Google Apps for Work 2016 review

Can Google's online offering deliver the tools you need to get things done?

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Our Verdict

Google Apps is fast, lightweight, works on a wide range of devices, and is easy to use and administer. A very compelling product for SMEs.

For

  • Competitively priced
  • Easy to setup and administer
  • Excellent online collaboration
  • Good mobile support

Against

  • Apps are simpler than rivals'
  • Offline storage for browser apps currently Chrome-only

[Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest developments and features Google has added to Apps for Work since this review was first written.]

August 2016

  • A new Google Hangouts Chrome extension was pushed out allowing for multiple chat windows to be incorporated into one, and making more chat content readily visible.
  • Google introduced a 'Cast…' function in the main menu of Chrome, and this can be used to share the contents of a browser tab – or the whole desktop – into a Hangout session.
  • Forms received a new feature which allows the insertion of images into surveys, so you can now do things like have a multiple choice question with pictures for answers.
  • The Android apps for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides were improved to make it easier to create tables and better looking charts.
  • A couple of security tweaks were applied to Gmail, the most important of which is that the webmail service will now issue a warning about a link if it leads to a known malware site.
  • Inbox got integration with Trello and GitHub, so Trello users will receive a summary of what's new with projects, and GitHub denizens will get a summary of code changes.
  • Google Drive's preview feature was improved to make viewing previews of stored files a slicker experience, with a cleaner UI and better zoom functionality.

July 2016

  • Google introduced a new scheme to help train employees on its productivity suite, with the system designed to act like a 'virtual coach' to help users learn when IT staff aren't around.
  • Google tweaked the Admin app for Android to let delegated admins (and not just super admins) use the software to access functions while out and about.
  • Google gave the Admin console some attention in terms of two-step verification, allowing admins to view the real-time status of where each user is in the 2SV enrolment process.
  • Apps for Work is apparently being muscled out by Microsoft's Office 365, at least if sentiment from Redmond's Worldwide Partner Conference is on the money.
  • Google launched the new Quizzes feature in the Forms app, designed to allow teachers to easily create and mark assessments for students.

June 2016

  • Google Springboard was announced, a search tool (currently being tested) that can be used to quickly find things across Google Apps, plus it makes proactive recommendations.
  • Google Sites got revamped with a new preview version boasting a simple drag-and-drop design which is more intuitive, and support for real-time collaboration was introduced.
  • A 'new and notable' section was introduced to the Google Apps Marketplace, in order to highlight the best third-party apps available to businesses.
  • The Android and iOS apps for Google Docs and Sheets gained the ability to edit content in Print layout view, and to edit existing conditional formatting rules in Sheets.
  • Google tweaked Docs, Sheets and Slides so notifications of comments made not only arrive via email, but you can also get a notification on your Android device or web browser.

May 2016

  • Google announced its new Spaces messaging app designed for small groups – but there's no news as yet on when (or indeed whether) it will come to Apps for Work.
  • At Google I/O new APIs were introduced for Sheets, giving developers a "new level of access" to some of the most popular features in the app.
  • New APIs were also brought to Slides allowing developers to easily push data from other third-party apps into Slides for maximum convenience.
  • Google revealed that Android apps will be available for Chromebooks, and this opens up more productivity possibilities including using the Android version of Microsoft Word.
  • Google integrated its BigQuery service with Google Drive, allowing users to query files directly from Drive, and save query results from the BigQuery UI directly to Google Sheets.
  • Google Slides benefited from a new Q&A feature that lets audience members submit questions to the speaker directly from their mobile devices during a presentation.
  • The Synergyse service was fully integrated with Google Apps, a virtual assistant that helps train users in the various apps and was previously a Chrome extension.
  • Google Drive and Evernote were integrated, allowing Evernote users to seamlessly access any file on Drive.

April 2016

  • Google Apps for Work received two new certifications: ISO 27017 for cloud security and ISO 27018 for privacy.
  • A new 'Find a Time' feature arrived in Google Calendar for Android, allowing mobile users to find convenient times for meetings when they're on the go.
  • Google's scheme of providing Apps for free to medium-sized firms who want to migrate over but are locked into an Enterprise Agreement was extended until the end of 2016.
  • Reminders pitched up in the web version of Google Calendar, and said reminders will sync across browsers and mobile devices.

March 2016

  • The Google Admin app received bolstered mobile device management capabilities, allowing for admins to handle security breaches even when they're out and about.
  • Research into the most-used business apps on the web ranked Google Apps for Work in fourth place – behind Office 365, Salesforce.com and Box.
  • Google launched its #maketime website, which aims to help you prioritise how you spend time during work hours, and highlight how Google Apps for Work can save you time.
  • Google expanded support for its Identity Platform to cover logins for far more third-party apps in the Google Apps Marketplace, including Office 365 and Facebook at Work.
  • A whole bunch of new templates were added to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

February 2016

  • Gmail's existing Data Loss Prevention features got a boost with the addition of OCR for scanning attachments and additional predefined content detectors.
  • Google also gave Gmail the ability to flag email accounts that it deems 'insecure'.
  • Google Docs was enhanced with voice typing, allowing users to dictate to their word processor, and also access editing and formatting commands.
  • Google Forms gained support for add-ons and the ability to edit Apps Scripts, plus work and education-related templates were introduced to the home screen.
  • The Gmail for Android app received support for rich text formatting, and an option for one-tap instant RSVPs was introduced.

January 2016

  • Instant comments were introduced to Google Docs, allowing users to click a simple icon to add an immediate comment to a document.
  • The ability to add comments arrived in the Sheets and Slides apps for both Android and iOS.
  • Google further bolstered the Sheets Android app with the ability to open and edit CSV and TSV files, along with additional files supported for import and export.
  • Google Calendar for Android and iOS apps was graced with smart suggestions that pop up suggested event titles, places and people.
  • Search became more powerful across Google's productivity suite, so when users search from Docs, Sheets, and Slides home screens, they get results from across all three apps.
  • Google rejigged device management in the Admin console, categorising the various settings to make everything easier to find.

Now move on to Page 2 for our full review and detailed look at what Google Apps for Work offers, including an evaluation of features, pricing, and ease-of-use.

Darren Allan contributed to this article