The collection of web-based software that Google offers to businesses and consumers is officially known as G Suite. Most people are familiar with Gmail and Google Docs, but quite a few do not realize that they offer a whole range of productivity and collaboration tools via your computer or mobile device.
I have been working on another post about consumer-level uses of artificial intelligence (AI), not the media-hyped creepiness, but the practical, useful ways that AI is helping us do more and be more. Google started me thinking about this as I have watched it add various “smart” functions (think AI) to email as well as increasing ways to help me complete or enhance a document, spreadsheet, or presentation with the Explore function. It keeps learning from you and adjusting to you with these features.
Draft and send email responses quicker: Two relatively new, intelligent features include Smart Compose and Smart Reply. Gmail will suggest ways to complete your sentences while drafting an email and suggest responses to incoming messages as one-click buttons (at the bottom of the newly received message). This works in relatively simple messages that are calling for answers like these:
- Yes, that’s fine.
- Yes, that works for me.
- Nope, that’s fine.
Enable Smart Compose and Smart Reply by going to Settings (that little gear icon in the upper right of your email inbox). Smart Reply is automatically enabled when users switch to the new Gmail.
On mobile and desktop or web, Smart Reply utilizes machine learning to give you better responses the more you use it. So if you’re more of a “thanks!” than a “thanks.” person, it’ll suggest the response that is more authentic to you. Subtle difference, for sure, but I have noticed with certain people I interact with, the punctuation does change to show more emotion. I have not seen any emojis popping up, however. That may be a good thing.
For some of the newest features, you must go to Settings, then click “Experimental Access.” Features that are under test have a special little chemistry bottle icon or emoji. Most of the features in this post have already been fully tested and released to the general public.
Auto-reminders to respond: Gmail’s new Nudging function reportedly will now automatically bump both incoming and outgoing messages to the top of your inbox after a few days if neither party has responded. You can turn this feature on/off in Settings. However, I have not had this work properly, but maybe I am simply too efficient. Not. Either way, I have not noticed these reminders yet.
Machine Learning in Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides
The Explore button in the lower right corner of Docs, Sheets, or Slides is machine learning (ML) in action. You can visualize data in Sheets without using a formula. The explore button is a compass-looking type star and as you hover over it, it expands. Once clicked, it serves as a search tool within these products.
Explore and visualize in Sheets to help you decipher data easily by asking Explore – with words, not formulas – to get answer about your data. You can ask it a question like, “how many units were sold on Black Friday,” or “what is my best selling product?” or “how much was spent on payroll last month,” can be asked directly instead of creating formulas to get an answer. “Explore in Sheets” is available on the web, Android and iOS. On Android, you click the three vertical dots to get to the menu and then Explore is listed. When you first click it, it offers a “try an example” option and creates a new spreadsheet showcasing various examples.
Explore in Docs gives you a way to stay focused in the same tab. Using Explore, you get a little sidebar with Web, Images, and Drive results. It provides instant suggestions based on the content in your document including related topics to learn about, images to insert, or more content to check out in Docs. You can also find a related document from Drive or search Google right within Explore. Explore in Docs is available in a web browser, but I did not find it on my mobile apps for Android or iOS.
Explore in Slides makes designing a presentation simple. I think there’s some AI/ML going on here, as Explore dynamically generates design suggestions, based on the content of your slides. Then, pick a recommendation and apply it with a single click, without having to crop, resize or reformat.
Are all of these features going to single-handedly make you the most productive person on the planet? No, but they are definitely small and constant improvements that point the way to a more customized and helpful use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
If you are looking for other creative ways that people and organizations are using G Suite, there are tons of great customer stories that Google shares about how big and small organizations and companies use its free and enterprise-level products that may give you ideas for how you can leverage their cloud software. I find many of these case studies inspiring, but that is based on how organizations are responding to community needs.
Check out this one from Eagle County, Colorado during a wildfire there and this one from the City of Los Angeles with a real-time sheet to show police officers which homeless shelters have available beds.
Credit: Google News