Google Apps users will see some noticeable changes in 2014 when they log in to use their apps, including a consistent look for the sign-in pages for all of the apps. But what they'll also see is something that may not make them as happy—they'll be losing the ability to customize their Google Apps sign-in pages with their logos and other branding information.
The coming changes were unveiled in a Nov. 26 post on the Google Apps Updates Blog, where they were touted as a security and simplicity move for users.
"Early next year, the sign-in page for all Google Apps customers will be updated to be consistent across all Google Apps services," the post states. "In other words, the sign-in page for Gmail will now be identical to the sign-in page for Google Calendar, Google Drive, or any other Google Apps service. This change will improve security and make it easier for users to switch between accounts."
At the same time, the changes mean the end to the Apps personalization that was used by many organizations, the post states. "The Google Apps sign-in page can no longer be personalized with colors and custom logos. It will now look the same across all Google sign-in pages."
In addition, users will no longer be able to log in to the Apps by using just a brief user name. "Users will have to log in with their full email address (example: firstname.lastname@example.org)," the post states. "For SSO domains with a network mask, users will be presented with the new Google sign-in page when they log in from outside the SSO network mask. This change does not affect SSO domains without a network mask."
More details of the coming changes will be arriving in the next few months, according to Google. The changes will affect users of Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government.
Earlier in November, Google Apps announced that it will soon be will ending its support for Apps on Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser as it transitions users to the two latest versions of IE, Versions 10 and 11. That means that Apps users who are still browsing with IE9 will have to upgrade soon to IE10 or 11 to be able to continue to access and work on their files using Google Apps. Those upcoming changes affect users of Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government, according to Google. Google Apps only supports the latest two versions of supported Web browsers.
The last time that Google Apps made a similar transition was in September 2012, when IE8 users had to make the same transition to either IE9 or IE10 as Google Apps dropped support for the IE8 version of the browser, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
The Google Apps policy of supporting only the latest browsers began in June 2011 as big changes were beginning to arrive from new Web standards, such as HTML5. Newer, modern browser versions support many new capabilities that are not possible using older, outdated browsers, according to Google.
In October, Google unveiled a new feature that allows Google Docs users to share files with others who are not using Google accounts. The new capability allows guest Docs users who are not signed in using a Google account to be able to view a file, but not make changes or edits, according to Google. The new feature permits, for the first time, users to share such documents with others who may not have their own Google accounts. Previously, users could only view such files if they were also logged into their Google accounts. Administrators and Google Docs users who already have file-sharing permissions can change the sharing settings as desired. The new file-sharing feature is available for users of Google Apps and Google Apps for Business, Education and Government, according to Google.
In December 2012, Google dropped its then-free Google Apps for Business services. Google made the move after deciding that most business users were quickly outgrowing it and signing up for paid accounts that offered additional services. The paid Google Apps for Business accounts started in 2007 when Google began charging $50 per user annually, a fee that provided larger inbox mail storage, access to Google APIs to allow businesses to build custom apps and other extra services. Google also added apps versions specifically aimed at governments, universities and schools.
In October 2012, Google added some key benefits—phone and email support—for paying customers of its Google Apps services when they are accessed through Google's Chrome Web browser. That means that Google Apps for Business, Education and Government customers can get direct support on Chrome installation, functionality, security, browser policy settings and Google Apps interoperability for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Customers with free Google Apps accounts are not eligible for phone or email support, but can continue to use Google's free online help services and forums.