Google has updated its G Suite set of cloud applications with five new features that company officials say will allow people to collaborate and work with each other more efficiently on team projects.
The updates follow Google's recent launch of a feature called Explore in Docs, Slides and Sheets that among other things allows users to run queries on their data using conversational text and to take advantage of dynamically generated formatting and design suggestions.
Like the Explore update, the new features announced this week, are designed to help users take better advantage of the existing capabilities in Google's set of email and productivity applications, the company said in blog post
They include a new Action Items capability that allows members in a team project to assign an action item to another team member in Docs, Slides or Sheets.
The feature takes advantage of baseline machine intelligence and heuristics capabilities to dynamically detect and suggest action items. For instance, when a team member types a message about follow-up actions that need to be taken on some task, Google Docs will automatically detect that and suggest a potential Action Item to assign to the appropriate individual. Users can also assign a task manually with the new feature. Those assigned a task will receive an email notification informing them of the Action Item that they need to complete.
Team members that have been assigned a task or action item will now be able to more easily identify documents, presentations and spreadsheets that need their attention, courtesy of a new badging feature. The badge will appear on any file that has an Action Item assigned to it, or has any unresolved suggestions or questions associated with it.
Also new in G Suite is what Google says is a smarter version of its Forms tool for building surveys and questionnaires. The updated tool takes advantage of neural network technology to predict the type of questions that a user likely wants asked and suggests a list of answers for respondents to choose from, Google product manager Ryan Weber said in the blog post announcing the updates.
"Let's say you're planning an all-day event at the office and need to know which day works best for your team," Weber said. "When you type, "What days are you available next week?" Forms will intelligently determine that "Checkbox" is the ideal question type," and generate responses that the user can add to the question, he said.
In addition, Google this week said it is giving G Suite users new ways to format and customize documents, spreadsheets and slides using voice commands. The update includes support for new voice commands for changing text color, inserting commands and links, deleting words, switching on the microphone, doing voicing typing and formatting documents in different ways.
A new partnership with Slack also now makes it much easier for people using the cloud-based collaboration tool to team up on a project to bring in files from Drive or to create new Slides, Sheets and Doc files directly in Slack, Weber said.
G Suite is the new name for Google Apps, the company's collective name for its enterprise versions of Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts and other applications. The company announced the name change in September and said it was doing so to better reflect the broader manner in which enterprises are using the applications these days.