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Google Workspace turns to ‘smart chips’ to weave Docs, Tasks, and Meet together

Google is launching a slate of new features for its Workspace productivity suite today, starting with new “smart chips” that connect Google Docs to other products. Just like you can tag people with an @ symbol, starting today, you can use it to specialize links inside docs that hook up other files or meetings. They’re part of what Google is calling the “smart canvas,” a new initiative that promises to increase the cadence of product improvements for Workspace.



The idea behind the smart canvas is similar to workplace productivity suite dreams that reach as far back as OpenDoc in the ’90s: having smaller bits of information like charts, text, and images become more modular and interconnected. It’s not dissimilar to Microsoft’s Fluid Office document project, which launched last year.

Ultimately, Google is working to make every single part of its Workspace suite of apps interconnected. You’ll be able to start a Meet video chat directly within Docs or share your Doc directly into a Meet call with a button in the doc. All of that integration will be useful, but it also has the benefit (for Google) of perhaps enticing users away from using competing products like Zoom or Slack and instead using Google’s cohesive suite.

There is a smattering of other small updates: emoji reactions in Google Docs in addition to traditional comments, a new timeline view in Google Sheets for improved project management, and best of all: a new “pageless” view in Google Docs that does away with the assumption that your document is meant for an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. It dynamically resizes the doc to the size of your web browser the way a web app ought to.

Finally, Google is adding some “assisted writing” features to Google Docs, which will range from warning you about offensive language, wordiness, or noninclusive language.

Taken together, it’s a grab bag of updates, but the thing to keep an eye on going forward is the smart canvas function, which is built on a new framework for Workspace apps that could accelerate development.
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