Those of us with @gmail.com email addresses or an email account through Google Apps have had some fun playing with the new experimental features through Gmail Labs. From the silly Mail Goggles to the more helpful ability to add a calendar to the sidebar or set an end date on vacation reminders, the Labs-in-email thing has mostly been aimed at the everyday user.
Now Google is getting serious by bringing the Labs concept to Google Apps. They’re starting with just 3 Labs add-ins. Google says they’re hoping 3rd party developers will get involved. Unlike the email Labs, these features must be added by your Google Apps Administrator. Usefulness depends on your organization/company needs. And remember, Google uses the “experimental” label to mean “use at your own risk.”
The first feature is Google Moderator, which reminds me a simple version of Salesforce Ideas. Expanding on Google Doc’s ability to use a spreadsheet as a form, Moderator allows you to let users create and vote up or down questions.
The next is Google Code Reviews, clearly aimed at software/web development folks to collaborate on code.
Finally, there’s Google Short Links. Organizations typically have many different resources all over the web shared by all staff. Google Short Links lets the administrator create easy-to-remember redirects for all those sites.
I gave Google Short Links a quick try.
Unlike email Labs where enabling the feature is as easy as toggling an “enable/disable” radio button, turning on these features must be done by someone who has access to your Apps administration control panel and the DNS settings on your domain. You have to set a CNAME record with your domain host so you can have a unique URL for your feature (ex: shortlinks.domain.com/shortcut).
If you didn’t break a sweat setting your company up for Google Apps, this is a no-brainer. If you’re wondering what a CNAME record is and you have no idea how to make one for your domain, then these new features may not be for you.
Google provides easy-to-follow generic instructions, and I found that the new URL was accessible within minutes, and adding new URLs was easy and intuitive.
The new Labs for Google Apps works with both the free and paid Apps accounts.
What features do you want Labs to add to Google Apps next?