More favorite features of Google's designers: Drive, Hangouts, and Voice

We continue our look into the features Google's designers are most proud of. In this installment, we look at powerful (but lesser-known) features in the G Suite versions of Drive, Hangouts, and Voice.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Welcome to the second half of my G Suite features that its designers wish more people knew about series. In the first half, we took a deep dive into the productivity apps within G Suite. In this article, we're going to look at features of Drive, Hangouts, and even Google Voice that Google's designers wish more folks knew about.

CNET: G Suite: Everything you need to know before signing up for Google's office suite

Google Drive

Google Drive is Google's cloud-based file system. It's a service I personally rely on extensively. I have terabytes of data in my G Suite Google Drive. While you might not need to store as much, Google Drive is becoming an essential service for many G Suite users. Fortunately, Google has been improving Drive, making it more capable and powerful. Let's look at how.

Priority page in Drive

One of the biggest challenges in desktop computing is file organization. We're always working on multiple projects, all with a wide range of files. Keeping track of what's relevant and then storing the appropriate files to be able to find them later has been troublesome at best. One of the biggest benefits of Google Drive has been the searchability of private file systems. Even so, project management has been limited to the same folder structure that has been part of most file systems for decades.


Custom workspaces could be a game-changer.

Google Drive's new Priority page uses machine learning to provide recommendations for what is most relevant to you. This page also features Workspaces, which offers intelligent suggestions of related content grouped together for easier access -- like multiple files related to the same project. You can also build and define your own workspaces, which is the feature I'm most excited about. Read all about it in this Google blog post.

Shortcuts in Google Drive

If you're familiar with shortcuts on Windows, aliases on Mac, or links on Linux, you've probably wondered when a cloud-centric file system like Google Drive would get with the program. The answer is "now," at least in beta form. Just announced this month, you can now create shortcuts in Drive, making it easy to reference and organize files and folders in separate folders or drives. 


Cloud storage is steadily gaining traditional file system features. This time, it's shortcuts.

For example,  let's say you share a document from your marketing team's shared drive with your company's sales team.  Your sales team will now have the ability to create a shortcut to that document from their sales team drive folder, and you no longer have to make copies of documents in order to share them with people outside of the document's original folder. Sign up for the beta here. Read all about it in this Google blog post.


Wait? What? I thought Hangouts was being discontinued. Yes...and no. Hangouts, the free service most of us are familiar with, is going the way of Google+. But Hangouts Meet (video conferencing) and Hangouts Chat (team-based messaging) are continuing to go strong as integral parts of Google's G Suite offering. Here are some great capabilities Google is offering in its continuing commercial versions of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. 

Live captions in Hangouts Meet

If you work in the corporate environment, you have undoubtedly spent your fair share of time in conference calls and video chats. As frustrating as they often are, they can be a huge barrier to full work participation for the hearing impaired.


This feature helps those with hearing challenges participate in live audio and video conferences.

Google has taken a big accessibility step in this area. You can enable live captions during any meeting by simply navigating to the triple-dot menu at the bottom right corner of your screen and selecting the option to turn on captions. This helps reduce communication barriers for people joining remotely and in person. After the meeting, a recap of the conversation is then sent to you, meaning you don't have to worry about taking notes. Read all about it in this Google blog post. And if you want a chuckle about life in conference calls, watch this amusing video.

Hangouts Chat into Gmail

Google recently brought Hangouts Chat into Gmail, allowing all of your communication to be unified in one window without the need to jump from your email to your chat app. This new integrated version of Chat also includes rooms that open up to full screen experiences with threads. Sign up for the beta here. Read all about it in this Google blog post.

Bots in Hangouts Chat

This may take a minute to get your head around. Bots in chat are kind of like skills in Alexa and Google Assistant. But instead of asking Hangouts Chat verbally, you can type a message and the bot will respond. My favorite (because charts and graphs just do it for me) is the integration between Statsbot and Hangouts. Just type a query into the Hangouts window and you get an answer.


Okay, so this is very cool.

G Suite's Hangouts Chat now includes 25 bots to help speed up workflows, including third-party apps to help with anything from a CRM to a finance workflow. These bots also integrate directly with G Suite apps like Drive and Meet. For example, the @Google Drive bot lets you know when files are shared with you, when comments are made, or when people request access to your docs. The @Meet bot integrates directly with Calendar to schedule meetings for you. Read all about it in this Google blog post.

Google Voice

Back in 2011, and then in 2014, I wrote a bunch of articles about Google Voice. This was the consumer version of the service, which has had some ups and downs. Google Voice, like Hangouts, is receiving a substantial upgrade as a commercial service offered as an add-on to G Suite.

Google Voice improvements

Now, with Google AI built into the Google Voice solution within G Suite, the fee-based commercial Voice cloud-telephony service improves on the earlier ability to transcribe voicemails and block those pesky spam calls. The web app also includes new features to make it easier to find the right contact with Voice's new call panel as well as place calls with one-click calling. Read all about it in this Google blog post.

Wrapping up

So there you go. Six more awesome features from the Google ecosystem that should increase your productivity and save time. Are there other products where you'd like to know what hidden or lesser-known features the vendor most wishes to spotlight? If so, post your suggestions in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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