It’s RAD using Google Apps

I agree… it seems like an odd choice, but developing solutions using Google Spreadsheets has a lot of perks.  My relationship with Google Apps started when my wife had created a tracking worksheet in Google Spreadsheets for her work.   If only there was a way to do some automation with it?  Oh look there is, and what I found was quite extensive.

As far as I’m concerned an application framework needs 3 things, a robust language, a user interface, data handling, and most important of all is documentation.  Okay maybe that’s 4 four things.

Like Visual Basic for Applications back in the day, Google has provided an event driven Javascript language that allows you access to all parts of the Spreadsheet and it’s data handling power.   Not only Spreadsheets though all of Google Apps is available through the API.  The user interface is made with the spreadsheets itself, and a lot of artistic license can go into that.  To finish it all off is the documentation, which is comprehensive, provides examples, and the whole thing becomes becomes accessible with the built in IDE and Debugger.

Okay that’s 5 things, the robust language, data handling, user interface, documentation, an IDE and the debugger.  Nut’s maybe thats 6.  Anyway you get the idea.

I’ve built several projects for work with it now, and it has handled scaling very well.   We’ve had 2000 spreadsheet managed by a central spreadsheet.   As long as there are no changes to the spreadsheets, then everything works great.    For a school this worked out fine, as anything that would be nice to have we saved up for the next version.

With the Google Apps API, handling email, producing PDFs, managing files all becomes fairly accessible with a little amount of development time compared to other solutions.

This weekend I sat down and wrote a Word Search puzzle generator that my wife can use to build her own Word Search puzzles.   The javascript language is a great blend of dumbed down coding with logical syntax that you don’t have to be too concerned about variable types or other gotchas.

In fact, it went so well I think I can bundle this up and offer it to other teachers to use to build their students vocabulary.  An amazing example of write once, use anywhere.    I have created solutions for Invoice submission, curriculum tracking, learner assessment reporting, Google form notification system, mail merge and sending, and work-flow scripts to assist management of tasks.

If you’re a school admin, and like to get your hands dirty (not like fixing a car, but more like washing the dishes kind of dirty) then definitely take a look at the power that Google Apps can bring.

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