- Matt Weinberger
Just in time for the back-to-school season, Google Docs is getting some really cool new features today that make it a lot easier to get stuff done.
The goal: Make it a lot more competitive with Microsoft Office 365, which has been a battleground for the two tech giants.
First, and probably coolest, of the new features is the new “Research” function in Google Docs for Android, which brings Google search right into the document you’re working on.
You can use it for searching whatever you want, but its best potential use is probably for pictures.
Pretend you’re working on a research paper in Google Docs, and you need a picture of Pluto (to use Google’s example). Currently, says Google Docs Product Manager Ritcha Ranjan, it takes 14 clicks to tab out of your document, open a new window to search, find what you need, and bring it back into the document.
With the new Research feature, you don’t even have to tab away. It opens a search box right within the document, and lets you add the picture back to your paper with a click.
Check out Google’s official video demonstrating the feature:
Next is voice typing, which lets you dictate text into Google Docs (so long as you’re using it in the Google Chrome browser). It’s also available in 40 languages, “so we can help with your French homework, too,” Google says in a blog entry.
Here’s that demonstration:
A new “Explore” feature in Google Docs makes it easier to turn your spreadsheets into charts and graphs, with those visualizations updating in real time as you make changes. Under the hood, Explore uses Google’s data-crunching smarts to automatically identify trends and patterns to suggest useful charts.
Google Docs is also getting a pair of features that come standard in Microsoft Office, but are new to its Google Docs productivity suite: Change tracking and document templates.
With change tracking, you can see who changed what in a document, when.
Templates provide a pre-made setup to make eye-catching and easy-to-read papers, forms, and reports.
“It’s like having a talented graphic designer just a few clicks away,” says Ranjan.
Google Forms, which lets you make interactive surveys, is also getting a facelift, with a new ability to add animated GIFs and other photos, plus a new function to automatically pick a complementary color scheme based on your pictures.
Finally, Google Classroom, which is Google’s control panel for Google Apps for schools, is getting a bunch of new features.
That includes the ability for a teacher to push out a website to an entire classoom and have it automatically open in their Chrome browsers – useful, especially considering that Google claims considerable traction with its Chromebook line of lightweight, browser-only computers in the classroom.
Some of these features, especially the built-in Google search in Docs on Android, are really cool. Some just bring Google Docs up to speed with Microsoft Office.
Either way, Google for Work is in fierce competition with Microsoft Office 365 in enterprises, small businesses, and schools. These new features make Google for Work just an extra little bit smarter, which may provide an extra edge.