New feature review: auto-save, linking, page names, and landing page

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In our most recent release we have added several new improvements to Google Sites. We pay attention to our Sites discussion group and try to prioritize ideas that make the most sense or that people are most passionate about. To that end, here is a rundown of some of the most recently added features.

Auto-save in edit mode

Ever been dealt the crushing blow of losing unsaved work? Like when your computer crashes 5 seconds before you were going to hit submit on your masterful rant about, let's say, the most recent addition to the Indiana Jones series? You can now breathe easier when authoring pages in Google Sites, because we've got your back. Once you start editing a page, Google Sites will automatically save your edits after a few seconds and a message that your draft has been saved will be displayed on the far right hand side of the editor.

Page names & URLs

It used to be that you had one shot to choose the URL of any newly created page, which was automatically generated based on the page name entered. So if your page name was "The Magnificent Seven", the end of your URL would look something like "/the-magnificent-seven". Now you can change the page URL at any time by going to the "More Actions menu -> Page Settings", and changing the "Page URL" field at the bottom. So say you want a more abbreviated version, and you change it to "mag7". Once you click "Save", the page refreshes with the new URL, and you're done. The beauty of this is that any inbound links from other pages to the original page will automatically be updated to the new "mag7" page name and will not break.

Support for links in List pages

A popular question from our users was "How do I create a link in my list?". And so the "URL" column type was born. Using the same Link picker that is used in the page editor, you can now enter URLs to external websites or existing pages within your site. In the example, I used the Link picker (by clicking the "or, select existing page" link) to select the existing Magnificent Seven page from earlier.

Creating new pages in the Link picker dialog

Say you want to add links to other pages without first having to create the pages - basically, you want to start from the top down instead of bottom up. In traditional wiki parlance, this is called forward linking, and there's usually a special syntax that you need to use. Google Sites has taken a different approach than the typical wiki mechanisms -- we've integrated the flows of linking to pages and creating pages into a single process. As you're editing a page, start by clicking the "Link" button to launch the link picker dialog. Then, look for the "Create new page" button at the bottom. When you click it, you can create a new page on the spot, without leaving the current page. Type in a name for the new page, hit "Create page", and you'll be sent right back to the original link picker dialog with the new page selected for you. Just hit "OK" and you're done -- in one fell swoop you've created a new page and linked to it without ever leaving the warm comforts of the Link dialog.

Custom site landing page configuration

In Google Sites it used to be that every time you logged in to your site, you would be automatically sent to your "Home" page at /Home. In the interest of giving site owners more control over their site, we now allow site owners to configure which page is shown as the landing page. Head on over to "Site Settings" -> "Other Stuff" to check it out.

Posted by Reuben Antman, Software Engineer