Last week, Google launched a set of new features for its Workspace productivity suite. Along with a grab bag of other tweaks, you can now use new “smart chips” to specialize links inside Google Docs that hook up other files or meetings.
At GANDT, we’re always eager to incorporate new tools that help us collaborate and communicate more easily internally and with our clients. Here’s what we think of what Google is calling the “smart canvas,” an initiative that promises to increase the cadence of product improvements for Workspace.
New ‘smart chips’ & templates
The most exciting aspect of the new Workspace update is that, starting with Google Docs, smart canvas will make it easier to dynamically insert smart objects — called chips — that are linked to other parts of Google’s office suite.
To insert a chip, Google is employing an interaction model we’re all pretty used to — the @ tag. You simply type an @ symbol into Google Docs, and it’ll present a menu of several options. You can type to narrow it down to the thing you want to include, hit enter, and it will make a smart chip.
The @ symbol can also bring up custom templates, including project management tables, complete with voting and task tracking. For example, if you select a meeting template, it will auto-populate smart tags for the attendees and any files attached to the calendar invite. Another nice feature is the ability to create task lists (auto-synced with Google Tasks) inside a Google Doc and then assign them to a contact.
Collaboration is the top priority
Whether you’re a Google Suite diehard or your allegiances lay elsewhere, it is getting harder to dismiss the fact that their products are widely used and make collaboration reasonably painless. As our CEO Remco Livain summarized, “I am still not 100% convinced that I “like” the Google Docs/Sheets products better than the Microsoft Suite of software products or even the free Apple suite. But the most important thing is that we can collaborate easily within the group and with our clients — these new features improve that capability.”
Part of what makes this process so seamless is not only that Workspace is widely accepted, but that it has many integrations. This recent update is further evidence that Google is working to make every part of its Workspace suite of apps interconnected.
Our resident PR and communications expert Natascha Rupp is enthusiastic, “I absolutely love hyperlinking and connecting as many documents and functions as possible within one app/platform, so I’m really excited about this new feature. It will make it much easier to find everything in one space, and ensure that work being done stays focused on the original goals and strategy of a given project.”
How we will use these features at GANDT
Although we currently rely on some complimentary software, like Notion, to organize our internal workflow — as Google adds more features, they are facilitating a natural transition for many companies. As they’ve made clear, it was a conscious choice to start with Docs and build from there, rather than create an entirely new product or system for collaboration.
And there is no question that the incremental method makes the features less intimidating. As explained by The Verge, “The Workspace team is deliberately trying to help users build new habits organically rather than foist an entirely new framework for understanding how productivity software could work on them.”
Ultimately, it seems to be working, and we’re a fan of any productivity and collaboration tools that improve communications and make projects more dynamic. As we incorporate more of the new features into our day-to-day, we will keep you posted on the best ways to maximize their utility.