The availability of third-party add-ons for Google Docs, Sheets and Google Slides have certainly made the Google Office productivity suite more capable and useful. If you haven’t tried them yet, open any Google document or spreadsheet in your Google Drive and look for the new add-ons menu near Help. G Suite users may have to ask their admin to enable support for add-ons for the organization.
For starters, Google add-ons are like extensions for Chrome. Extensions add new features to the Chrome browser and add-ons extend the functionality of Google Office applications. To give you an example, here’s the screenshot of a Twitter add-on I wrote for Google Docs and Google Sheets that you can use to find and curate tweets right inside your documents.
Google Apps Script vs Google Add-ons
Google Add-ons are written in the Google Apps Script language but while regular Google Scripts can work on any document in your Google Drive, add-ons only work against the document or sheet that’s currently open in your browser.
Also, while Google Scripts support triggers and can run in the background (like this Website Monitor), add-ons can only run while a document or sheet is open and active. (Update: Google now allows you to create time-based triggers for add-ons)
The other big difference is that you can view the source code of regular Google Scripts while in the case of add-ons, the code is hidden from the end user. This helps developers protect their code but a downside is that the user has no clue about what’s happening behind the scenes.
We have seen issues with Chrome extensions and add-ons for Google Docs can be a target as well. For instance, an add-on can possibly email a copy of the current document or sheet to another email address? Or maybe it can share a folder in Google Drive with someone else. All add-ons currently listed in the Chrome store have been tested and reviewed by Google but if they open the gates for all, I would be a little hesitant to install add-ons created by unknown developers.
The Best Add-ons For Google Docs, Sheets and Google Slides
The Chrome store lists hundreds of Google add-ons and here are some of favorite ones that you should have in your Google Docs and Sheets
- Mail Merge for Gmail – Send personalized emails with emails to multiple email recipients with Mail Merge for Gmail and G Suite.
- Document Studio – Generate perfect documents automatically in Google Drive from source data in Google Sheets or Google Form submissions.
- Save Gmail as PDF – Download your Gmail messages and attachments in Google Drive for archiving.
- Twitter Archiver – Save tweets for any search term or hashtag in a Google Sheet.
- Email Scheduler for Gmail – Schedule emails inside Gmail for sending later at a specific date and time. Send repetitive emails that go on a recurring schedule.
- Google Drive Permissions – Know who has access to your files in Google Drive.
- Gmail Address Extractor – The add-on extracts the email addresses from the header and body of email messages for preparing a mailing list.
- Twitter Curator – Search, filter and add tweets in a Google Documents. It is like Storify for Google Docs.
- Bulk Gmail Forward – Easily forward one or more email threads from Gmail to any other address.
- Google Forms Notifications – Get Google Forms responses in an email message when people submit your forms. Send customized email notifications to respondents.
- Email Spreadsheet as PDF – Convert and email Google Spreadsheets as PDF, Excel or CSV to multiple people. Email sheets manually or on a recurring schedule.
- Email AutoResponder for Gmail – Setup email autoresponders in Gmail and quickly reply to messages using pre-writtenemail templates.
- HelloFax – You can now send a fax to any number worldwide directly from inside Google documents. The free version lets you fax up to 5 pages.
- UberConference – You can have an audio conference with up to 10 people while working on a Google Document. There’s an option to record the call too.
- PanDoc – You can send the current document to the client from within Google Docs to request their legally-binding signature.
- Unsplash Photos – Instantly search and embed free photos in your Google Slides from the extensive image database.
- Avery – Create address labels inside Google Docs for printing.
- MindMeister – Create a hierarchical bulleted list in the the Google document and MindMeister will converted that list into a visual mind map.
- EasyBib – Cite books, journal articles and websites and add them to your Google Documents in MLA, APA and Chicago style.
- Lucidchart – Create flow charts, diagrams, site mockups, org charts and other technical drawings inside your Google Documents.
- Mapping Sheets – Create a spreadsheet with a list of places and the sheets add-on will plot them on a Google Map.
- TextHelp – This is like the yellow highlighter for your Google Documents. Select and highlight passages and save the annotations in a separate document.
Related tutorial: How to Create a Google Docs Add-on