Imagine a voice dictation system that actually works for more than short messages. Imagine that it could even transcribe a long conversation or a brainstorming session.
That's been a sort of Holy Grail for voice dictation for a long time. But now it appears that Google has managed to pull it off.
However it turns out that voice dictation is just one of the major new features to come out of the new release of Google Docs announced on Sept. 2. Google also announced a new Research function and a new Explore function.
Research is designed to integrate the process of search with the ability to cut and paste, so that you can, for example, add details from an online encyclopedia to a paper you're writing on a tablet—along with photos—and do it all quickly and easily with a minimum of touch actions.
Explore is designed to make sense of data that you've stored in the Google Sheets spreadsheet app and to display it in a way that makes sense. Of course, that data still has to get into the spreadsheet somehow and you still have to tell Explore what data you want to look at, but according to the details released by Google today, the rest is automatic.
Making document creation and collaboration easier for mobile users is a major focus of the new version of Google Docs, but not everything works with every mobile device. Research and Explore work only on Android, while voice dictation and typing work only on Android and iOS mobile devices. All of the features will work on PCs running Windows and on Macs as long as you use the Chrome browser.
Most of the changes to Google Docs are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. For example, there's a new feature for handling changes in collaborative documents where you can see the newest changes rather than everything that's been changed since the last time that changes were accepted.
Google also has incorporated a vast array of new templates with some new themes and more flexibility. These should make the basic documents, slides and spreadsheets more personalized for your organization. There are also some big changes in collaboration.
One of the biggest changes to Google Docs is a "Share to Classroom" extension for Google Chrome. This feature is aimed at the education market, but would prove just as useful in any situation where a group is being asked to all look at the same Web page at the same time.
Google uses an example of a fourth grade teacher in a blog entry on the sharing feature, but it would work equally well in a corporate training environment.