Google's Apps suite for domain owners and businesses has finally received some star treatment with the launch of the Apps Marketplace. Which Google-friendly apps are free, worth the cost, and entirely useful? These 10 are definitely worth a look.
Box.net is one of many online file storage sites, but from its launch, it's been focused on adding features that business and enterprise customers can use. Attached to your own web storage, Box.net's features shine through. The service has many webapp partners that can fax, print, secure, edit, and otherwise handle all kinds of documents, and Box.net itself can integrate into many enterprise software packages, set up conference calls and web conferences centered around documents, and otherwise link together the files you've stashed away and the people who work on them. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: free for Box.net business users, $US15 per user per month for new users.
It's an established tool that a lot of organisations are using to collect data on all kinds of topics. Better still, crafting a poll or questionnaire in SurveyMonkey will save you a good deal of time over crafting a spreadsheet and form in Google Docs and manipulating the results. If you needed more incentive, the "Basic" plan is free for groups looking to just do a little smart polling, and "Basic" covers a whole lot of data-swapping goodness. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: Free for basic version, $US16.67 and up for advanced features.
Google's own Presentation app is one of those "Hey, it works" tools, and if you needed to write something up in a pinch, it's there. SlideRocket, on the other hand, is a surprisingly full-featured presentation editor that doesn't require a Microsoft licence and can be pulled up wherever you or your team have web access. Like the Aviary photo editor (below), installing SlideRocket in your Apps space puts everyone on the same page and centralises where those presentations get stored. Alas, SlideRocket doesn't sing in every browser—it doesn't play well with Firefox in Snow Leopard, for instance—but when it works, it's pretty wow-inducing. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: 30-day free trial, $US12 per user per month after that; Education and "lite" versions available.
7. Google Short Links
Why would you use Google's own link shortening service for your Apps account over popular, free options like bit.ly or is.gd? Primarily because the links you can provide clients and partners—like GlobexIndustries.com/B2B—are more stately, feel safer, and haven't already been snapped up on the major shortening servers. It also helps that you can make them far easier to remember than a random assortment of letters and numbers. It's free, too, and that's a pretty good selling point. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: Free.
6. Shared Contacts
It's unfortunate that Google's contacts manager doesn't make it easy for people and businesses to create and update common sets of contacts—perhaps they consider that the stuff of big enterprise packages. Their loss is Shared Contacts' gain. With the package installed, Apps domains can create new groups of contacts, set their read/write permissions, and have them show up for everybody in that group. It's not a one-click process, it would appear, but once Shared Contacts is installed, you'll likely never have to see or send email with "Phone #?" in the subject line. Apps Marketplace link]Price: free trial available, $US50 per year after that.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great thing to have. Having it free, and connected through your Google Apps' chat service to your other computers and project partners, is way better. By hooking up Gbridge, on-the-go Apps users have access to shared files, backup through their own computers or those of others in their group, screen sharing and control for tech support or demonstration, and the kind of basic VPN access that can be oh so helpful. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: Free.
Traveling is taxing enough on its own. Frantic text messages asking "When do u land?" and the like should be unnecessary. Implementing TripIt for your site or group will win you fans, because it's like having an employee whose only job is to organise trips and keep everybody in the loop. As an individual app, TripIt does a great job turning travel confirmation emails into organized, mapped, linked-up itineraries. Installed on Apps, it enables Ted to see when Lisa is leaving and arriving, tells Bob when to pick her up at the airport and provides directions, and lets everyone know if the flight is delayed. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: free.
3. ManyMoon or Zoho Projects
For very small businesses, personal sites, and less goal-oriented groups, the free, socially adept ManyMoon may fit the bill for your project management needs. Group task management, tagging, micro-blogging for teams, and time tracking come with the free price tag. For larger organizations and those with a real need for deadlines, nested goals and tasks, and constant contact, Zoho Projects is a more robust and agile solution, one that integrates well into Google's own app offerings—project deadlines and events, for instance, can be automatically added to team member's calendars. Zoho can also serve as a kind of "project intranet," providing wikis, shared file spaces, and even public web pages. [Apps Marketplace link: ManyMoon, Zoho Projects]Price: ManyMoon free; Zoho Projects free for one project, $US12/month and up for unlimited users.
At its own web site, Aviary hosts a very capable image editing suite that runs entirely inside a browser. Hooked into the files you're already hosting and using on your site or in your group, it gives everybody a kind of Photoshop lite to work with, and avoids the worries of losing that one version of a graphic your client liked better. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: free.
It's not for lack of trying, but Google's web-based Docs app can't do everything that Microsoft's desktop Office suite can pull. Whether it's revision tracking, macro recording or database integration, you can skip the back-and-forth file swapping with the Apps version of OffiSync, a utility that does just what you might think. Save a file in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and with OffiSync set up, it will save simultaneously to your Google Apps space. You get the feature-rich editing services of Office and the easy sharing and peace-of-mind storage of Google, all at once. [Apps Marketplace link]Price: free.
If you're a Google Apps user who's found something great in the Marketplace, or you're looking for something that's not there yet, we want to hear about it in the comments.