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Baking an Add-On App: Google Web Toolkit, Data APIs and App Engine

Bundles of Third Party Add-on Applications are Popping Up for Google Apps. How Are They Doing That?

This blog comes on the heels of a recent NetworkWorld Google Subnet blog titled "10 App Add-ons for the Enterprise" which details ten popular third party Google Apps add-on applications. These ten applications only scratch the surface of a niche market helping to propel the momentum of Google Apps for the enterprise. Companies and individual developers alike are flocking to the Google developer community with grand ideas for the next must-have add-on application. So how are they building these add-on apps? Since we're approaching that glutenous time of year with all the holiday feasting, a recipe feels appropriate. Written below are the ingredients for creating a delicious add-on application with all the trimmings. Google Web Toolkit (GWT) Every good dish needs a base or starting point and The Google Web Toolkit (GWT) is just that. The Google Web Toolkit (GWT) released in 2006, has become a popular choice among developers for building AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) web applications. Basically, the GWT is a Google provided framework that enables user interface development in Java code which outputs to browser friendly AJAX code. As a Java developer who has done a fair share of JavaScript coding, this is huge! JavaScript development is tedious and debugging the code can be downright painful. I know I've directed a few expletives at my computer screen during some needlessly long JavaScript debugging sessions. Google's GWT provides the development community with a set of resources enabling them to create web-based applications with relative ease. Google Data APIs The second ingredient in the add-on development process is the set of Google Data application programming interfaces (APIs). The Google Apps Data APIs can be broken down into two logical sets: management and application APIs. The management APIs allow the developer access to administrative controls to automate tasks such as single-sign-on authentication, email migration, synchronization of user and group data and Google Apps usage metrics. The application APIs focus on the application data within Google Apps and enable developers to access and manage environment data for user calendars, contacts, documents and email settings. Each of these exposed APIs provide the application developer with a handy little spice rack of code from which to deliver an application with real substance. Learn more about the Google Data APIs by visiting code.google.com. Google App Engine Now that we have created a fully functional and purely organic application, we need a place or container to enable consumption. The Google App Engine provides such a container from which our add-on applications can be consumed and does so in two flavors, Java or Python (learn more about both at http://code.google.com/appengine). With the Google App Engine, Google allows developers and companies to run their add-on applications on Google's infrastructure. Though there are nominal fees determined by the resources (storage and bandwidth) your application consumes, you can deploy for free if the application falls under certain quotas known as a "Fee Thresholds" (http://code.google.com/appengine/docs/quotas.html#Resources). With these baking thresholds in mind, it's time to place your application in the App Engine and wait for it to rise to the top of the next top ten add-on apps list. So, this holiday season, you might think about baking something that can add revenue to your bottom line and not pounds to your backside. Remember, start with some GWT, mix-in the right variety of APIs and then place in the App Engine and adjust the bandwidth.

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