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6/22/2011
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Google Apps Script Gets Drag And Drop

Automating business processes in Google Apps becomes easier with the introduction of a script API interface design tool.

Top 15 Google Apps For Business
Slideshow: Top 15 Google Apps ForBusiness
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Google's preference for automated processes is one reason, among many, that the company has been so successful. Though the benefits of automation--speed, scalability, and cost--are hardly a secret, they're not always easy for companies to realize.

But Google Apps customers now face a less challenging path than most to automate their business processes. That's because Google offers Google Apps Script, an API that allows users to write scripts that interact with Google Apps and third party services using Javascript. Google is far from the first to offer scripting capability, but the company's cloud-based software, by virtue of its common infrastructure and default connectivity, is better suited to benefit from automation and scripting than traditional desktop software.

Google App Script can be used to do things like send email based on information in a Google Docs spreadsheet or MySQL database, collect and analyze submission forms, or track stock prices over time. To help potential script programmers get started, Google offers several script templates that do things like generate personalized driving directions and a Google Map for inclusion in an email.

Google App Script is even up to the task of creating full-fledged web apps. Google engineer Dave Abouav, who teach physics part time at De Anza Community College, used App Script to make Flubaroo, a tool that leverages Google Forms to allow teachers to administer quizzes and assignments with automated grading.

Google App Script includes a UI service, in the form of the UiApp class. The API class provides a mechanism for generating web user interfaces, which make it easier to interact with scripted processes.

But creating a graphic interface using code can be a difficult process, because it's hard to visualize the end result. So Google has introduced Apps Script GUI Builder, which allows script authors to assemble a graphic user interface by dragging and dropping graphic elements.

"The GUI Builder lets you construct user interfaces for your scripts quickly and easily," explained Google software engineer Corey Goldfeder in a blog post. "Simply draw the application, set some properties, and you are ready to go!"

To start using GUI Builder, open the Script Editor--accessible from the Tools menu of a Google spreadsheet--and select "Build a user interface" from the Script Editor's File menu.

After building your GUI and app, you can make it available as a web service by selecting "Publish as Service" from the Share menu in the script editor. This creates a URL for the app and loads the GUI. The GUI can also be presented inside a spreadsheet or on a Google Sites page.

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