting to Google Talk.
          I think it's good that google are spending more time making their service standards compliant rather than wasting their time creating their own client, when there are loads of existing ones out there.
          • Last I checked there were a few chat programs that can use Jabber, but not many that could use Google Talk's voice stuff. Regardless, the point is that Google usually produces Windows client software, but until recently hasn't even shown signs that they would make Macintosh ports.
  • by X43B ( 577258 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:20PM (#16431121) Journal
    "Eating their own dogfood: Rochelle said that "Everybody in [Google] is using the tool" already."

    I'm just an aerospace engineer and not a programmer/scientist....but I thought Google hired the best of the best brightest minds in the country. True I use Matlab for most analysis and Fortran and C for most simulations, but when I want to "play" with a snippet of data a bit and do some simple plots, Excel kicks butt. I feel sorry for them if all those PhDs can't even graph with their spreadsheets anymore. I can understand them not wanting to pay Microsoft but geeze, at least throw them oocalc.
    • by TheClam ( 209230 )
      He didn't say they use the tool exclusively.
      • by Benley ( 102665 )

        He didn't say they use the tool exclusively.

        Ding! Correct. Googlers tend to use whatever tools are appropriate to get their job done. "Eating the dogfood" is cool and all, but nobody's forcing us to use Google Spreadsheets when Matlab is what's needed.

        - benley, a random googler
    • Rochelle is the project manager. Of course he's going to say "everybody is using it". It's just marketing-speak. He probably wouldn't recognize some of Google's employees if he ran into them on the street, let alone know which tools they use.
  • Valuation (Score:5, Funny)

    by edusmoreira ( 978831 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:22PM (#16431145)
    Eating their own dogfood: Rochelle said that "Everybody in [Google] is using the tool" already.

    Now I understand why the CFO paid 1.6bn for GooTube!
  • by LaRoach ( 968977 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:31PM (#16431247)
    ...getting sick of the term "mashup"?
  • Given how feature-incomplete the Google Office suite is in comparison to any desktop application, I don't see why this is even important. If this was some no-name web application, it wouldn't be a headline. The amount of hype being generated over the ability to run applications inside your browser through a mess of client side and server side interaction is absurd.

    What is clear is we need a better platform for developing these sorts of applications, but AJAX and DHTML fails to impress me.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:56PM (#16431493) Homepage

      think you wouldn't see a story about a no-name application for various reasons. First, mass audiences might be hesitant to upload files to random companies they aren't familiar with and don't trust. For better or worse, people do trust Google well enough.

      I know my big concern with no-named companies making web apps is that, even if they're kind of cool, little companies trying something innovative often fizzle out. You spend some time uploading your documents and playing with things. You tell people that they can access your documents there. Next thing you know, right when you're coming to depend on it-- the site is gone. Or sometimes you might think, "This has potential, but they still need to work on it," but the company doesn't really have the money to work on it.

      So I think that's part of the reason why this is getting hype: people expect that Google will make it work. Google isn't running out of money anytime soon, and they aren't going out of business. These apps are pretty snappy, and we all know that Google has the servers and bandwidth to run it, so there isn't a big fear of things being overloaded.

      I'm not a huge fan of this stuff. Word processors and spreadsheets in web browsers? I take my laptop with me most everywhere, and I'd rather work locally. Still, maybe if Google works on it and other people can find clever things to do with the API, maybe there will be some use for it. I guess it'd be nice to send a simple spreadsheet to someone, and trust that they'll be able to view it with only a web browser, so it's not all useless. But I think the real thing is the promise that Google will figure out how to make it work.

    • But it *was* a no name which hit Slashdot before Google bought it.
  • Does it run in Emacs?
  • It's about time their office include an Animal Protection Institute for their code monkeys.
  • If storage is becoming more net-centric [], what really matters is having the most ways possible to access your data. People don't really need the desktop software features. I'd gladly give away 90% of them if it was just easier to collaborate and be able to find our stuff when we need it.

    To hell with expensive collaboration tools that require my own server. First there was eroom [], then the much cheaper 37 signals [], and now the free google []. Long live google.
  • someone in India is selling your financial information?
    • Whats this someone in India is selling your financial information? got to do with the main story?
  • Yes it's nice that google are providing yet another API, but I'm really put off by the writely new skin. It's less appealing it use.
  • by Gunfighter ( 1944 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:51PM (#16433457) Homepage
    ... they should expand on the Google Apps for Your Domain idea and start offering all of this stuff in a nice, big bundle along with a registrar offering. Imagine if, for the low, low price of a domain registration, you were able to get the following in one, nice, dashboard-style interface:

    • Domain registration (don't think they offer this one yet)
    • Website hosting (Google Pages) (Note: Need to expand on this one and offer some programmability via PHP or Python or something)
    • Database (Google Base)
    • Message boards (Google Groups)
    • Image hosting (Picasa Web)
    • Office apps (Docs & Spreadsheets)
    • Email (Gmail)
    • Instant Messaging (Google Talk)
    • Calendaring (Google Calendar)
    • File storage (GDrive)
    • Video (Google Video/YouTube)
    • News aggregation (Google Reader)
    • Revision/code revision management (Google Code)
    • etc. etc. etc.

    The key is to bundle them all together in an easy to use interface. Perhaps even a desktop client. Heck, with their resources, they could probably wrap it all up into that Google Operating System everyone was all giddy about a while back. Right now, everything (with the exception of the existing Google Apps for Your Domain suite) is pretty spread out as separate products. If they could tie all of these together and make collaboration and integration a little better, it would be the ultimate groupware suite. Just throw in an accounting program (Google Financials?) and you're all set. Charge monthly/yearly fees for companies/domains that go over the maximum storage (perhaps offer a combined storage limit for all of the products put together?) or need more users/groups.
    • Whoops... forgot some:
      • Blogging and syndication (Blogger)
      • Ecommerce (write a shopping cart & auction system/Froogle/Google Checkout)
    • Considering how it's all based on google's cluster technology, don't hope for the php/python just yet. Static pages will work fine, ajax too, but anything requiring server storage breaks the model they got(and that works, flawlessly). They'd need to publish a google cluster api before they could host your dynamic pages.
  • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @02:14AM (#16434071) Homepage
    Last time I checked, you could set up your Google spreadsheets for collaboration, but there was no version control, no way to find out who changed what when, and to revert changes. Has that since been added? Without it, I find collaboration impossible.
  • It's amazing they can put it on a webpage and it all works flawlessly, but the one drawback of their spreadsheet deal is that it only goes up to 100 entries- I bet for most tasks that's fine but what about folks w/ more rows?
  • Behold the power of posting at Slashdot []!

    Dan East

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"