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Google Page Creator

March 25th, 2006

It looks like Google is going full-bore to create what is effectively a web-centric software suite. Google started out with just searching, and expanded in that field to include different varieties of searches (images, video, blogs, maps), but then they started getting into software, and appear headed more in that direction.

It’s not all consistent, however; some Google software gets installed on your computer (like Google Desktop, Earth, and Picasa), some work wholly on the web using javascript to jazz them up (Blogger and GMail). Google does not appear to be going for the big time and making a whole operating system, or even to be creating what would seem to be the most obvious application for them: a browser. (There was a lot of speculation back in late 2004 that Google was developing a browser, but it fizzled and Google said it was not developing one.)

But more and more, Google is acquiring and developing new software, and even if there doesn’t appear to be a direction, there certainly is a lot of enthusiasm. Google bought out Urchin, a web site statistics program, and has renamed it Google Analytics. I’m interested because it seems to have the ability to filter out spam from the stats, something I can’t find anywhere else. Google also bought something called Writely, an online WYSIWYG word processor that can export a file in MS Word, OpenOffice, RTF, or PDF formats, among others. That would be great for my students, who are constantly losing essays due to corrupt files, or often (claim) they left them at home by accident. Writely would allow you to share files with anyone, so they could all allow the teacher to collect essays from online, and return them corrected in the same way. Both of these are in beta mode right now, though you can sign up for an invitation.

All of these products and services (to the best of my knowledge) are free, though some have “premium” levels where you can access advanced features at cost.

The latest new thing I got into is Google Page Creator (GPC). Clearly based upon the Blogger system, it allows you to easily create multiple web pages within your private web site from scratch. You could clearly call it a direct competitor to Apple’s iWeb, as it works in pretty much the same way, though GPC is much more primitive.

Gpc-Buttons2There are two clear advantages to GPC. First, Google (in their usual online-disk-space largesse–GMail accounts now go up to 2.7 GB) gives you your own “googlepages” subdomain with 100 MB, free of charge, and no advertising slapped onto the page. It is essentially your web site, free and clear. You don’t have to register a domain name for $10 a year, and you don’t have to pay a web host anything. Second, it’s damned simple to use–just click and type. There are big buttons that make clear what they are, and every action–including making links and putting up images–is made about as plain as it can be made. It’s even easy to coordinate the many pages within the site, linking them together, using common images, and so forth.

There are down sides: in some respects, it is too simple. You cannot control the coding or appearance of the overall web page beyond the very limited choices GPC gives you. Your page is comprised of sections that must include a title banner, and either one, two or three columns, the center column always being the biggest. You can choose from 41 different themes, mostly color variations of 15 or so basic themes (very similar to Blogger). Beyond that, you can’t tweak the overall look of the page using GPC directly. Now, within each section, you are allowed to edit the HTML, and therefore apply more advanced coding than the few buttons provided in WYSIWYG, but that’s about it.

only four layouts to choose from
Blogger-ish theme choices

On the other hand, it is possible to upload pre-made web pages from your computer (using the upload window in the Page Manager), so advanced users will be pleased by that. You can also upload videos or sound files if you so choose. Meanwhile, novices will probably be quite satisfied with the native web page creation methods. Certainly, for a simple one-two-three way to slap a site up on the web, it’d be hard to get better than this.

There is currently a limit to the number of files–just 100 are allowed at present. Probably you don’t need that many web pages, and if you have more than that many images, you could use a site like OurMedia, one of several free file upload services on the web. I expect Google will raise or eliminate this limit eventually.

GPC currently supports Firefox (Mac and Windows) and IE (Windows only) browsers–you can’t touch it with Safari on a Mac, at least not yet. This service is currently tied in to GMail–you need a GMail address to use GPC. You sign in by using your GMail address and password, and the URL for your GPC site is based upon your GMail account name.

And that last part is, as far as I can tell, a big down side, as far as spam is concerned. Let’s say your GMail address is myname@gmail.com. When you get a GPC account, your site’s address will be http://myname.googlepages.com. In other words, your GMail address becomes the site subdomain address. And that means that a spammer could easily harvest GMail addresses simply by sending a spambot to scour the googlepages domain. I can’t understand why Google would set things up like this, even in beta mode. Now, the Google Page Creator preference page does list the site address as a configurable option (like Blogger allows), but currently that option is inaccessible; hopefully Google will activate it soon.

In the meantime, I would advise setting up a junk GMail account if you want to fool around with GPC, like I did. My main GMail account is my name, and I signed up weeks ago for GPC. I got the invite a few days ago, but when I found the URL problem, I decided not to publish. Instead, I set up a second GMail account which I don’t care if it gets spam, and asked GPC for an invite on that account. I expected another long wait, but the invite came the next day–which suggests that they’re getting up to speed on this, I suppose.

GMail itself is still in beta mode, and strangely it still does not allow you to sign up without an invitation from somebody (unless you want to sign up using your mobile phone). But once you have an account, you immediately get 15 invites, and eventually get up to 100. So if you want a GMail invite from me, just post a comment to this entry with your email address. I will intercept the comment in moderation, send you the invite, and then delete your email address from the comment so it never appears in published form (or will simply delete the whole comment if you specify so).

Set up the GMail account, and then go to the Google Page Creator web site and sign up for an invite to that, using the GMail address. Apparently, you can get as many accounts as you have GMail addresses, which ultimately is unlimited, unless they have some way of catching egregious account-makers.

My GPC account is http://blogds.googlepages.com. Nothing interesting there yet, just a placeholder page with a few other sample pages to show different themes and layouts.

Keep in mind that GPC is still a very early beta (some suggest it’s technically an alpha), so don’t expect perfection. But even for a beta, it’s pretty good for what it is.

This discussion-area post has lots of good information, suggestions, tips & tricks and other stuff.

Categories: Computers and the Internet Tags: by
  1. Paul
    March 26th, 2006 at 06:14 | #1

    About getting a Gmail/Google account… you don’t have to get an invite from someone anymore. You can go to the web site and enter your cell phone number, and they text you an “invitation code”. Enter that code number in and you can sign up for an account.

    I am adding Google Analytics to my blog, since my web hosting service (GoDaddy) has pretty crappy tracking software.

    Seattle, WA

  2. Luis
    March 26th, 2006 at 10:23 | #2

    Yeah, but it comes as a text message… which means that if you don’t have a mobile phone, you can’t sign up. I did mention the mobile phone part in the blog. But even then, it can be a bit of a hassle, much easier just to get an invite.

  3. March 30th, 2006 at 11:30 | #3

    I was going to futz around with GPS as well, but the username=subdomain thing was the dealbreaker.

  4. Josie
    May 8th, 2006 at 07:04 | #4

    I want to get an account on gmail but my phone service has just recently shut down so is there any way to get an account?

    Thanks Josie

  5. Luis
    May 8th, 2006 at 10:19 | #5

    Josie: post another comment with your email address. I will catch it in moderation, so it will not be published, and I’ll send you an invite.

  6. Gunny
    February 4th, 2007 at 09:58 | #6

    Hi, Luis.

    I’d like to request a Gmail invitation from you, because I don’t own a mobile phone. I’d like to create a Web site with the GPC, but the lack of a Gmail account is the show stopper. Please delete this comment afterwards.

    Thanks for your help.


  7. Luis
    February 6th, 2007 at 21:32 | #7


    GMail is now out of invitation-only mode. Just go to gmail.com and sign up for an account. Then, in the top left corner, go to “all my services,” and keep going for the other services until you find an option for Google Page Creator.

    Let me know if you need any help!

    …and sorry I did not answer sooner–I was away for the weekend.

  8. Gunny
    February 25th, 2007 at 14:24 | #8

    Hi, Luis.

    The bad news is that free Gmail still wasn’t available in my area when you replied. The good news is that Google made Gmail available to everyone on 14 Feb. ’07, so I only had a short wait. I’ve been too busy since that date until now, but finally I’ve created a Gmail account and a GooglePages account, too, and I’m figuring out how to use the Google Pages Creator this weekend. Thanks for your advice and for taking the time to respond.

    Please delete both of my comments. Thanks!

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