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.
Developments over the last couple weeks really showcase how Google's other innovation focus areas — including Search, Mobile and Chrome — help make Google Apps even more useful.
Updates to Google Search in Gmail Labs
On Tuesday we made some helpful changes to the Google Search feature in Gmail Labs. The search gadget now runs some of Google's most popular search features, like dictionary definitions, spelling suggestions, calculations, local results, weather info and news. You don't even need to type your search query anymore; just highlight text in the compose area and click the multicolored "g" button to run a search on those terms.
Gmail Chrome extensions
Several convenient extensions for Gmail are now available to Chrome users. The "Google Mail" extension adds a small button next to Chrome's address bar that displays your unread mail count. "Send from Gmail" makes Gmail your default mail program, and opens a Gmail compose window when you click an email link on a web page. The button for this extension helps you quickly share the web page you're viewing over email.
Easier file location in Google Docs
Last week we introduced a pair of improvements to make finding files in Google Docs easier. First, we launched an option to show file thumbnails in your Documents List, which is great for quickly spotting what you're looking for. Just click the view option buttons in the toolbar to toggle between thumbnails and the standard text layout.
Also released last week: search spelling suggestions help you find the file you're looking for, even when your typing is off. The Google Docs search spell checker is powered by the same technology that helps you get better search results on google.com.
Scripts for Google Apps Standard Edition
At the end of last week we launched application scripting for Google Apps Standard Edition. (Before it was only available to businesses and schools using Premier and Education Editions.) Scripts can be triggered from spreadsheets to perform automated tasks and calculations, but scripts go far beyond spreadsheets; they can be used to fire off automated email messages, create appointments in Google Calendar and accomplish other actions across the whole Google Apps suite. We've written up a few script tutorials if you have the itch to give scripting a try.
Mobile device management
Just yesterday, Google Apps Premier and Education Edition customers got a boost in their ability to manage mobile devices synced with Google Apps. Right from the online control panel, IT admins can remotely wipe data from lost or stolen mobile phones, configure devices to lock after a period of inactivity and set password strength requirements. These new capabilities are available for iPhones, Windows Mobile devices and Nokia E-series phones. Stay tuned for similar features for Android devices.
Who's gone Google?
It's been another very active couple weeks helping more businesses and schools move to the cloud. The team is happy to welcome the latest crop of Google Apps customers, including Complinet, The Open University, Villanova University, Small World Financial Services, Tuskegee University, Clemson University and the New Zealand Post.
Saline Area Schools in Michigan has an especially impressive "gone Google" story. They're saving $400,000 in the first year, spending much less time on server administration, keeping spam at bay and fostering better collaboration among faculty.
Fairchild Semiconductor also recounted their experience switching 6,000 employees spread across 20 countries off their legacy Lotus Notes installation, selecting Google Apps and Postini over hosted email alternatives from Microsoft and IBM. Barry Driscoll, Senior Director of IT for Fairchild summed it up best: "Now we are providing our employees with a lot more functionality for a lot less money."
Hope you're enjoying the latest round of new capabilities, whether you're using Google Apps with friends and family, with work colleagues, or with classmates. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.