With many of us working and learning virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, we're using more digital platforms than ever to stay connected — there's Zoom, Google Meet, email, texting, and GroupMe, among a plethora of other services. It can be confusing, time-consuming, and difficult to keep up to date on all of these apps, especially for those like the older generation who may not catch onto new technologies easily and are feeling the most isolated due to their vulnerability to COVID-19.

What it does and how I built it

That's where Simply Connect comes in: Simply Connect is a web application made with React and Express, and it's a one-stop communications hub for all your digital platforms. Simply Connect uses OAuth2.0 authentication to allow users to sign in via their Google accounts, giving Simply Connect access to their Google Contacts, Gmail emails, and Google Calendars.

Once you log in, Simply Connect displays your Google Contacts using the Google People API. You're able to filter your contacts by name to find phone numbers and emails. You can also send texts to any phone number from the Simply Connect web app via the Twilio SMS API, which is really helpful for PC users who don't have quick access to texting on their laptops and may need to send a quick text while they're in a virtual meeting.

Through the Gmail API, Simply Connect also shows your most recent inbox emails and allows you to reply to emails without ever leaving the web app. Additionally, you can view your upcoming Zoom and Google Meet meetings, which are imported directly from your Google Calendar.

Furthermore, Simply Connect is integrated with GroupMe through the GroupMe API. You can view all of your GroupMe group chats and their latest messages, in addition to responding to GroupMe group chats directly from Simply Connect.

Challenges I ran into and what I learned

For Simply Connect to make virtual communications convenient, I had to integrate lots of different APIs into the web app. That was difficult because each API had its own quirks, and I needed to figure out how to connect to lots of them. Also, I mainly stick to frontend, so I branched out in setting up an Express backend to communicate with the Twilio SMS API. This was also my first time using the Google People API, the Gmail API, the GroupMe API, and the Twilio SMS API, so it was a really good learning experience!

What's next for Simply Connect

I see so many possibilities for Simply Connect: we can integrate more APIs for different chatting and social media services to broaden Simply Connect's range, allow users to choose which apps they want to integrate into Simply Connect, make Simply Connect into a Chrome Extension for even easier and more convenient access, and do so much more.

Communicating virtually shouldn't be as hard as it is. Let's simply connect!

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