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Google ‘Smart Canvas’ initiative brings long-overdue tools to Workspace

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Google is giving a major productivity boost to Workspace, its suite of cloud-based collaboration tools such as Docs and Sheets. That upgrade comes in the form of what Google calls smart canvas, a new approach to how users collaborate and work remotely on projects. But at the core of it all is the intention to offer deeper integration so that you don’t have to switch between different apps or tabs, and allow effortless cross-product collaboration. Confusing? Let me break it down for you.

Remember when Gmail got a dedicated Meet button a few months ago? Well, Google is building upon that very foundation again. Google is now bringing Meet to Docs, Slides, and Sheets as well. This means you can now present your project on video call directly from within Docs (Sheets or Slides) without having to worry about screen sharing tools. And later this year, all three apps will offer direct Meet integration so that you can start a video call from the same tab and collaborate on a project.

Next in line is smart chips, or in simple words, the ‘@’ mention system. At the moment, you can directly tag a person by using the ‘@xyz’ feature and also see details such as their location and contact information. Now, using the ‘@’ command will also suggest relevant files and meetings as well, in addition to people. And just like contact cards, you can see a preview of the file you plan to add using the smart chips trick. Now available in Docs for mobile and web, it is soon coming to Sheets too.

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Emoji reactions are coming to Docs as well, alongside a pageless view that removes page boundaries and fits the document to your screen size. Language suggestions are also getting some improvements to make the tone more inclusive (‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’), preferring active voice over passive lingo, and discouraging offensive words.

Google is also bringing multiple table templates to Docs. For example, there will be a poll-based table to collect feedback, while the project tracker will help you keep an eye on the progress made on an assignment. Another extremely helpful feature that is coming to Meet is live translation for captions. The video conferencing service will initially offer support for Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and English, but more languages will be added down the road.

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Lastly, you can now directly edit a Doc or Sheet shared in a Google Chat conversation. And in the coming weeks, this experience is coming to Slides as well. On a concluding note, some of the Workspace features Google has announced at I/O 2021 were long overdue, especially Meet integration in productivity apps like Docs and Slides. But as they, it’s better late than never, especially when competition from the likes of Microsoft is hotter than ever.

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Nadeem Sarwar

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.

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