Mar 14 2014
Google Sheets – Thankful for the New “Add Ons”
Google has recently been rolling out its new version of Google Sheets. For the time being it’s an “opt in” option that you’ll find in the lower right corner of a sheet or by clicking on the gear icon (upper right) and going under Settings. As a Google FanGirl, I’m always one for trying out new things, so I clicked the buttons to create a new Google Sheet. No problem. My next step was to go to the Script Gallery to add the Autocrat script so I could automate the creation of PLU certificates. Here’s where the problem (shock, dismay, panic attack) started. Let me pause for a moment to say I LOVE Google Scripts and I’m not alone. There are many out there, especially those who have come to depend on scripts like Flubaroo, Doctopus, Autocrat, or GClass Folders, who were dismayed, angry, put out and inconvenienced to discover that our beloved Script Gallery was GONE in the “new” version of Google Sheets. WHAT? Seriously? Note a couple of Tweets from script users. I also found others in Google forums trying to come up with ideas to work around the lack of a gallery. After launching a quick “bug report” to Google insisting that they restore the Script Gallery, I began to copy older Google Sheets, which still had access to the gallery, so I could have one copy of each script for future use. Then I took a breath. Problem temporarily solved. I could still load these blank Google Sheets as templates in our template gallery for teachers to use, but what about new scripts? How would I or teachers get to these?
It turns out that Google had a very valid reason for removing the Script Gallery. This past Tuesday, they replaced it with a new menu items called “Add-ons,” which I just blogged about for Google Docs, but wasn’t aware they added it for Sheets, too! Not only has Google given these scripts and other add-ons their own menu item, they have vastly improved how they work!! The “old” way required you to search and install the script on EVERY new Google Sheet you created and then authorize it’s use. Granted, that wasn’t too much work, but it still takes a bit of time. And the NEW way? You add the script under the “Add on” menu, authorize it and you’re done!! For EVERY NEW sheet you create, the add-ons are always there and available. I love it! Google, you could’ve done a better job of communicating your plans, but I forgive you.
So, how do you try the new Google Sheets? There are two ways. You can open an existing sheet and go to the bottom right corner where it says, “Try the new Google Sheets”, and click it, then click “create a new spreadsheet”. Or, go to the main Google Drive page, click the gear at the upper right, followed by Settings. From there click Editing and check the box next to “Try the new Google Sheets”. Click Save and “Back to Google Drive”.
Once you’re in the new Google Sheet, you’ll notice the “Add on” menu item. Click it, then “Get Add-on”, which will open the gallery. You can search for specific scripts/add-ons or scroll through the list, which at this writing is fairly short, but I expect more to be added as time goes on. Once you find one worth trying, hover your mouse over it and click on the “Free” button to install it. Follow the steps for authorization and your script should now show up under “Add-ons”. For pictures of the above process, please see my previous blog post. The steps are identical.
What makes the new Add-ons menu even MORE special is the vastly improved help menu that now accompanies the apps. When you launch an add-on, a sidebar at the right of your document opens with instructions for what you need to do to run it. Jay Atwood has created some wonderful new walkthrough videos on how to use the Doctopus script, showing the entire process of installing and running it from the new menu. What’s more, is that the GClass folders script is now embedded into Doctopus. GClass folders works to create a hierarchy of folders for your students based on a roster. It includes individual student folders, a “read only” folder for the teacher to share documents, and a folder that gives all students editing rights. Both videos are in the playlist below, along with a few others, some of which apply to the “old” Google Sheets.
The education-focused scripts that I mentioned at the top of this post are free, but not all add-ons are. Some are free, but with limited functionality unless you pay for more and some are free trials.
Don’t worry if you load an add-on that turns out to be junk. You can always remove them. Click on “Add-ons”, then go to “Manage Add-ons”. From there a new window appears. I click on “Manage” and then “remove”.
Keep in mind that if you try out any of these new and improved scripts, there may be a few bugs to work out, but Andrew Stillman, the creator, is working diligently to a address the issues that have been reported to him.