"Developers now have an easy way to add features to Google Docs," said Google engineers Zach Lloyd and Mike Harm on The Official Google Docs Blog. The additions to Google Docs, they said, will begin with an implementation in spreadsheets, and developers can also "pull collaborative data from Google Docs into gadgets on iGoogle and other platforms." iGoogle is a customizable Google start page.
Late for Wedding?
As one example, Lloyd and Harm suggested taking a project plan spreadsheet, adding a custom time-line chart via Google Gadgets, and letting users see the plan's progress. If you use it for a wedding plan, they wrote, how better to let your intended spouse know that you'll be "late to your own wedding?"
The software enhancements enable users to add new ways to display data, and to notify users via e-mail that data has been updated. Those who have signed up for collaborations can see in their e-mail notifications the user names of people who've made changes. Ordinary viewers can set up notifications, but without seeing user names.
Google Gadgets are expected to be added to spreadsheet's companions in the Google Docs suite, the word-processor and presentation applications, although that time line is not yet known.
Additionally, third-party developers can join Google in creating new capabilities for the spreadsheet. Gadgets include interactive time-series charts, Gantt charts, funnel charts, time lines, organization charts, tables with filters and grouping, pivot tables, and maps. To add a gadget, the user simply clicks on "insert" in a drop-down menu and selects "gadgets." Gadgets can also be embedded into Web pages or added to iGoogle.
A spreadsheets API will allow developers to create user features accessible from within the spreadsheet editor of Google Docs. The company said it combines the Google Gadgets API with the Google Visualization API, so data can be accessed for use or presentation in the spreadsheet.
Google Docs vs Microsoft Office
Google Docs applications are hosted online and provide tools for basic office functions. Increasingly, its enhancements and positioning are seen as helping Google compete better with Microsoft Office.
Microsoft, which now describes itself as a "software plus services" company, recently released a beta of Office Live Workspace.
The workspace, first previewed in the fall, is a Web-based extension of its dominant office productivity suite. Up to 1,000 Office documents can be stored online and shared in Office Live Workspace. Documents can be viewed and commented on in the browser, simple Web lists and Web notes can be created, and, when integrated with Microsoft SharedView, documents can be shared in real time.