Introduction to the new Google Docs Add-ons
If you’ve ever tried Google’s cloud-based document suite then you likely know it’s pretty great. Google Drive is completely free and offers each Google Account free storage along with free use of their Google Docs interface. You can build spreadsheets, word documents, and slideshows all within Google Drive.
Currently the newest add-ons will focus on docs and sheets. But there are plenty more in the works you can expect sometime in the future. This article is dedicated to getting you familiar with Google Drive’s add-ons and how you can install them for your own account.
The Basic Features
Most of the add-ons released are completely free to install and use at your leisure. It’s certainly possible that Google developers will release add-ons which eventually cost money, behaving much like the Google Chrome extension web store. But for now I’ve only come across free add-ons.
When opening a new document you can find add-ons within the primary links at the top of the page. If you’re new to Google Drive this link will have a small “new!” tag attached onto it.
This menu only allows you to access the Google store for downloading new add-ons. These items will appear in the add-ons menu once installed. Each add-on requires authentication much like you would expect when accessing a 3rd party website using your Google account.
Running with Add-ons
Each installation is tied to your Google Account so add-ons should work from any computer. It’s one of the small benefits to working with Drive since it is a cloud-based web application.
Open the add-on store from the tools menu and you can choose from any of the most popular releases. Note that a document will provide different add-ons compared to a spreadsheet. Once you click “install” a small popup will appear asking for your permission. Click “Accept” and it should finish installation within seconds.
From here you can always work with installed add-ons from the menu link. For example the Thesaurus add-on requires that you select a word and then try to find synonyms. A sidebar thesaurus extension will appear, offering some info about the word and plenty of synonyms.
I personally haven’t noticed any performance issues running with add-ons. Some might expect the cloud application to load slower – and this could be true if you install many different add-ons. If you ever need to remove one(or a few) you can do so from the menu Addons->Manage add-ons.
Overall this is a nice addition to Google’s free alternative to Microsoft Office. It feels good having access to all of your work from any computer with Internet access. These free add-ons are merely a delicious side dish next to the main course.
Writing your own Scripts
If you’re confident with your coding abilities why not try building your own add-on? The market is still brand new and there’s plenty of need for handy developers. And Google makes the process super easy with an API and cloud-hosted dev tools.
The official page for script add-ons has a lot more information and guides for new developers. Google has made everything organized and quick to read, although it will take some time getting used to the code structure. Working strictly in the cloud feels like jsFiddle but with a greater performance requirement.
Here’s a small collection of newer add-ons that you can install for free. Remember these scripts are built to run over multiple document types including spreadsheets and forms. I haven’t found add-ons for presentation slideshows, but hopefully Google will create this functionality somewhere down the line.