If you’re an avid Google Docs user, chances are you’re familiar with add-ons. They’re third-party extensions that can help you, say, affix your John Hancock to an electronic document, or produce shareable PDFs from scans of objects. The only problem? Until now, they’ve been relegated strictly to the desktop version, but that’s no longer the case. On Thursday, Google announced add-ons for the Android version of Docs and Sheets.
Add-ons on Android work much the same way they do on a desktop or laptop. They inhabit a new section of Google Play, accessible from the Docs and Sheets menu, and install just like apps. Once downloaded, they activate within Docs and Sheets automatically. It’s all rather seamless.
Not every Docs add-on available on the web right now is launching on Android day one, but Google teamed up with select developers to build a respectable starting lineup. It includes DocuSign, an app that lets you attach an electronic signature to a document; ProsperWorks, a customer report management (CRM) tool that integrates dashboard and graphs with Google Sheets and Docs; AppSheet, an analytics tool that helps developers keep tabs on mobile app usage stats; and Scanbot, an optical character recognition (OCR) tool capable of transcribing text from business cards. Among the others are PandaDoc, ZohoCRM, Teacher Aide, EasyBib, and Classroom, Google’s educational platform.
Add-ons’ jump to Android follows the feature’s debut two years ago on Google Docs for the web. Around 60 plug-ins populated the library at launch — a number which has since grown well past 100.
The launch of Docs add-ons was perceived at the time as a response Microsoft’s comparable Office feature: Apps for Office. “Apps,” like Doc’s add-ons, are managed from within Office programs like Word and Excel and searchable within an online storefront. But unlike Docs, they have a major downside: add more than a handful of apps and Office programs tend to become sluggish. Another point against Office’s apps? They’re available on iPad, but not on Android or the iPhone. But Microsoft’s rectifying that latter problem soon — at its Build Developers Conference in April, it revealed that apps support for the Android version of Office was “in the works.”
Google, for its part, told VentureBeat that it will consider the idea of bringing Docs and Sheets add-ons to iOS “once [it] determines [whether] demand is high enough.”
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