About this blog

The Collaborative Tools Project was an initiative at the University of York to encourage the use of blogs, wikis, messaging and web2.0 tools with both academic and support staff. Teams of people trialled a number of different solutions, including Wordpress, Yammer, Jive, ELGG, Statusnet, Cyn.in, Social Text, LifeRay Social Office  and many more.

One of the issues with this approach was that, until everyone was using a tool in anger, the perceived benefits and willingness to join in is kept at a minimal level. Many of the tools simply didn't deliver. I tended to find, the teams who were open-minded tended to make the best of whatever they trialled.

I was most drawn to tools that offered the ability to be easily modified, and had an active "development community" surrounding them. Most tools assume a model of collaboration that isn't a good fit for many of different types of ways of working we need at the university. At very least a tool, or at least, I thought at the time, should have a collection of relevant plugins or extensions that could get us closer to our user needs.

And Then Google Apps Happened

It was a bit of a whirlwind, but in a move quite unlike the University of York, it was decided that we would implement Google Apps at York. Many of our staff were already using them with personal accounts, under the wire, and there was a sizeable band of advocates wanting to use Google Apps in their teaching.

Since then, my work has inevitably involved working with individuals and teams to get the most from the Google Apps suite, often working in a consultative mode and aiming to enable people to solve their own problems.

Sometimes I contribute to Knowledge Sharing events where we both share basic tips and tricks ( you'd be surprised how many of these I'm still learning ) and "did you know you can..." taster presentations. These sessions end with an "Ask an Expert" free for all where staff can run ideas or problems past a number of people there to help.

What This Blog Is About

This blog is an attempt to share some of the work people around the university are developing, some of them small, some of them complex. All of them hopefully have a re-usable aspect, often sparking off a different idea or use for a solution.

I always try to share copy-and-pastable code fragments to show that even the more involved Apps Script stuff isn't that scary and give anyone learning to code in Apps Script a leg up.

This blog has put me in connection with people at the university who are already "solving their own problems" with Google Apps and also with Google employees interested in what we're doing here at York. And whilst I was writing this a random person saw a post I'd written about a bug and shared a brilliant answer that solved the bug.


  1. Dear TOM SMITH,
    I'm not a programmer but I draw inspiration of the code Google Apps script that you have created. It 's very clean and well organized. I will continue to follow him. I am convinced that over time the site will represent an excellent reference. Thanks for your work and make it available to the community. Raffaele Paparella (italy)

  2. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your blog.

    I wonder if you will be able to assist me?

    I would like to print a 1000 empty QR code labels linking to a simple ID 10001 to 11000 on an Google spreadsheet. Thereafter I will stick it on my loose tools, scan it and then categorize each loose item.

    What would you suggest?

    This will be much appreciated.


    Werner van Wyk (South Africa

  3. Werner,

    do something like this...