Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Add-ons" for Google Docs and Sheets. Have You Discovered Them?



I feel like I am stuck in an episode of The Twilight Zone episode. It's an episode where things that have been there start disappearing with no explanation. Let me explain.

I have been using Google Forms for years. As just one example, click the button on the sidebar which says, "Book me for your next event." What you will see is a Google Form. If you complete the form and click the "Submit" button, your data goes into a spreadsheet, date-and-time-stamped. Each field in the form is represented by a column on the spreadsheet. 

Google Forms are simple to construct. If you have never used them, go to YouTube and search for something like "How to create Google Forms." You will have no trouble finding tutorials. Trust me, in minutes, you will be creating your own.

Back to my example, I don't want to have to go to that spreadsheet daily to see if there is a new addition. Luckily, when I created this form, the accompanying spreadsheet featured an item on the "Tools" menu called "Notification rules." This feature provided an easy way for to automatically send me an email whenever anything had been added to the spreadsheet. If you create a new Google Form today, don't bother looking at that option. If you do, you see this message:

Google Forms

That's "Scene 1" from The Twilight Zone. You see, Google updated their entire forms service about a year ago. The "Notification rules" option went away. Luckily, if you already had a form created before the update, your notifications continue to work.

Update:: Google evidently added this feature this afternoon (March 15). This morning, I was looking at a spreadsheet, and the message displayed above was showing. This afternoon, choosing "Notification rules" allows the options we had enjoyed with the old Google Forms. 

But not for long...

Lately, I been seeing this message when I access one of my older forms:

Google Forms

If you are interested in what you see if you click to "Learn more," here is what you see. So, it looks like my notifications will be going away. The Twilight Zone...scene 2!

I have never been one to wait until something went away to find a "Plan B." Not only will I need a way to be notified when people complete my form, but I have friends who use a Google Form as a replacement for the paper discipline referral form. The teacher clicks a link and completes an on-screen form. The referral populates the next blank line on the principal's spreadsheet. The principal receives an instant notification email that a referral has been submitted. Those people are going to need a "Plan B."

My Introduction to Scripts
A Google search brought me to this post. You will see a black rectangle about half-way down the page. Highlight and copy the contents of that box. Just above it is a simple set of instructions.

I created a discipline referral form and used that script. It worked like a charm. When I entered sample discipline into the form, I received an email immediately. What I got was actually better than the old notification rules. This email gave me the name of the student, the name of the teacher, the teacher's comments, and anything else that had been entered.into the form.

More Curious About Scripts
What I learned from my last experiment was that I didn't actually have to know how to write scripts, I just needed to know how to find ones other people had written. I found some other videos that talked about the "Scripts Gallery," and through I would create a form or two with something from that gallery.

Guess what? It's no longer there...The Twilight Zone, scene 3.

"Add-ons"
For the last couple of days, I have been working with the spreadsheets associated with Google Forms a lot. Working with the scripts has caused me to look at menu items more closely than ever before.

Suddenly, yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, I saw something I had never seen before...something that had not been there even earlier the same day...a menu item called "Add-ons," the fourth, and final scene from The Twilight Zone.





Here is a video which talks about "Add-ons":

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Is this why the notification rules went away? Is this why there is no longer script gallery? Is this the replacement? In just the limited amount of time I have explored the add-ons, I would say the answer is "yes."

View the video, and explore the add-ons. I am hoping it will be a treasure trove of great functions. Time will tell.

Have you already founds the add-ons? What thoughts do you have?
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