Google adds more productivity-boosting features to G Suite

The cloud office suite gets a little smarter and more helpful with new features using artificial intelligence.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

G Suite, Google's rebranded and refurbished set of cloud office tools previously known as Google Apps for Work, is getting a little smarter and more helpful. Google announced Wednesday it's adding a series of new productivity-boosting features to the office suite.

First, Google Docs is getting an upgrade with Action Items, a way to assign tasks to colleagues from within a document. If a user types in a phrase like "Andrea to schedule a weekly check in" on desktop, Docs will use natural language processing to intelligently suggest an Action Item to assign to the right person. A user can also manually assign an Action item from Docs, Sheets, and Slides desktop and mobile apps by mentioning a person's name in a comment and checking the "new Action item" box. The person getting the new assignment receives an email notification and will see the Action item highlighted when they open the file.

Meanwhile, when a user opens Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Drive, they'll see a badge on any items with an Action item assigned or any unresolved suggestions others have made to their files.

Next, Google is using machine-learning and neural networks to help predict the type of question a user should ask in Google Forms and suggest potential responses. For instance, if a user types "What days are you available next week?", Forms will intelligently identify this as a "checkbox" question type and generate potential response options.

This new feature saves users about 25 percent of the time they'd previously spend drafting questions for Forms, Google says. The company was able to build the feature after identifying common patterns in Forms from the more than 1 billion questions that have been asked in the tool since its launch in 2008.

Google is also expanding the functionality of "voice typing" in Docs, allowing users to do things like changing the text color in a document or adding links, all by voice.

Lastly, Google Docs has a new integration with Slack, allowing Slack users to click the "+" button and bring files from Google Drive into a Slack conversation. Users can also create new Docs, Sheets, and Slides files right from Slack.

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