Discover more from The Shortcut
Google Docs, Gmail and Drive are getting AI-powered features that will make your life easier
Google Docs and Gmail's new generative AI features are impressively powerful
Google is rolling out a bunch of AI-powered features across its online apps, starting with Gmail and Google Docs.
The tools include new ways of generating text, such as drafting and replying to email chains, or brainstorming and writing essays.
A new generative text system for Gmail and Docs will let you type in a topic, subject or article, and watch the AI instantly generate a draft. A demo gif shows a user asking Google Docs to create a “Job post for a regional sales rep”, as it spawns an example post complete with a job description, list of responsibilities and preferred qualifications. Google says it’s handy for quickly whipping up text like job descriptions and invitations.
An additional feature will let you rewrite and expand on existing text, or adjust writing to better fit a designated tone or style. Another demo gif shows the AI turning three bullet points into a fully-fledged email, and appears to show that users can select between formalizing, shortening, elaborating, or bullet-pointing content, as well as generating a full draft of prose.
In a blog post, Google said it will roll out the features to “trusted testers” for Docs and Gmail throughout the year before eventually opening them up to the public. The full list of tools coming are:
Draft, reply, summarize, and prioritize your Gmail
Brainstorm, proofread, write, and rewrite in Docs
Bring your creative vision to life with auto-generated images, audio, and video in Slides
Go from raw data to insights and analysis via auto-completion, formula generation, and contextual categorization in Sheets
Generate new backgrounds and capture notes in Meet
Enable workflows for getting things done in Chat
These generative tools are just the latest to come out of the expanding AI race that’s engulfed Silicon Valley. Microsoft recently announced a suite of AI tools for Teams and an AI-powered version of Bing, while other tech companies ranging from YouTube to Snapchat have scrambled to integrate the burgeoning tech into their services.
Google has already revealed its plans to overhaul its internet search engine with generative AI, but basic AI tools powered by machine learning have been available in Gmail and Google Docs for years. Doc’s existing Smart Compose feature makes sentence and phrase suggestions when you’re writing, while Gmail’s Smart Compose tool suggests pithy, single-sentence responses to your inbox, letting you respond at the press of a button
The new tools announced here are more powerful and robust, capable of generating entire texts and suggesting full emails from limited inputs. Just how effective they’ll be, however, is still up in the air. Google’s ChatGPT rival fluffed its first performance with a factual blunder, and Microsoft’s Bing alternative similarly stumbled out of the gate.
I imagine the AI tech will have to improve tremendously before people trust it to write personal emails and professional messages.
The Shortcut is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.