Google Apps Fail…

Having used Google Apps for Education since 2007, I’ve been through a lot with the platform. Whereas I used to look forward to the newest updates and the improvements to usability and stability they brought, I find myself dreading them lately. Mostly because the updates these days seem more about drastic UI changes than improved features or stability. The major appeal of GAFE, even beyond free, was simplicity and ease of use. Instead of  the fancy New Drive or beta features bolted on top like Google Classroom, what we really need is:

(or why Enterprise IT departments may not like Google Apps as much as you do)

1. Chromebook logins that only need the username, no GAFE domain required. For younger students, it’s just too much. I’d be ok if it only worked when we restrict login on the device to one Domain.

2. Fully sortable fields in the Admin interface. Pretty Please.

3. An Outlook Connector for Windows that doesn’t cripple Outlook.

4. A way to set the default behavior of clicking on an attachment in Gmail to download instead of open in Chrome. Windows users expect it to download to a folder. I realize Google doesn’t have Windows users anymore, so maybe they don’t realize how painful some of their recent UI updates have made it, but really, it’s way more complicated than it used to be. My power users still very much use MS Office every day and their email client should respect that.

5. The ability to lock a User’s name in the Domain Directory. Users being able to change their names in G+ is cool, but having it reflect back to the Domain Directory listing is lame. And not being able to change it back as an Admin is lamer still.

6. Better Groups. Just better groups. Thanks

6a. Sub Org and Group syncing would make sense, don’t you think? Like a group for every sub org with users.

6b. What’s up with that special *all.users user in groups. It shows up funky in calendar invites and having a button to add it to any group, not awesome, speaking as someone who had someone accidentally add All Users to a group that shouldn’t have had it.

7. Gmail Contacts that actually work. As in gmail contact groups that sync to mobile.

8. Some UI consistency across Apps. Heck, just replying to an email could happen a half dozen different ways depending on where a user is when they try to reply. It’s ugly.

9. A way to Auto Login a user to a chromebook. Because that would be very awesome.

10. Remote control to a chromebook. Yes, there are web based solutions, but native remote control from the Admin panel. Click and in. You can do it. You’re Google!

11. Side by Side view for Calendar. Might be able to get people off the Outlook Connector then, in which case, cross of #3.

12. Real time or near real time status of Chrome devices. Who’s logged in, what their IP is, what SSID they are on. System stuff that is easy to get. Really easy since you’re polling them anyway.

13. A way to set the default mail client in Windows and Mac to Gmail. For windows, there used to be a downloadable .exe file that would set gmail as the default email client with Chrome shortcuts on the desktop. It was slick. The nine dot waffle thing, not so much.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.20.40 PM

14. Stop updating the UI every few months, really. Let users learn how to do things and then have a few years to get good at doing them. Incremental improvements are great, but wholesale shifts, not so much. I’m still not sure wether I need to double click or single click a drive folder anymore. And drag and drop, forget about it if you’re in a search result view, which by the way looks exactly like the regular folder view where you can drag and drop. Overall, it is very disjointed and jarring for regular users.

15. A checkbox to hide users in a Sub Org from the Domain Directory. Specifically, student accounts. Because who wants to wade through a few thousand student names to find John Smith in the business department?

16. An admin panel your mom could use. Because really, that’s how easy it used to be. Going the Microsoft route and hiding all the features behind pretty icons and multiple layers is just sad. Because really, who wants to be like Microsoft.

To sum up, how about a long pause from drastic UI changes and new stuff and get to work on the boring but important grown up things like improving the overall experience for everyone, not just Chromebook users. And thanks for the unlimited storage and feee Vault. That was really nice.