Google Docs Adds Research Tool, Voice Typing, More for Work
The latest updates to Google Docs are designed to make it easier for professionals and students to do research, crunch data and use dictation without ever having to leave the Google realm. Those new features -- among more than 100 that Google has added to its Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms apps so far this year -- are aimed at the growing number of businesses and schools moving into the cloud.
The new Research feature in Docs for Android, for example, integrates Google search directly into the app. That means users can search for information, quotes, images and more, and quickly add excerpts into their online documents without having to leave the app.
Google's voice transcription capabilities have also been updated to make it easier for users to dictate and transcribe their thoughts via Docs in Google Chrome. That tool supports more than 40 languages, enabling workers to share information with overseas counterparts or helping students with their foreign-language homework.
Announced yesterday via posts on the Google for Work, Google Docs and Google for Education blogs, the updates also include a Chrome extension called "Share to Classroom." That extension lets instructors open Web sites on their own devices and easily push them to all the students in their classrooms, no matter what type of laptops or PCs they're using.
Bringing Google Intelligence to Docs
The updates reflect the company's "first steps to incorporate the power and intelligence of Google into Docs," said engineering director Jude Flannery in a post on the Google for Work blog. By taking those steps, Google hopes to "make analyzing your data more intuitive, editing more accessible and document styling more dynamic," he added.
In addition to Research and voice transcription, Google has also added a new feature called Explore. Available on the Google Sheets spreadsheet app, the tool is designed to help users visualize, summarize and interpret their data," Flannery said.
"No more stressing or wasting countless hours stewing over endless rows of data," he noted. "Simply select some data, open the Explore panel (available on the Web and Android) and you'll instantly see a selection of charts and text-based insights that help bring meaning to your numbers."
Use of Cloud-Based Apps Keeps Growing
Many of the new features will benefit both business employees and students in schools, according to Google. The latest version of Google Forms, for example, can be used by workers to gather feedback from teammates, customers or partners, while it will help students more easily collect input from classmates about field trips, class projects and other group efforts.
Similarly, the new "See new changes" function in Docs is designed to make it easier for multiple people to collaborate on a single document, whether they're co-workers in different time zones around the globe or classmates working on a team homework project at different hours of the day.
The number of organizations and schools using cloud-based apps and tools is growing rapidly. More than 5 million businesses of various sizes in a wide range of industries already use its Apps for Work, according to Google.
Small businesses in particular are finding that cloud-based apps can help them more easily access tools that were previously too costly or designed only for large enterprises. A 2014 study by Intuit and Emergent Research, for instance, found that the proportion of small businesses in the U.S. running their business processes in the cloud is likely to grow from 37 percent today to nearly 80 percent by 2020.