I’ve done a mini review of the Google Page Creator service. Of course, it’s primarily hosted over on Google Pages.

http://astrolox.googlepages.com/review

I’ve been granted Google Page Creator

It was only today that I received my eagerly awaited Google Page Creator access.

Hi there,

Thanks for your interest in Google Page Creator. We appreciate your patience, and we’re excited to tell you that we enabled your account today, so you can start making pages now! To get started, head over to http://pages.google.com and sign in with your Gmail password. We haven’t opened up Google Page Creator to everybody yet, so you’ll see a message on our home page saying that accounts are unavailable — you can just ignore that.

Having missed the boat by quite a while on the whole Google Mail service I wanted to see Google Pages as soon as I could. And although I’m not the first I’m certainly happy that I’m not lagging behind the rest of the world this time.

What it is, What it isn’t!

Google Page Creator (for some reason also called Google Pages in my head) is basically a Hosted Content Management System.

I’ve read a few blogs that said that Google are building a Word Processor. Although this is a logical conclusion, seeing how they snapped up a company that was building a Word Process, it’s not what Google Page Creator is all about.

It’s about building a web site. That’s it (so far).

Comparison, The Baseline

For my non-google web site I’ve recently switched to using Word Press. One of the reason for this switch was the easy to use administration interface and the main feature of this interface is the editor.

The editor in Word Press amazed me when I first found it and to this day I still think is one of the best around. So, please forgive me for constantly comparing Google Page Creator with Word Press. Please…

First Impressions

Initially I saw the blurb about auto saving and publishing and thought cool.
Entering the service for the first time your greeted with a blank home page. It has your name at the top and a default look applied but is otherwise empty.

I immediately got to work altering the page to be more unique, taking the odd screen shot and mental note as I went. I quickly how the page is split into several pages. Some parts you can edit and other parts you can’t.

All the editable areas have dotted boxes around them and a small amount of helpful text inside them. Once you click the box the text vanishes and your left with an area you can enter your content. All very similar to popular tools such as Microsoft Front Page.

The most noticeable feature at the time was the menu on the left. There are several paragraph styles displayed in an untitled box. These styles changed their look depending on which area of the page I clicked, giving me an immediate visual representation of how my text will look. I love this, except when the text gets too big and doesn’t fit!

Linking

Having used many different office suites and web development tools I’ve come to expect reusable content.

My first task with Google Page Creator was to add a footer. My footer was going to inform people that I’ve used a Google product and I still own the copyright over the content displayed here.
Of course this would involve telling people who I am and so it would include a link back to my non-google web site.

Creating the link is very easy. Without even thinking I typed my text, selected the part I wanted to be a link and clicked the Link button in the top left. I was immediately greeted with the Edit Link screen and asked questions about where I wanted to link to.

If I had been linking to another page on this Google Page Creator site then I would have simply selected it from the list. Easy!
The downside, I later found out that the footer isn’t reusable content and has to be added again for every page.

Look

In the top right of the page editor is a Change Look option. I don’t quite know what I was expecting to see but I was surprised when the display gave me 3 or so pages of 4×3 screen shots to browse.

Each screen shot is a different template that I am able to apply per page and each supports any number of columns between 1 and 3.

You are not able to create your own Look, not even using CSS.

Uploading

File uploading is a breeze. The Ajax interface shows a spinning circle during an upload but unfortunately doesn’t show the upload progress.

An upload can be started from several places. The most useful being the insert image button where you can upload an insert all in one little window.

Publishing

PuPublishing is a one click operation. Once published the page is visible on the internet (and presumably being added to Google Search).

After you have published a page you can continue to edit the page without the published version being changed. This is something Word Press could really do with having.
If, like me, you prefer to view your work before others see it you can use the preview button. A new window pops up and displays the page exactly how others would see it.

You can even mass publish your saved but unpublished pages from the Page Manager view.

Conclusion

I’ve written around enough text now to fill the page out enough to make it roughly the same length as the screen shots on the right hand side. So I’ll stop boring you. Lets face it, you only wanted to look at the pictures anyway, right?

Google Page Creator is neat, it’s cool, but it’s not for me (yet).

There is very little control of the actual style of your site for someone who is rather picky to want to use it.

Currently there is no reusable content system so Menus, Footers, etc all need to be edited on every single page. Without this calling it a CMS may be a bit too kind on my part.

On the flip side of that point, there is no organisational structure imposed on you at all. Meaning that Google Page Creator is ideal if you don’t want to have a blog but you do want to take advantage of a very good WYSIWYG editor.

It’s also missing some other fundamental features, like spell check, but does support things like Undo, direct HTML editing (not of the templates) and copy & paste support for styled text.

Obviously it’s still in Beta and I’m obviously highlighted some areas for improvement. I’m sure these improvements will come in the future and this product here is only the start of the next rival to Macromeda’s Dreamweaver.

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