Google Apps Script: Start Small for Large Return

13 Jun 2019 - Kila Hancock

As an entrepreneur, finding inexpensive and efficient solutions for everyday tasks could be considered a job requirement. When it comes to software development, the task may seem daunting. The software industry remains an obscure enigma to many who have no formal background in the subject. Just because you’ve never learned how to code, doesn’t mean you can’t make smart decisions about software for your business. Using Google Apps Script to develop software is a straightforward, cost-effective solution to problems requiring automation.

One of the advantages, and arguably the most important for cash-strapped founders, is that Google Apps Script is FREE for most use cases. Any user of the Google Cloud Platform (think Google Sheets) is eligible to use Google Apps Script to enhance existing projects, free of charge. This is extremely valuable to entrepreneurs who are often strapped for cash.

An additional benefit of using Google Apps Script is that it requires NO installation of external libraries or development environments. This removes another potential roadblock; sometimes just getting started with the right software can prove more difficult than anticipated. With Google Apps Script, you are free to code within the same browser you used to create your Google Sheets, Google Slides, etc.

Finally, because Google Apps Script is a Google product, it offers additional functionality that is specifically designed for Google technologies like Sheets and Slides which may not be available on other programming interfaces.

Overall, Google Apps Script is a smart language to develop in because it’s free, requires no set-up, and is easy to use. Most entrepreneurs have more important business to tend to on a daily basis. In this case, the work can be outsourced to companies like Daylight Data.

Still not convinced? Here’s a scenario in which using Google Apps Script would be preferable to buying a custom program. Imagine you’re an up-and-coming wedding planner at a hot new venue. You put on hundreds of weddings a month, so you have limited time. A common feature of most weddings is a slideshow played during the reception that features childhood photos of the married couple. This is a seemingly simple task, but can become very time consuming as you host more weddings. Since there are likely more important tasks to be tending to in preparation for the big day, it would be nice not to have to worry about creating each slideshow, and editing it as photos are added and removed. You have two options.

  1. Invest a hefty amount of money, say tens of thousands of dollars, on a piece of software that creates a slideshow from a given set of images. This software would be completely customizable and save you loads of time.

  2. Use Google Apps Script! After less than 100 lines of code, you could have a program that grabs images from a Google Drive folder, which the couple has access to in order to add and remove photos, and programmatically creates a Google Slides presentation. This is free, but could still be done by an off-site software company for a fraction of the cost of custom development.

While the first option may seem more appealing being designed specifically for your business, an expensive software solution may not always be realistic for an early-stage entrepreneur. The second option, using Google Apps Script, may be just enough to get the job done for a reasonable price. As the wedding planner becomes more successful and acquires more capital, a fully customized image-to-slideshow program may be necessary and more financially feasible. Start small for large return.

Below is the basic starter code for a program similar to that described above.

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