Blog Competitive Edge in Google Wor...
Last Updated At: 05/20/2024

Competitive Edge in Google Workspace Tools Integration

Delve into a detailed competitor analysis of the Google Workspace Tools market offering insights into Gmail integration, API challenges, and the journey from concept to a soon-to-be-launched Kanban Tasks extension for Chrome.

Analytical header showcasing competitor analysis and technical integration strategies for Google Workspace Tools, featuring charts and Google Workspace icons

This blog is an attempt to do a competitor analysis of the Google Workspace Tools Market, exploring what is the best technical integration strategy.

Competitor analysis is a crucial step in the development process of any product, even for a Google Chrome extension. Embarking on a comprehensive competitor analysis in the dynamic Google Workspace Tools market laid the foundation for kickstarting my Kanban Tasks Extension project, there is room left for something… different.. Something better?

When I got passionate about enhancing the Google Workspace experience, my first focus was improving Google Tasks by adding some desirable features to make it valuable for complex projects and productivity-focused teams. With this I’m very much scratching my own itch, it just wasn’t (and still isn’t) a pleasant experience working with native Google Tasks with Workspace. The Google Workspace offering is getting better and better, but in some areas it's severely lacking.

Kanban Tasks, the extension that will soon be launched 🚀, is an attempt to bring more life and functionality to Google Tasks. It's the first part of a suite of tools I’m building to (https://tooling.studio/) enhance Google Workspace productivity by resolving a some major limitations of Google Tasks.

I started the project with a comprehensive R&D that focused on the following:

  • Explore the Google Task API (💩)

  • An in-depth competitor analysis and integration study to evaluate best practices and native possibilities.

  • Experiment with the API and some SDKs to pinpoint the most efficient approach.

  • Evaluate the technical feasibility to ensure that there are no bottlenecks down the road..

  • Create a Proof of Concept (POC) to rigorously test the proposed integration.

Key Competitors

While assessing integration methods for Tooling Studio with Gmail, I examined several notable products: Tasksboards, Gmelius, and a comparable project called 'Sortd for Gmail.' These products share a common goal of improving Gmail's (or Workspace) functionality and user experience, specifically emphasizing task management and UI integration.

Gmelius

Gmelius provides a Chrome extension that integrates with Gmail by injecting menu items into the Gmail sidebar and various parts of the Gmail interface. My analysis revealed that Gmelius efficiently employs the InboxSDK library for this integration 💡 (valuable insight).

While InboxSDK is specifically designed to streamline Gmail extension development and it should ensure smooth coexistence of multiple extensions without conflicts, I identified a challenge related to its limited support for integrating JavaScript libraries like Vue or jQuery for custom route UI. This constraint may (and already has) add complexity to implementing advanced features such redirection and connecting several Gmail urls toKanban boards, or the drag-and-drop functionalities between boards, even stuff like sorting is more difficult now, so we’re back to vanilla JS for these customizations (timesink…).

Tasksboard

Tasksboard provides a Kanban board and features that resonate with Tooling Studio's vision. However, it displays its functionalities on an external website instead of integrating them directly into the Gmail UI and it lacks a ‘native’ feel, deviating from our aim of achieving seamless Gmail integration. Also there are certainly some sharing improvements I could make. For me it acts as a proven market. There is room here.

Sortd for Gmail

Much like Gmelius, Sortd for Gmail functions as a Chrome plugin injecting UI sidebars and employing iFrames to showcase popups and UI elements within Gmail. This strategy enables smooth integration and serves as a valuable reference for our project.

Findings from Competitor Analysis

Tasksboard offers some of the desired features, and it has a nice approach, however its external website approach doesn't align with my product’s integration goals.

Gmelius and Sortd for Gmail both achieve in-Gmail integration through Chrome extensions and iframes. Gmelius, utilizing InboxSDK, which might have limitations with some advanced JavaScript libraries. Sortd for Gmail's iframe use offers insights into addressing similar challenges.

These observations have guided my integration strategy, shaping decisions as I aimed to develop a comprehensive and user-friendly task management solution within Gmail.

Evaluation of Integration Methods

I did a thorough evaluation of the integration methods available in the market and here are my observations.

gmail.js

  • A library for Gmail UI integration.

  • Provides various APIs, including DOM Actions/Observers and TOOLS.

  • Incompatible with our use case due to its use of "require" instead of "import," causing errors when used inside InboxSDK.

PlasmoHQ

  • A tool for creating Chrome extensions using React.

  • Limited support for Svelte and Vue.

  • Requires building core functionalities, such as injecting the left sidebar and manipulating the top menu, from scratch.

InboxSDK

  • A library designed for building browser extensions for Gmail.

  • Offers APIs for interacting with and extending the Gmail UI.

  • Built to support multiple extensions on a page without conflicts.

  • Presents challenges when integrating external JavaScript libraries like Vue or jQuery.

  • Difficulties arise when developing advanced functionalities, such as Kanban boards, drag-and-drop features, and sorting, as they must be implemented primarily using plain JavaScript.

Closing Thoughts

While Gmail.js and PlasmoHQ offered some functionality, they had limitations that hindered their effective use in my project.

The InboxSDK, employed by Gmelius for Chrome extension integration, provided a robust framework for extending Gmail but presented challenges regarding the integration of third-party JavaScript libraries.

‘Sortd for Gmail' also leveraged iframes for UI integration, offering insights into potential solutions for overcoming certain challenges.

To meet specific integration requirements in Tooling Studio, plain JavaScript and DOM manipulation are crucial. The implementation of a MutationObserver is recommended for executing actions such as hiding or modifying menu items when changes occur in the DOM.

Notably, addressing the challenge of running my plugin before the DOM is fully loaded can be achieved through the implementation of a MutationObserver, ensuring that required actions are executed when changes occur in the DOM.

Currently, in the private beta testing phase of my Google Workspace Kanban Board Extension, I'm pleased that this R&D phase provided strong validation to proceed with product development. The product will be soon launched on Product Hunt, and I will keep you posted with new updates through all my social channels. ✌️

Kanban Tasks
Fully Free In Beta
Start using Kanban Tasks for free. No credit card required. Just sign up with your Google Account and start managing your tasks in a Kanban Board.