How to get the most out of new collaboration tools


Google introduced Smart Canvas last year to streamline the process of multiple people working on documents together.

Last year, Google launched Smart Canvas. It’s an arsenal of productivity tools to help workers who want to collaborate with colleagues in Google Workspace.

With teams moving to remote and hybrid work arrangements, it’s given new ways to interact across Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides with mentions, templates, checklists, and more.

Earlier this year, Google added several new Smart Canvas updates. Here’s how to use them.

GIF: Google

Users can now benefit from automatically generated summaries of the documents they are working on in Google Docs. The tool is intended to help workers save time and skim through the main points of a document without having to read all the text if it is not relevant to them.

Google’s built-in AI will suggest a summary, but summaries can also be edited manually. To do this, simply click the plus sign next to the summary box on the left side of the screen in Google Docs.

Also in Docs, Google introduced a pageless format that lets users remove the boundaries of a page to create a surface that spans the device or screen they’re working on. This update is particularly aimed at hybrid and remote workers and aims to facilitate collaboration on screens. If a user needs to print a document or convert it to PDF, they can easily switch back to a paginated view.

To convert to non-page view, click “File” on the top menu bar and a drop-down menu will appear. Next, click “Page Setup”, which will bring up a dialog box with the ability to switch between paged and pageless views with a single click.

Google has also created built-in shortcuts in its Docs and Sheets that could allow users, for example, to preview a Google Maps link directly from a document.

By clicking on the “smart chip” – clickable objects that pull relevant information directly into the collaboration canvas – users can open a preview of the Google Maps link in a thumbnail or on a side panel in the document. This means you don’t have to exit the document to view the map.

There’s also a smart chip for people, which does something very similar: you can click on a person’s name and their information, such as job title and company, appears in the side panel.

You can extract this information in a document you are working on by typing ‘@’. This action will bring up a drop-down menu with the names of your Google contacts. You can select a name to extract their information.

The persons mentioned in the documents are not notified. However, you can give them access to the document by clicking “Share” in the pop-up that appears on the right side of the screen when you click on their name in the document.

These smart bullets are designed to provide more context to documents, and you can also use @ mentions to insert smart bullets for files and meetings.

By typing ‘@meet’, a context menu with a list of your meetings will appear. Selecting one will pull preformatted information about that meeting, such as attendees, files, and notes.

An example of how Google Smart Canvas can pull meeting information into Docs.

Image: Google

“Supporting new ways of working has become a mandate for organizations across all regions and sectors, whether remote, hybrid, office or frontline workers,” said Vishnu Sivaji, product manager of the Google Workspace group, in a blog post published in February.

Workers are “seeking to embrace technologies that reduce the friction of people switching between countless tools and tabs to make collaboration possible,” Sivaji added.

All features are available to Google Workspace users.

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