Down with file attachments! Hail to the Google Docs API update

With massively refreshed Google Docs/Drive APIs, use JavaScript to integrate to your heart's content, create new apps

Last year I started pushing everyone in my company to never send me attachments. I wanted a Dropbox share and a Google Drive share, as well as the ability to collaboratively edit with my coworkers. Nothing is more frustrating than a back-and-forth merge of three versions of the same ODT (the open source equivalent of a DOC) or OPD (the open source equivalent of a PPT) file. We were going to the cloud, like it or not.

Recently a drunk driver drove his SUV through the lower floor of our historic downtown office, so we began a much more rapid migration to the cloud than originally planned. That migration included a move to the corporate versions of Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive. In so doing, we gave up a fair amount of functionality offered by our LibreOffice desktop suite. The Google Drive API, for example, was pathetic; it barely let us do more than store files.

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All that has changed. Google has rolled out new APIs and exposed greater functionality to developers for both Google Drive and the various applications that make up Google Docs. These APIs and this new functionality are the key to my dream to exterminate file attachments!

The new Google Apps Script API is pure JavaScript. This is certainly an improvement for those stuck with Microsoft Office, many of whom may be wishing for a more modern language, as well as struggling with flagging support for VBA. With the new API you can not only script the creation and emailing of a document or custom spreadsheet functions, but custom menu options for the various Google applications too. You can even create your own application inside of Google Drive.

Custom applications integrated with Google Drive are not limited to the browserland version but can also be integrated with Android or iOS. Of course, the iOS version must be written in Objective-C because everyone loves writing in a horribly mangled C derivative that should have died in the '80s along with its other Neanderthal cousin. For companies looking to promote their applications, this integration might be a first step into the new Google Drive market.

While my company has been migrating to cloud software whether or not we're completely happy with it, I can see a day when this kind of integration will be a basic requirement. I'd love to see our accounting software, for instance, integrated with Google Sheets. When I view Google Forms integration and Gmail integration I tend to look backward to a time when this kind of integration was more common. I also think this kind of sophisticated back-office/office productivity integration capability in the cloud will be a boon to smaller companies.

To those of you using the new APIs and creating new integrations: I'd love to hear about them, especially if you're planning to market a public application. I'll do a roundup of the best stuff in a future article. Contact me via email or in the comments below.

This article, "Down with file attachments! Hail to the Google Docs API update," was originally published at Keep up on the latest developments in application development and read more of Andrew Oliver's Strategic Developer blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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