Google Apps highlights 11/6/2009

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label "Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

Individuals, businesses and schools are switching to Google Apps to communicate more efficiently from anywhere, collaborate without the hassle of attachments, save money, and get continuous innovation. Because you use Google Apps in your browser, improvements like new features in Google forms show up automatically. Starting today, we'll post a recap every couple of weeks highlighting significant improvements we've made in Google Apps, and major milestones in this area, similar to our weekly series on Search. We hope this helps you experience what's new for yourself!

More interface consistency across Google Docs

We heard your feedback about design inconsistencies in the user interfaces for documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and we agree; having a more consistent user interface is a better experience. Last week we rolled out a batch of changes making the links, title area, menus, menu terminology and toolbar more uniform. We think this will make it easier to find commonly used functions, speed up your experience with Google Docs and make you more productive in these browser-based applications.

Customizable options for Gmail offline

Gmail offline lets you work with your email from the browser even when you don't have an internet connection, but until now, you couldn't specify how much old mail you wanted to cache for offline access. On Wednesday we launched new options for Gmail offline, and now you can configure how much of your old email is available when you don't have a connection. Once you enable Offline Gmail from the Labs tab in Settings, go to the Offline settings tab to customize which labels are synchronized, how far back messages are included, and which attachments you'll be able to access offline in your browser.

Google Docs bulk export

We firmly believe it should be easy to move files saved on your computer into the cloud, and that you should be able to move your data out of Google Apps whenever you want. After all, it's your data, and you should be able to do what you want with it. In the spirit of Data Liberation, last week we made it even easier for you to pull your documents, spreadsheets, forms, presentations and PDFs out of Google Docs with "Convert, Zip and Download". Just select the files in Google Docs that you want to save, go to 'More Actions' > 'Export', then choose your preferred output file formats. Your items will be saved to your computer in a tidy zip file.

Visual indicators for edited and all-new items in Google Docs

The shared items in your Google Docs account evolve as the people you collaborate with make edits and share new items with you. This is fundamentally different from how it works with files saved on your computer. Last week we started showing visual indicators in Google Docs to make it easier to spot what's changed and what's been newly shared with you. The names of files that have been edited since you lasted opened them are in bold, and shared files that you haven't opened yet have a red 'New!' tag.

Administrator controls for Chat

Companies and schools using Google Apps sometimes want to limit how their users communicate with Google Talk and Gmail Chat. For example, some K12 schools don't want outsiders instant messaging with their students. To meet this need, we now let IT administrators select if their users should only be able to chat with each other, and not with external users. This new option is found in the Chat service settings area of the Premier and Education Edition control panels.

Over two million businesses have gone Google

Companies around the world are moving to the cloud with Google Apps, and we just crossed the two million customers milestone. To hear how Google Apps is bringing faster innovation to employees, eliminating major hassles for IT managers and saving companies big bucks, read some of their quotes or visit out our YouTube customer channel.

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.