It was inevitable. Google's applications are so widely used that it was certain that there would be a "Missing Manuals" book about them sooner or later. Nancy Conner's contribution to the MM series shows just how powerful Google Apps can be, and how businesses as well as individuals can get the most out of everything that Google has developed.
For those who have been living in a cave for the past several years, Google is more than a search engine. From their email application to their office suite, Google has an application for almost everything you want to do, productivity-wise. And there's nothing to download, so you can save that valuable hard drive space for those Miley Cyrus MP3s. Since there's no box, there's no documentation. There are online tutorials, but they're not as in-depth as many users will eventually need. Thus, the need for Google Apps: The Missing Manual.
Conner starts the book with signing up for your Google Account. Not something that everyone will need to read, since if you've got a Gmail account, you've got a Google Account, but there is some good information in this section for novices. And it does cover customizing the Google toolbar, which is a must if you're going to become a Google Apps power user.
Next comes Google Docs. A chapter on word processing, including the basics of getting started with Docs in general, a chapter on spreadsheets, and a chapter on slideshows. I've gotten a lot of use out of the word processor in Google Docs lately, and I've used the spreadsheet program a little bit, but I haven't played with the slideshow program at all. All three of these programs are pretty powerful, and Conner gives plenty of tips to show people how to get the most out of Google's software, and not miss Microsoft Office much at all. And again, there's nothing stored locally, so you can access your files from any computer with an internet connection. Google Apps: The Missing Manual makes the transition from Office easy.
Communication is up next, with Google Talk taking center stage. This is the only app that has a download component (but you don't need to download anything if you use the Google Talk gadget embedded in your web page). Conner covers everything from signing on to blocking annoying chatters to transferring files. Talk has always seemed a bit self-explanitory to me, but it's covered in enough detail that even the Google newbie will be connected and talking in no time.
Google Calendar is my favorite Google app, especially since I can share my calendar, and insert calendars that others have shared with me. Conner does a great job in explaining how to do both of these things, which to me put the app way above Outlook in terms of flexibility and usability. The ability to send people invitations to events, and accept invitations to others' events, is another plus. Conner shows how this simple, Web-based application can take charge of your datebook, and how you can make it even more powerful through the use of some simple tips. I've used this app a lot, and I learned a few tricks myself.
Conner spends a good bit of the book talking about the potential uses for Google apps by businesses, including the use of Google Sites to integrate your apps under your business' own logo and site. Everything from signing your employees up to managing all the sites you have is covered, including granting permissions for people to edit different things site-wide.
Google Apps: The Missing Manual isn't meant to be read cover to cover. As with the other Missing Manual books, it's designed to be a desktop reference, for people to dig into when they have a specific question. It gets a bit repetative when you read it straight through, but Google Apps: The Missing Manual is a great reference work for an up and coming applications package.