February 17, 2022
Google continues to add improvements to its Google Docs, adding AI-generated summaries, better email integration and inline Google Maps previews. The company also announced the suite-wide availability of pageless documents, in test mode since May. The update is a further attempt by Google to push against startups like Notion and Coda as well as making its Google Workspace suite more competitive with productivity market leader Microsoft Office and its dominant Microsoft Word. In November, Microsoft announced Loop, a real-time collaborative editing app. With the exception of the email feature, most of the updates will be immediately available.
The new Summary feature uses AI to auto-generate a quick summary that gives users a high-level overview of document contents without having to open them. But “for most Google Docs users, the most striking change will be the new pageless format, which extends whitespace to both edges of the screen and dispenses with the page markers used for printing purposes,” reports Fast Company. “It also allows for a fully-responsive design, in which documents reflow when users adjust the size of their browser window.”
“What I’m excited about is that we have all of these awesome products already in Workspace,” Google Workspace product manager Vishnu Sivaji said in Fast Company. “So now we’re thinking through how to make these capabilities easy to discover and fluid to use by tying them together.”
Sivaji said pageless formatting is “table stakes on newer editing tools such as Notion, Craft and Skiff,” according to Fast Company, which says the update has been “a major undertaking for Google, requiring a year of infrastructure development to make sure it worked even for large, complex documents.” Features such as fluid infinite scroll make physical pages an engineering challenge to create within a web app, the executive explained.
Additional Google products now get hooks inside of Docs, too. Location links in Google Maps can now be formatted using a simple address, which when hovered-over will generate a pop-up with summary and link to directions. A Google Maps sidebar will then become available to provide more details. And in terms of Gmail, Google will later this year roll out a way to draft mail messages directly inside of Docs, to more easily facilitate message collaboration before communications are sent out on Gmail proper.
Also, “a recently-added Meeting Notes feature lets users pull in contacts, action items, and other details from Google Calendar events,” Fast Company. “You can expect the lines between various Google Workspace products to blur in other ways in the future.”