Change merely for the sake of change is like shooting yourself in the foot for any company (or celebrity) that wants to be seen as reputable. Yes, reinventing the self may be necessary at times, but reinventing the wheel is an exercise in absurdity.

As a system administrator I’ve seen users befuddled by Microsoft Office and Windows changes that seemed to have no discernible purpose other than to justify self-indulgent hype about “a new way of working.” A blatant example of this is the removal of the Start button from Windows 8. True, an attempt at a reasonable explanation for this was given by Microsoft, but user outcry compelled them to bring back the Start button (well, sort of) in their upcoming Windows 8.1 release. I commend Microsoft for listening to its users, who should drive the experience rather than being relegated to the cattle car.

Interface changes should always be for the better, since user perception is the key. There’s a vast difference between a new layout which is more complex AND more powerful as compared to a new layout which is merely more complex. The first is challenging but rewarding to learn (since efficiency is gained) but the second just wastes precious user bandwidth cycles and generates dissatisfaction.

Google is revising the Google Apps Control Panel, to present a new way to navigate and customize your available options. I think this is an improvement over the old layout and it’s one with which both novice and experienced administrators can easily get acquainted.

What’s new about it?

The new control panel is called the “Google Admin Console” since it will also let you administer other enterprise features like Chromebooks and Maps Coordinate. This demonstrates a strong intent on the part of Google to unify the administration and management of their product base in a central location.

While there aren’t any new functions available for Google Apps administrators, Google touts the new console as a “cleaner look” which will let you get more done in less time.

Google is making the Admin Console (as well as the existing Control Panel) available via a direct link: This is a lot handier than[your domain name].

The new interface appears as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

As you can see, this console presents a Google+ like dashboard with controls for users, company/domain settings, services, and devices. The right side panel shows user activities, tools, and tasks. In the upper right appear icons for alerts/notifications, help, and support.

Most of the icons will be self-explanatory; “Users” is to administer your user base. “Company Profile” lets you set organization-specific details. “Google Apps” lets you administer your services. And so forth.

When you open each icon a drop-down menu appears in the upper left to let you go back up a level or open other dashboard icons so you can move around faster. Let’s say you open “Company Profile” to see what can be done there. (Figure B)

Figure B

If you click “Company Profile” (with the drop down arrow next to it) above you can then see your other Dashboard icons, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

If you access “Users” you will see a screen similar to Figure D.

Figure D

The new interface lets you specify what details to show underneath the columns (Email, quota, email address or status for instance), or use filters to display users by a specific category. You can assign them to groups either individually or in bulk fashion, working with several at a time by checking the box next to each one and then choosing the appropriate action via the toolbar.

Opening up each user account shows their profile information. (Figure E)

Figure E

The buttons across the top let you perform routine administration like resetting the password, adding the user to a group, renaming the user, or changing their organization unit. The help and settings icons are also present there.

If you hover the cursor over certain areas of the user profile more data will appear. For instance, to see which applications are active for them you would highlight the “Google Apps enabled” section, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

This would then show that “Calendar,” “Contacts,” and “Drive” are turned on for Andrea, (Figure G)

Figure G

Back at the dashboard you can click on “Google Apps” and it will display your available services. (Figure H)

Figure H

You can work with filters to turn on/off services for selected organizations or groups (for instance, Marketing). You can also click each app to see usage and settings. (Figure I)

Figure I

How can I customize the dashboard?

The dashboard can be rearranged by drag-and-drop based on your preferences. (Figure J)

Figure J

Click “More controls.” (Figure K)

Figure K

You will see another row of available icons. If you wanted to add “Groups” to your main dashboard in between “Company Profile” and “Billing,” for instance, you could just drag it up, similar to Figure L.

Figure L

Once you drop the icon it will appear in the main Dashboard. You can do the reverse to hide unwanted items.

There are other controls available, which you can reveal using that “>” right arrow in the bottom of the page (see the previous screenshot). Figure M shows a list of all available options.

Figure M

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Google has developed an updated Control Panel for Google Apps administration. Learn about the new features it offers.

How can I get the new Control Panel?

As of right now it’s only available for new Google Apps customers. Existing customers don’t have a way to turn this on at present, but according to Muzammil Esmail, Product Manager for Google Apps, it will be coming in the next few weeks.

Where can I find more information?

There are a few more details involving the updated control panel. Google has a video demonstrating the new console. You can get the full console guide here as well. If you just want to see how to perform standard functions in the new Admin Console you can check out the feature map for the full rundown.

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