Google Sheets thinks it might finally be smart enough to topple Microsoft Excel

Google Workspace has announced an upgrade to its spreadsheet software that could make the tool more useful than ever before.

In its battle to take on great rival Microsoft Excel, the company's Google Sheets platform has enjoyed a number of recent updates to help users get more from their data.

This includes so-called “smart chip” technology, which lets users quickly access information or data from other Google Workspace files, bringing the likes of Slides, Docs and Gmail even closer together for the ultimate collaboration tool.

Google Sheets smart chip metadata

Following an initial rollout in February 2023, Google Sheets has already seen an initial smart chips upgrade, taking the form of richer experiences, including extra functionality when posting YouTube clips in a spreadsheet, further expansions have now been announced.

Going forward, the company says users will be able to quickly extract information from smart chips to give your work extra detail or analysis, pulling in information from people, file and event chips. It will also allow users you to pull out metadata associated with specific smart chips into its own cell, all whilst maintaining a connection with the chip it was extracted from. 

Google Sheets smart chips metadata

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

The company gave the example of making it easier to keep track of a set of documents, as well as who owns them and details such as creation time or who last modified the file, which can now be done by extracting those fields from the relevant file chips.

“Smart chip data extraction allows you to track and organize data more easily, and also perform deeper analyses using data that is derived from smart chips,” a Google Workspace update blog post announcing the change read.

“Useful actions include using file chips to understand when a document was last updated or using people chips to sort and filter employees based on job location to best delegate region specific tasks.”

The feature is rolling out now for users on Rapid Release domains, with a wider release scheduled for June 14. 

The ability to extract data already stored in chips will be available to all Google Workspace customers and users with personal Google Accounts, but some limits on extracting all available data will be placed on the latter, along with users with Google Workspace Essentials Starter, Business Starter, Frontline Starter, Frontline Standard, and Nonprofits accounts.

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The 5 most exciting AI tools coming to Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, and more

Google has just announced a huge set of new AI tools that could change the way we use some of its most popular apps, including Gmail, Google Docs and more.

In both an official blog post and video (below) the tech giant revealed several new AI tools that will be coming to its most popular apps. The first ones will initially only come to select group of testers in Gmail and Google Docs, but we've also been given a tantalizing preview of the ones coming to Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Meet, too.

The move is most likely to rival competitors in the AI space like Microsoft's ChatGPT-powered Bing and Microsoft 365. Since AI has grown in popularity, Google has been scrambling to match its rivals' moves in the market, going so far as rushing out an announcement of its own Google Bard chatbot, which still isn't open to the public. There was also an underwhelming presentation that even had its own employees rolling their eyes.

Still, the results from what we've seen in this demonstration look far more practical and promising than the AI tools Google has announced so far. They've been integrated into Google Workspace, so users will soon be able to use generative AI in several writing features. For now, only trusted testers will have access to these new tools but after that, they'll be rolled out to all Google users.

So, in no particular order, here are all the best AI tools coming to Google's line of products.

The 5 most useful AI tools coming to Google apps

1. Gmail: instant summaries of long conversations

a screenshot of an AI generated email

(Image credit: Future)

If you've ever opened up your work email only to find an extremely long and confusing email chain, this tool could be for you. This particular AI tool allows you to quickly summarize long email conversations, pulling out the most pertinent information and laying it out in a neat box.

From what we've seen from this demo, it even adds the names of those involved in the conversation, giving the summary even more context and clarity. And it drafts a response based on all the information gathered. Of course, it remains to be seen how accurate this tool will be, as any missing information from said summary could be detrimental to your work.

Most likely, it'll use machine learning to improve its quality of work, which should mean it doesn't skip important information as it's used more often.

2. Gmail and Google Docs: time-saving drafts when you type in a topic

a screenshot of an AI generated summary in google docs

(Image credit: Future)

Out of all the AI tools showcased in Google's presentation, this AI writing and brainstorming feature looks to be the most promising. As demonstrated in the demo, a prompt that states “Help me write” followed by the request “Job post for a regional sales rep” results in an instantly drafted job post.

From there of course the human user would edit and refine the document, but having a draft instantly created saves plenty of time and effort. You can also use the tool to add certain tones to your document depending on the situation, like whimsical or formal.

There's a lot of flexibility in this AI tool, and the fact that it works for both drafting documents and emails should make it even more valuable.

3. Google Slides: AI-generated presentations with imagery

a screenshot of an AI generated images in a presentation

(Image credit: Future)

This is easily the most controversial of the new batch of Google's AI tools. The core of the concept, creating slides for a presentation in Google Slides, is a smart one that could save a lot of time and energy in terms of creating layouts instantly. However, unlike the other tools that use text already written by either you or coworkers, this tool creates images, audio, and video, then inserts it into your presentation.

But where does that media come from? A database gathered by Google's AI of course. But then where does the AI pull the references from to generate this content? That's the problem and something Google will likely need to address.

As it stands, there's been a lot of misuse of this tech to the point of even plagiarism, and it remains to be seen if Google is using a personal database or pulling from the internet to create this content.

4. Google Meet: capture notes through AI

a screenshot of AI generated notes in google meet

(Image credit: Future)

This is another AI feature that could potentially save a lot of time and effort. This tool captures notes from conference calls and other meetings with audio, then takes “notes” of that meeting, summarizing the most important points in an easy-to-parse format.

Judging from the demo, the most impressive part of this note-taking tool is how it organizes the notes, using complex formattings like bullet points, calendar icons to indicate an important date, headings, and more. It not only looks incredibly organized but works at a far faster rate than a human could.

This tool would leave time and energy for everyone to focus on the meeting itself and not need to devote a person to take these notes. Meaning that everyone can participate.

5. Google Sheets: auto-fill data entry with AI

a screenshot of AI generated entries in google sheets

(Image credit: Future)

Data entry can be repetitive and boring at times, or even confusing when dealing with extremely large sets of data. This AI tool would be especially handy in parsing dense amounts of information, then converting that information into data charts.

The demo showed the command “Personalize messages for our client” and then next to each entry created a unique message for each of them, most likely as a mailing list. A task that would take a human a long time to accomplish was done in an instant. 

Of course, a human would have to edit each message to ensure quality, but having the drafts done is an incredibly useful and time-saving first step.

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This Google Sheets update should stop you messing up formulas at last

Google Sheets is looking to help spreadsheet users everywhere with the launch of a new tool that will let you write formulas faster and better.

The company has launched “intelligent corrections” for formulas in Google Sheets, context-aware fixes that it says help you improve and troubleshoot many different kinds of formulas.

“Now, you can write formulas faster and with higher confidence with formula corrections,” the company wrote in a Google Workspace blog post announcing the news.

Google Sheets formulas

Going forward, when writing a formula into Sheets, the new feature will analyze it and see if any improvements could be made. If so, a suggestion box will appear with details on a new version that can replace the current formula, including the ability to accept or reject it.

Google says the new addition can help with a number of common formula issues, including VLOOKUP errors, missing cells in range input, and locking ranges when applying formulas across cells.

The new feature is rolling out now, and will be enabled by default for all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers, and users with personal Google Accounts. It can be disabled if it proves too much of a hindrance, by going to Tools > Enable formula corrections or from the three-dot menu of the suggestion dialog box.

The announcement follows a similar update in August 2021 which saw Google Sheets introduce intelligent formula suggestions, with the program able to offer ideas based on the data in question and the user’s initial input.

Google said that the new formula suggestions will make it easier to write new formulas accurately and help make data analysis quicker and easier.

The company also recently revealed that it was increasing the cell limit in Google Sheets from up to five million cells to up to ten million cells.

The new limit isn't just for newly-created files either, but also existing and imported files, meaning you can expand to your heart's content. 

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Google Sheets are about to become even more chaotic and unwieldy

A new era of gargantuan Google Sheets could be coming thanks to a new change made by the company.

In a Google Workspace update blog, the company revealed that it was increasing the cell limit in its spreadsheet software from up to five million cells to up to ten million cells.

The new limit isn't just for newly-created files either, with Google noting that it will also be available for existing and imported files, meaning you can expand to your heart's content. 

Giant Google Sheets

“Over the course of the last four years, we’ve been steadily increasing the cell limit in Google Sheets: from 2 million to 5 million in 2019 and now to 10 million,” the blog post read. “We hope this and future increases give users the ability to work with their data on a much greater scale in Google Sheets.”

The update is rolling out now to all users, and won't require any special admin control or action to activate. It's available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

The feature is the latest in a series of recent updates to Google Sheets as it looks to boost its offerings for hybrid workers.

This includes the recent addition of intelligent formula suggestions based on the data in question and the user’s initial input, taking much of the heavy lifting out of complex formulae.

The software itself also recently saw a cosmetic overhaul to make Google Sheets better for users with smaller screens. The changes saw the menu bar, as well as the right-click menu shortened to better fit on a smaller screen, and to prevent menu items from being hidden off-screen.

Some features were also reorganized and moved to “more intuitive” locations. For example, freezing a row or a column can now be done directly from the right-click menu. Menu items also received new icons, while the descriptions of some items in the menu are shorter.

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