Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 10:40 AM
Editor’s Note: This blog post is authored by Naveen Venkat, from Zoho. We've welcomed many of Zoho's apps in the Google Apps Marketplace and are happy to see them join the Drive developer community as well. -- Steven Bazyl
Zoho is a suite of online applications targeted at small and medium sized businesses. We offer over 25 services ranging from the basic productivity suite all the way up to business applications like CRM, project management, invoicing, custom app building platform and much more. We’ve just rolled out Zoho Office integration with Google Drive.
Zoho's applications can be broadly classified into 3 categories: Productivity, Business and Collaboration apps. Productivity apps are the basic needs of an office environment and include the likes of a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, calendar etc. Business apps include CRM, projects, custom application building platform, invoicing and bookkeeping services. Collaboration tools facilitate real time collaboration across geographical locations. Email, chat, discussions, docs wiki etc are what round out this category of services.
How it all began
We have many Google and Google Apps customers using Zoho applications through Google Apps Marketplace, Google Chrome Webstore or directly using "Sign in using Google" on our login page. Tightly integrating Zoho's applications with Google's services is very crucial for us. During the launch of Google Drive, Google announced the availability of a SDK and the related Google Drive APIs that would facilitate third party apps to integrate with the service. We used this opportunity and initially started integrating Zoho Show (presentation tool) with Google Drive. At that time, we felt that the APIs are very extensive and pretty straight forward. This inspired us to integrate our entire Zoho Office Suite with Google Drive. In just a couple of weeks, we were able to integrate Zoho Writer (word processor), Zoho Sheet (spreadsheet tool), and Zoho Show (presentation tool) with Google Drive.
Some of the goals that we had in our mind when we started our integration were, to be able to :
- Create a new Zoho document from Google Drive’s UI
- Edit an existing document in Google Drive using Zoho’s editor
- Import a Google document into Zoho Office's UI
- Collaborate in real time on the same document from Google Drive in ZOffice's editor.
Above all, we also focussed on enabling SSO to login into Zoho with Google accounts without having to provide any extra information.
Google APIs console - Register your app
The first step in integrating an app with Google Drive is to register the app in the Google APIs console. Because we have three different apps, we created three different projects - Writer, Sheet and Show so that they would be listed separately in the contextual menu of Google Drive. In the console, we also have to enable Drive APIs and SDK to get access to Drive APIs for the App ID. The console then prompts you to create OAuth 2.0 client ID for authenticating the user with the app. Once this is done, we had to provide Google some basic information about our app such as brand icons, default and secondary mime types, authorization scopes etc.
Google Chrome Web Store - Distribution channel for Drive apps
The next step is to create a Google Chrome Web listing which allows users to install your app in Google Drive. Since we already have Zoho apps listed in the Chrome Web Store it was easy for us to make a few changes in our existing listing. We’ve added the following code in the manifest files to enable Drive for our apps.
"container" : "GOOGLE_DRIVE", "api_console_project_id" : "<APP_ID>",
APP_ID is the application’s ID which can be found in the Google APIs console.
This makes the Chrome Web Store listing Drive enabled, so now users simply have to install our Chrome Web Store apps and the Drive features will be enabled:
Authentication & Authorization
Google Drive apps are required to use OAuth 2.0 for authorization and are strongly encouraged to use OpenID Connect for authentication. Our Zoho Office Suite already supported OpenID authentication, so it was easy for us to implement it for the Z Writer, Sheet and Show apps for Google Drive.
To enable authentication for Drive users on our Zoho app we’ve added the following scopes to our Drive apps’ configuration page in the Google APIs Console:
This will make sure access to the authentication information of the user is granted alongside access to the Drive API allowing us to access Google’s OpenID Connect endpoints.
Our previous outings with GData APIs introduced us to OAuth2.0. OAuth 2.0 takes care of the authorization flow for a new user and smoothly transitioning the user to the Zoho application environment.
How the integration works
Users can create a new document from Google Drive’s UI or edit their existing Google Drive documents with Zoho’s editors. And when the user hits save, the modified document will be saved in Google Drive as a new document, thereby leaving the original Document untouched. This new document comes with extensions recognized by Zoho's apps. For example, a text document, Test.doc, from Google drive, when edited in Zoho Writer and saved, will be saved as Test.zdoc in Google Drive.
Users can invite their Google contacts to collaborate on their Google Drive documents and edit them using Zoho editors.
One of the main challenges that we faced during the integration was when multiple users need to collaborate on the same document in Zoho's editors.
In the recently launched Drive version v2 Google supports Permissions Feed to manage resource sharing. Based on the document permissions, we’ll allow the user to access the document for collaboration. Thus the Google users with whom the document has been shared can collaborate with each other in Zoho’s editor, without having to sign-in with Zoho explicitly. Zoho apps support inline collaboration which facilitates the shared users to collaborate seamlessly.
Thanks to Google team for their continued support right through the integration.