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Googlers at I/O – Interview with Eric Koleda (Apps Script)

5 minute read

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Look, it’s Eric!

Here’s the transcript from my interview with Googler Eric Koleda following his session entitled Use Apps Script to Create Dynamic Google Forms at Google I/O ’13.

Eric is a Developer Programs Engineer working primarily on Google Apps Script. He’s also a member of the Developer Relations team at Google.

GG: There have been a lot of updates to Google Drive in the past year, do any of them stand out to you for Google Apps users?


“I mostly focus on the Apps Script side of things, so yesterday we just launched a new Drive app. So we had Docs List for a while, which was the older way of manipulating your files in Drive. It was pretty good, and people use it a lot, but we wanted to launch a new version that was more closely tied to the Drive SDK that people were using externally.

So we rebuilt it and just recently launched this new version. It currently adds a couple new features that weren’t there previously. A lot of people wanted the ability to set owners, and I think a lot of times an organization, especially a school, people come and go and you need a way to transfer ownership of key documents programmatically, so that was added in. Basically just a new way to access files from your Drive.

One thing we’re looking to add more of is more import / export formats in Apps Script. So we’re looking to make it so all of the conversions you can do with the Drive SDK, you can do in Apps Script.”

GG: During your session you guys talked about the three new functionalities with Apps Script in Google Forms (Create/Open/Edit Forms, Enhance the Forms appearance and the ability to react to Form submissions), is any one function more valuable to a user or is it the ability to integrate all three?


“We were talking earlier about how they stack up against each other, and I think the third one (reacting to submissions) is the most important. People can most often create a form using the designer…it’s not that hard and it doesn’t take that much time unless you’re really cranking them out. Editing the UI has its use cases but it’s probably not for everyone.

But being able to take a Form and react to it? That’s immediately useful. We had some of that capability already, but now it’s even better.

Simple things like creating a signup Form that you want to embed in your web page, automatically add someone to a Google Group or send them a personalized response email. You can do a whole bunch of things, and I think that (the ability to react) is really the biggest advantage.

The other things save you time, but not as much time as being able to actually pipe data from one Form to another. You don’t need humans to pipe data around, just use computers and only inject humans when they’re actually adding value.”

GG: It seems like the user experience for Apps Script has gotten much easier recently, is that something that you guys have made a priority?


“There is definitely a large group of people who have reached the end of Google Apps, and they just want a little bit more. They just want to close this one little loop, and we tell them about Apps Script and they’re interested but they’re often not coders.If you’re not a coder, getting started coding can be pretty tough.

We’ve redesigned the documentation on our homepage by adding some quick-starts. We’ve had some that were repurposed, but we just launched two new quick-starts that really are quick ways to get started. We say five minutes, and really if you follow the documentation and all of the steps you have a working script in five minutes.

We don’t go into the nitty-gritty details of how it works, but you can start plugging through the codes, see everything, see how everything flows together and we’re hoping that’s a really good way for people who are a little bit intimidated to take that first step and then get the ‘wow’ factor and say ‘wow I just automatically created a calendar event and invited myself to it’.

Once you get that excitement, I think that really hooks people in. I think we just need to lead people in first so they can see the reward.”

GG: What are the main requests you get for Apps Script and is there a time frame for when those will be addressed?


“There is definitely a range of requests. We get a lot of very specific requests like ‘I don’t have the ability to set some font property of a cell of spreadsheet.’ It’d be nice to have that, but our goal is to have parity with the UI so if you can do it in the UI you should be able to do it programmatically.

But the surface area is massive and constantly evolving, so it takes some effort to keep up with that and make sure we have coverage of all the different features.

We also get a lot of the opposite, which is very general requests. For example, ‘I can automate Sheets and Docs, but where’s Slides?’ And so sometimes people just want to take Apps Script and put it in even more places. We just launched some better integration with Docs and Apps Script, which has been a top request for so long.

I think getting Apps Script into more places so that it’s embedded into more of our products is definitely one of the requests we see time and time again, because people like what it does already and just want to do more and more.

As far as the time line for those, it’s tough. For the little features, it’s our job as the Developer Relations team to hear peoples pain and say ‘OK you don’t have this feature, is it a deal breaker, or is it something we can work around?’ Then we try to communicate internally with the engineers to set priorities so if we just launched this one little feature, everyone would be so happy, and we try to advocate for that.

The big features, like launching Apps Script for Google Docs, obviously takes a lot more engineering work and that more depends on our product manager and his visions for the future.”

GG: Have you seen adoption of Apps Script increase as it’s been around for a few years?


“I actually don’t look at the numbers that closely, but we do have a lot more users than we did last year and the year before, so we’re certainly still on an upward growth trend. I think a lot of that has to do with people not even knowing that it exists.

I regularly monitor Google+ for ‘Apps Script’ just to see what people are saying, and the most popular post is ‘What is this thing?! Why didn’t anyone tell me it existed?!’

They think we just launched it or something like that, so I think we have a real challenge with getting the word out there. I’m really glad we’re here at I/O because we really get a chance to grab people’s attention and bring them in, so when they know that it’s there they do all sorts of amazing things.”

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