Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

When Google AppScript was first introduced, it was hailed as a revolutionary tool that would streamline automation within the Google Workspace ecosystem. For many developers and tech enthusiasts, the prospect of creating powerful scripts to automate tasks in Google Sheets, Docs, and other apps was incredibly appealing. The initial buzz around AppScript painted it as a must-have skill for anyone looking to boost productivity and efficiency within the Google environment.

However, as someone who has extensively used and experimented with various automation tools, I wonder whether AppScript truly lives up to its hype. Despite the initial excitement, AppScript presents several significant limitations and challenges that often overshadow its benefits. In my experience, what was once seen as a game-changer now feels more like a cumbersome, overrated tool that struggles to meet the demands of more advanced users.

In this blog, I will delve into why I believe Google AppScript is one of Google’s most overrated products. By examining its performance issues, limited functionality, and overall user experience, I aim to provide a clear picture of why AppScript may not be the best choice for your automation needs. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a tech enthusiast, this critique will offer valuable insights into the realities of using AppScript in real-world scenarios.

The Hype Around AppScript

When Google first introduced AppScript, the tech community was abuzz with excitement. Billed as a powerful tool for automating tasks within Google Workspace, AppScript promised to simplify everything from managing spreadsheets to sending customized emails. The allure was undeniable: a scripting language based on JavaScript, embedded within the Google ecosystem, and capable of automating routine tasks with ease.

AppScript’s initial appeal was largely due to its accessibility. For many, the idea of writing a few lines of code to automate tedious processes in Google Sheets or Docs was a dream come true. The integration with popular Google apps made it particularly attractive to users already embedded in the Google ecosystem. Suddenly, complex workflows could be streamlined without needing to switch between multiple tools or platforms.

Another major draw was the promise of enhanced productivity. AppScript allowed users to create custom functions, automate repetitive tasks, and even build simple web applications within Google Workspace. The scripting environment was accessible directly from the browser, making it easy to test and deploy scripts without any additional software or setup.

The potential applications seemed endless. From automating data entry in Google Sheets to sending reminder emails through Gmail, AppScript was marketed as the ultimate productivity booster. Tutorials and success stories flooded tech blogs and forums, further fueling the hype. Developers and non-developers alike were drawn to its promise of making their workflows more efficient and their daily tasks less mundane.

So, the hype around AppScript was built on its promise of simplicity, integration, and productivity. It was positioned as a tool that anyone, regardless of their coding expertise, could leverage to enhance their work within Google Workspace. This initial excitement created a high expectation, one that, as I will explore in the following sections, does not entirely match the reality of using AppScript.

Real-World Usage and Limitations

Despite the initial excitement surrounding Google AppScript, my experience with it has been far from ideal. The promise of seamless automation often falls short when put to the test in real-world scenarios. Here are some key limitations that make AppScript feel overrated.

Performance Issues

One of the most glaring problems with AppScript is its performance. When dealing with large datasets or complex tasks, AppScript’s execution speed can be painfully slow. I’ve encountered numerous instances where scripts that should run quickly end up taking an inordinate amount of time to complete. This sluggish performance is especially noticeable when compared to other scripting environments like Python or Node.js, which handle similar tasks with much greater efficiency.

Limited Functionality

AppScript’s functionality is also quite limited. While it integrates well with Google Workspace, it struggles when tasks go beyond basic automation. For instance, handling advanced data manipulation or integrating with non-Google services often requires cumbersome workarounds or external APIs. This limitation can be frustrating for users who need more robust scripting capabilities.

For example, I once needed to automate a workflow that involved pulling data from an external API, processing it, and then updating a Google Sheet. What should have been a straightforward task became a complex challenge due to AppScript’s limitations in handling external HTTP requests efficiently.

Debugging and Error Handling

Debugging in AppScript is another area where the tool falls short. The debugging interface is rudimentary at best, lacking many of the features that developers are accustomed to in more mature development environments. Error messages are often vague and unhelpful, making it difficult to diagnose and fix issues. This lack of robust debugging tools can lead to a significant amount of wasted time and frustration, particularly for more complex scripts.

I recall a specific instance where a seemingly simple script kept failing without providing any useful error information. It took hours of trial and error to identify and resolve the issue, time that could have been saved with better debugging tools.

User Experience and Community Support

The overall user experience with AppScript leaves much to be desired. The learning curve, while not steep for those with some coding background, can be daunting for beginners. The documentation, while comprehensive in some areas, often lacks the depth and clarity needed to tackle more advanced topics. Moreover, community support, though growing, is still not as robust as what you might find for other scripting languages. This can make it difficult to find solutions to more complex problems or to get help quickly when you’re stuck.

These real-world limitations paint a clear picture: while AppScript may work well for simple tasks within the Google ecosystem, it quickly becomes a hindrance as your needs grow more complex. In the next section, I’ll compare AppScript with some of its alternatives to highlight why you might be better off looking elsewhere for your automation needs.

Comparison with Alternatives

To truly understand where Google AppScript falls short, it’s helpful to compare it with other popular scripting and automation tools. Below, I’ve highlighted some key differences between AppScript and alternatives like Python, Node.js, and Google Cloud Functions.

https://medium.com/media/8173bb9f9f9adaac5f157054d4424f8b/href

Here is a more detailed overview:

Integration with Google Workspace: AppScript shines in its seamless integration with Google Workspace. Tasks like automating Google Sheets, Docs, and Gmail are straightforward. However, Python and Node.js, while powerful, require additional APIs and setup to achieve the same level of integration. Google Cloud Functions offers similar integration capabilities through APIs but with more complexity and power.Performance: When it comes to performance, AppScript is often outmatched by Python and Node.js. Both alternatives offer significantly higher performance, especially for tasks involving large datasets or complex computations. Google Cloud Functions also provide high performance, especially for serverless applications, making them suitable for more demanding tasks.Ease of Use: AppScript is relatively easy to use for simple automation within Google Workspace. Its interface is user-friendly for those already familiar with Google products. In contrast, Python and Node.js, while more powerful, have a steeper learning curve. Google Cloud Functions also require a deeper understanding of serverless architecture and cloud services.Community Support: Community support is crucial for troubleshooting and learning. Python and Node.js boast extensive communities with abundant resources, forums, and libraries. AppScript, though growing, still lags behind in this area. Google Cloud Functions are gaining traction but haven’t yet reached the same level of community support as Python and Node.js.Debugging Tools: AppScript’s debugging tools are basic, often leading to frustration when diagnosing issues. In contrast, Python and Node.js offer advanced debugging tools and extensive documentation, making it easier to identify and resolve problems. Google Cloud Functions also provide robust debugging capabilities, enhancing the developer experience.Flexibility and Functionality: Flexibility is where AppScript truly falls short. While it handles simple tasks within Google Workspace well, it lacks the extensive functionality and flexibility of Python and Node.js. These languages support a wide range of applications, from web development to data science. Google Cloud Functions also offer extensive capabilities, particularly for scalable and serverless applications.Learning Curve: AppScript has a moderate learning curve, especially for users familiar with Google products. Python and Node.js, though powerful, can be more challenging to learn due to their broader application scope. Google Cloud Functions require knowledge of cloud services and serverless architecture, adding to the learning curve.

While Google AppScript has its strengths, particularly in its integration with Google Workspace and ease of use for simple tasks, it falls behind in performance, flexibility, and community support. Alternatives like Python, Node.js, and Google Cloud Functions offer more robust solutions for those willing to invest in learning them. For users looking to handle more complex tasks or requiring higher performance, these alternatives are worth considering. In the next section, I’ll discuss the overall user experience and community support for AppScript in more detail.

When Google AppScript Failed drastically:

Let me share a personal experience that highlights the limitations of Google AppScript in a real-world scenario. As a developer, I often look for ways to automate repetitive tasks, and Google Sheets is a common tool I use for data management. I decided to use AppScript to automate a process involving data retrieval from an external API, processing the data, and then updating a Google Sheet. What seemed like a straightforward task quickly turned into a frustrating ordeal.

So, I needed to fetch data from a weather API, process it to extract specific metrics, and update a Google Sheet with this information daily. Here’s the AppScript I initially wrote:

function updateWeatherData() {
var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet().getSheetByName(‘WeatherData’);
var apiUrl = ‘https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather?q=London&appid=YOUR_API_KEY’;

try {
var response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(apiUrl);
var data = JSON.parse(response.getContentText());

var temperature = data.main.temp;
var humidity = data.main.humidity;
var description = data.weather[0].description;

sheet.getRange(‘A1’).setValue(‘Temperature’);
sheet.getRange(‘B1’).setValue(‘Humidity’);
sheet.getRange(‘C1’).setValue(‘Description’);
sheet.getRange(‘A2’).setValue(temperature);
sheet.getRange(‘B2’).setValue(humidity);
sheet.getRange(‘C2’).setValue(description);
} catch (e) {
Logger.log(‘Error fetching data: ‘ + e.message);
}
}

Now, here are the problems:

The first issue I encountered was the performance. The script was painfully slow, especially when executed multiple times. Fetching data from the API and updating the sheet seemed to take forever, even though the API response was relatively small. This was my first red flag.Google AppScript has a built-in execution time limit of 6 minutes per script. While this script did not initially hit that limit, as the project grew and more data was added, the execution time crept up. I faced multiple instances where the script timed out, leaving the sheet only partially updated.Error handling and debugging in AppScript are notoriously difficult. When the script failed to fetch data, the error messages were vague and often unhelpful. For example, the script would log ‘Error fetching data,’ but without detailed information, it was challenging to pinpoint the exact cause. Here’s a snippet where I tried to improve the error handling:function updateWeatherData() {
var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet().getSheetByName(‘WeatherData’);
var apiUrl = ‘https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather?q=London&appid=YOUR_API_KEY’;

try {
var response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(apiUrl);
var data = JSON.parse(response.getContentText());

if (!data || !data.main || !data.weather) {
throw new Error(‘Incomplete data received from API’);
}

var temperature = data.main.temp;
var humidity = data.main.humidity;
var description = data.weather[0].description;

sheet.getRange(‘A1’).setValue(‘Temperature’);
sheet.getRange(‘B1’).setValue(‘Humidity’);
sheet.getRange(‘C1’).setValue(‘Description’);
sheet.getRange(‘A2’).setValue(temperature);
sheet.getRange(‘B2’).setValue(humidity);
sheet.getRange(‘C2’).setValue(description);
} catch (e) {
Logger.log(‘Error fetching data: ‘ + e.message);
sendErrorNotification(e.message);
}
}

function sendErrorNotification(errorMsg) {
MailApp.sendEmail(‘your_email@example.com’, ‘Script Error Notification’, ‘An error occurred: ‘ + errorMsg);
}

Despite these improvements, debugging remained cumbersome, and the lack of real-time error tracking made it difficult to maintain and update the script.

The Alternative Solution

Frustrated with AppScript’s limitations, I switched to a more robust solution using Python with Google Sheets API. Here’s a simplified version of the Python script:

import requests
import gspread
from oauth2client.service_account import ServiceAccountCredentials

def update_weather_data():
scope = [“https://spreadsheets.google.com/feeds”, ‘https://www.googleapis.com/auth/drive’] creds = ServiceAccountCredentials.from_json_keyfile_name(‘credentials.json’, scope)
client = gspread.authorize(creds)
sheet = client.open(‘WeatherData’).sheet1

api_url = ‘https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather?q=London&appid=YOUR_API_KEY’
response = requests.get(api_url)
data = response.json()

temperature = data[‘main’][‘temp’] humidity = data[‘main’][‘humidity’] description = data[‘weather’][0][‘description’]

sheet.update(‘A1’, ‘Temperature’)
sheet.update(‘B1’, ‘Humidity’)
sheet.update(‘C1’, ‘Description’)
sheet.update(‘A2’, temperature)
sheet.update(‘B2’, humidity)
sheet.update(‘C2’, description)

if __name__ == ‘__main__’:
update_weather_data()

This Python script runs significantly faster, handles errors more gracefully, and provides better debugging tools. Additionally, Python’s extensive libraries and community support made it easier to implement and maintain.

My experience with Google AppScript revealed its serious limitations in performance, error handling, and debugging. While it may work for simple tasks, it quickly becomes inadequate for more complex automation needs. Switching to a more robust solution like Python not only improved performance but also provided greater flexibility and ease of maintenance. For developers seeking reliable and efficient automation, exploring alternatives to AppScript is well worth the effort.

Final Thought

After extensive use and evaluation, it’s clear to me that Google AppScript is one of Google’s most overrated products. While it promises easy automation within Google Workspace, it falls short in key areas like performance, flexibility, and debugging. For simple tasks, it might suffice, but for more complex automation, it quickly becomes a hindrance. Alternatives like Python, Node.js, and Google Cloud Functions offer far superior capabilities and should be considered by anyone serious about efficient and effective scripting. AppScript’s limitations make it difficult to recommend anything beyond basic use cases.

Hey folks,If you like reading my stories, can you do me a favor by just clicking that follow button?Also, if you’re a tech enthusiast like me, check out Scientyfic World. Trust me, I cover a ton of fun stuff there regarding tech. Keep exploring and stay curious!

Is AppScript Google’s most overrated product? was originally published in Level Up Coding on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

​ Level Up Coding – Medium

about Infinite Loop Digital

We support businesses by identifying requirements and helping clients integrate AI seamlessly into their operations.

Gartner
Gartner Digital Workplace Summit Generative Al

GenAI sessions:

  • 4 Use Cases for Generative AI and ChatGPT in the Digital Workplace
  • How the Power of Generative AI Will Transform Knowledge Management
  • The Perils and Promises of Microsoft 365 Copilot
  • How to Be the Generative AI Champion Your CIO and Organization Need
  • How to Shift Organizational Culture Today to Embrace Generative AI Tomorrow
  • Mitigate the Risks of Generative AI by Enhancing Your Information Governance
  • Cultivate Essential Skills for Collaborating With Artificial Intelligence
  • Ask the Expert: Microsoft 365 Copilot
  • Generative AI Across Digital Workplace Markets
10 – 11 June 2024

London, U.K.