UPDATED 16:20 EDT / MAY 18 2021


In major refresh at I/O, Google Workspace gets ‘smart chips’ and ‘pageless’ documents

Google LLC today debuted “smart chips” for Google Workspace that will enable users to enhance their documents with interactive elements such as polls and pop-up previews of other documents.

The feature is rolling out as part of a broad update to the productivity suite that Javier Soltero (pictured), vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, detailed this morning during the company’s virtual Google I/O conference held partly live at its headquarters in Mountain View, California. Most of the biggest enhancements are rolling out for Google Docs.

Smart chips are a new type of interactive document element that users can embed next to text by entering the @ symbol and the name of the element they wish to add. If the user embeds a spreadsheet, the smart chip turns into a Google Sheet link that brings up the selected spreadsheet in a pop-up preview box. A smart chip can also be used to link to other types of files or to mention team members who are collaborating on a document.

The capability make it possible as well to embed Google Doc templates, another new feature debuted today at I/O. There’s a checklist template that allows users to quickly add a table for tracking outstanding chores to a document without having to create it from scratch. There are also tables for tracking project milestones, displaying information from calendar entries and collecting feedback.

“Topic-voting tables will allow you to easily gather team feedback while project-tracker tables will help you capture milestones and statuses on the fly,” Google Workspace director Erika Trautman wrote in a blog post today. 

Google is taking the opportunity to enhance a few existing Google Docs capabilities. The company is expanding the built-in writing suggestions with inclusive language and stylistic recommendations. A new “pageless” interface setting will allow users to have Google Docs display lengthy documents as one big page, while emoji support is arriving to comments.

The remaining updates announced today mostly focus on enhancing the other applications in Google Workspace. New integrations will make it easier to share files via Meet and introduce the ability to sync to-do items from Google Docs checklists to Google Tasks. Google Sheets, in turn, is receiving a formula suggestion engine and a timeline view for visualizing time-sensitive items in to-do lists. 

“This flexible view allows you to organize your data by owner, category, campaign, or whichever attribute fits best,” Trautman explained. “Using a dynamic, interactive timeline strengthens your ability to manage things like marketing campaigns, project milestones, schedules, and cross-team collaborations.” Google hinted that there are plans to add more views down the line.

The new features will roll out gradually over the course of 2021. In conjunction, the company plans to release a new version of Google Workspace designed specifically for frontline employees who spend most of their work day away from a desktop computer. Google Workspace Frontline will pair core applications from the standard version of the suite with features for securing company data stored on employees’ devices, Soltero detailed in a blog post. 

Photo: Google

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