by Matt Kapko

3 new Google Docs features enterprises will appreciate

News Analysis
Sep 03, 2015
Collaboration Software Small and Medium Business

Google Docs users gain three new productivity features released this week, including voice input and a research tool.

Google this week released a set of new features that merge more of the company’s core strengths and other legacy products with the Google for Work portfolio. Including the six new features announced this week (only three of which are detailed here), the company says it made more than 100 improvements to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms since the beginning of the year.

Google Docs gets voice-to-text

Voice input in Google Docs is the most important of the new features released for enterprise users, according to Forrester analyst David Johnson. The new speech-to-text capability supports more than 40 languages and must be activated via Google Chrome’s Tools menu. The feature is available only in Chrome browsers and there’s no word from Google on when other browsers might be supported.

“For the millions of people who cannot type fast … being able to speak instead of type is valuable, when it’s reliable,” Johnson says. “Google’s voice-to-text engine is excellent because it’s continuously learning and improving, so applying it to document creation is a win.”

‘Research’ provides simpler search tools

A new tool in Google Docs, called Research, ranks second among the new capabilities, according to Johnson. You can now perform Google searches without leaving Docs, and quickly find quotes, facts or images to embed or cite in documents. (Unfortunately, the tool is only available for Android and desktop users at this point.)

“Google Scholar [the company’s database of scholarly literature and research] is superb, and making it easier to insert references to published research in addition to websites and images with Research is a differentiator,” says Johnson.

Vanessa Thompson, research director of enterprise social networks and collaborative technologies, IDC, agrees. “Cognitive capabilities like automated assist and expert search eliminate redundant tasks so users can focus on exceptions or making decisions.” 

‘See new changes’ turns documents into conversations

Google also released a new option in Docs, called “see new changes,” that shows all changes that were made to a document with multiple collaborators. The tool takes a more traditional, “Microsoft Word-like” approach to track changes, and edits appear directly in the text along with identify information on the users who made them.

The feature shows edits and other changes within documents, and it changes the overall process and flow of document collaboration in Docs. The older, “suggested edits” feature positions edits as suggestions that live along the right-side column of documents, similar to comments.” 

“Over time I would expect the ‘see new changes’ feature to become ‘see relevant and important’ changes as updates become more targeted,” Thompson says.

Ryan Tabone, Google’s director of product management, says the new feature turns documents into conversations. “Like any conversation, when you’re speaking with others it’s important to understand what was said and by whom.” See new changes helps users do just that, he says.

“One of the most important advantages of a cloud-based productivity platform is the ability to continually improve the product with new capabilities,” Johnson says. These three new features, particularly voice typing and the research tool, all provide meaningful value for enterprises, he says.