Google makes Docs, Drive and Calendar more productive

Some helpful new machine learning features to get you back to work.

REUTERS/Peter Power

If you spend your work days toiling in Google's productivity apps, the first thing you might notice today is that Google for Work is now called "G Suite". Once you get past the new label, you might also notice a slew of smart updates across the board that ought to save you time and keep your workflow moving.

First up: Docs, Sheets and Slides got a new "Explore" feature that uses natural language search to help you research reports, organize data or design better looking presentations. In each of the main apps, an Explore button brings up a new sidebar with contextual options based on the app you're using. In Docs, this means Explore will search and suggest images, web links or other Drive documents that appear relevant to the content you're writing. In Sheets, Explore allows you to use words instead of formulas to analyze your spreadsheet data. So natural queries like, "What are the tops three items by sale price?" will automatically generate the formula and bring up the insights you need. Finally, in Slides the Explore sidebar will help you polish your deck by generating design and layout suggestions that can be applied in one click. The Explore feature is live today in the web, Android and iOS versions of Docs and Sheets, but only available in the web version of Slides.

Google Drive also got a time-saving update called Quick Access, which the big G claims will halve the time it takes to find the file you're looking for. Like the Natural Language search introduced in Drive last week, the new feature uses machine learning to make anticipate the file you need based on your daily work habits, recurring team meetings or interactions with colleagues. For now, Quick Access is only live for G Suite customers on Android.

Finally, Google Calendar's handy "Find a time" feature is expanding beyond Android. Like the other updates, Find a time uses machine learning to not only find a meeting time that works for everyone invited, but also remembers which conference room you like, searches for backup meeting times and will smartly look at your other conflicting meetings to see which are easiest to resolve. The feature goes live today on iOS and will be coming to the web version by the end of the year.