“Today we’re launching new capabilities across G Suite to help employees reclaim their time and come together as teams on strategic and creative projects so they can better serve their customers.”
– Prabhakar Raghavan, Google Cloud vice-president of apps
And the innovation train keeps rolling.
Hot off the heels of Google’s vastly improved virtual assistant and rebranding of Apps for Work to the more aptly named “G Suite,” Google just threw down the productivity gauntlet with a massive set of updates to its work-focused tools.
On Sept. 29, the tech company announced a whole mess of cutting edge, AI-driven features integrated into desktop and mobile versions of Drive, Docs, Slides, Calendar and more.
There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive right in.
Android Drive users rejoice. Google is now integrating a new element to the application designed to save professionals loads of time by supplying their most relevant reports in a carousel at the top of the app. Quick Access in Drive, as it is called, makes pertinent documents easily accessible. Google Cloud vice-president of apps Prabhakar Raghavan explains:
“Based on signals like your interaction with colleagues, recurring meetings and activity in Drive, machine intelligence helps Drive understand the rhythm of your workday and offers the files you need before you even ask. Our customer research shows that Quick Access saves about 50 percent of the time an employee would usually spend finding a file.”
In addition to the time-saving tool, Google Drive’s search function has also been upgraded to promote natural language processing, saving users the agony of digging through oceans of digital documents to find long-lost files. Much in the way that Google voice search works, more naturally phrased queries can be entered to obtain the necessary information.
If that wasn’t enough of an overhaul, the big G is currently tinkering with an unreleased feature called Team Drives, which aims to refine how document management and sharing is governed by a team. The component is presently in testing with a small set of users that will soon expand through an early adopter program.
Details about Docs
Back in 2012, Google implemented a means to conduct research within Google Docs. The company is now taking this to the next level by integrating its “Explore” feature, which was introduced to Sheets one year earlier. Google product manager Ritcha Ranjan described this ability as “having a researcher, analyst and designer by your side.”
Using Explore in Docs automatically suggests relevant articles, images and other materials within Drive that are applicable to the content on screen. At the click of a button, materials can be integrated into the copy without ever leaving the application.
This new enhancement is available across all desktop and mobile devices.
Shifts in Sheets
The Explore feature is not a new element to Google Sheets, though it has been vastly improved.
Since many professionals still struggle with creating more complex formulas in the spreadsheet application, Explore has been reimagined to present users with a text box for entering in more natural queries such as, “What percent of sales was attributed to my top selling item?”
As Google’s blog announcement on the updates notes, “Explore in Google Sheets will use Natural Language Processing to translate your question into a formula and offer an instant answer.”
A Switch to Slides
Explore isn’t limited to merely Docs and Sheets, however, as Google Slides has also received an augmented version of the feature.
With the click of a button, Explore in Slides provides similar research components as in Docs, alongside various suggestions on how to polish the layout and design of your deck for an extremely professional feel.
As Raghavan stated in his post about the feature, “Often, employees spend more time formatting slides than thinking creatively about the story they want to tell. Now, as you add content to your presentation, Explore in Google Slides dynamically offers layout suggestions that help your content shine. We’ve seen that people save over 30 percent of the time they would have spent on formatting when they used this capability.”
Plus, Google is also enabling action items to be assigned to specific individuals across Docs, Sheets, and Slides by simply mentioning an individual’s name in a comment. Doing so will bring up an Action Item box where the person will be assigned the task and instantly sent an e-mail to inform them. These folks will also see a badge on any files that have an action item assigned to them, helping workflows to continue moving smoothly.
Conversions to Calendar
A fan-favorite of any meeting junkie, Google Calendar has not been left out of the excitement.
Using machine intelligence, Calendar is now capable of setting meetings between individuals when everyone has a bit of free time. If the group’s schedules simply don’t match up, “Calendar will suggest times across the group where the conflicts are easiest to resolve, such as recurring 1:1 meetings,” explained Raghavan.
The more intelligent version of the application can also suggest meeting places based on destinations that have been used before.
And since meetings are such a large part of corporate culture, Google is also set to implement Meetings for Teams, much in the same way it will enable Team Drive.
Taking into consideration the fact that digital communications now allows co-workers to collaborate across borders in seamless fashion, Google is revamping Hangouts to cater to organizational meetings.
As the blog update details, the new features will require, “no downloads, no browser plugins, invite anyone, join from any device, even without an account or a data connection. Every meeting generates a short link and dial-in phone number so you can invite anyone without friction.”
The video chat will be able to accommodate up to 50 participants and will work harmoniously with Google Calendar. This yet-to-be-released feature is also in testing and will roll out to more early adopters in the near future.
Google has also made it easier to retrieve trashed files and made several other recent updates to the set of tools. If all of these new productivity elements don’t improve an individual’s workflow, potency, and focus, nothing will.