Now 15 years old, Google Docs and Sheets have seen a lot of transformation over time that has led them to be the number one choice for collaboration among schools, consumers, and many businesses. During Google I/O, the company announced Smart canvas – a reimagined approach to working with others in Workspace.
Enhancements to Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more are being added between now and the end of the year that will introduce many new features and bake other Google services directly into your documents in unexpected ways. Let’s take a look at some of the features that will make collaboration more seamless!
First up, you’ll be able to mention people, files, and meetings directly in the body of your document using the ‘@’ symbol right now and in Sheets over the next few months. These are being called ‘smart chips’, and allow you to see additional information like a person’s location, job title, and contact information. In its early stages, this feature will only recommend files and meetings.
This one is pretty wild – Pageless Docs. Google is allowing you to remove the boundaries of the page and causing Docs to be completely fluid like other web pages. Text, tables, lists – everything will automagically adjust to the new width of the screen. This means that phones, tablets, laptops, and more will all have a more natural and native view of the document. If you want to print it, you can swap back to a paginated view to see how it will look on paper.
Emoji reactions in documents? Of course! Why not, right? In the next few months, you’ll be able to use them, but we’re not yet sure in what capacity. My guess is that this will take the form of reacting to comments and edits, and not just allowing anyone to slap them in random places in the document. Additionally, Google is working to add new assisted writing features like suggesting more inclusive terms for different people groups and helping you avoid that passive-aggressive or offensive tone you take without realizing it.
Google Tasks is also coming to Docs. I was surprised and pleased by this one! Later this week, you’ll be able to drop checklists from Tasks directly into your Doc and assign them to others who are collaborating with you. Not only that, but a new Doc template for importing Google Calendar information including smart chips for attendees and attached files will make its debut soon.
A feature that I should have seen coming with the massive popularity burst of Google Meet is its ability to access it directly from within a document. You can see below that a new Meet icon will appear at the top right of the workspace and allow you to tap into upcoming meetings, launch them in a side panel and chat while you work!
Live captions, presumably in Meet via Docs are already available in five languages, but Google has more on the way. Later this year, it’s also introducing live translations of these captions starting with English. One of the most innovative things I saw at I/O for Smart Canvas today was the new Timeline view in Sheets. Initially, you’ll be able to access this view if you want to see imported Tasks in a Gantt chart-style layout which will include the owner, category, campaign, and more. As a productivity nut, these new tools have me salivating at the mouth!
You’ll also be able to create and edit Docs, Sheets, and Slides directly from within Google Chat rooms. Lastly, Sheets will have new ways to troubleshoot formulas, making data analysis faster and more accurate. These are being deemed assisted analysis functionality, and it makes it much easier for everyone collaborating with you to get meaningful insights out of the data.
Smart Canvas is an initiative that pulls together many incredible innovations that Google has been working on for quite some time and splices them together in a way that I believe reveals its vision for the future – one organic Workspace that adapts to the needs of its users and allows them to access the tools they need when they need. All of this will be carried out without the need for the individual or their colleagues to switch between applications or Chrome tabs. I think that’s incredible, and I can’t wait to see where the company takes this next!