News & Analysis

Google Eyes Productivity Business Pie, Makes Google Sheets Smarter

Make no mistake! Google has set its sights on cornering a larger share of the office productivity business that Microsoft has lorded over for more than a quarter of a century. Having attempted it successfully with Gmail, Google today announced a couple of smart updates to Google Sheets. 

In other news, the company also announced that its much-talked about AirDrop killer app that is known by the rather unimaginative name of “Nearby Sharing” (yikes!) is getting on the beta level and has actually become available to select users. 

Google Sheet Gets Smarter

The updates, based on what most of us have already experienced as “Smart Compose”, would make it easier for users to create complex spreadsheets as well as analysing them. The most interesting bit is the “Smart Fill” feature that automatically seeks to autocomplete data. Google says that this feature would become available in 2020 itself. 

Explaining the announcement, Google says, “Imagine you have a column full of names, but you want to split it into two columns, such as first and last names. As you start typing first names into a column, Sheets will automatically detect a pattern, generate the corresponding formula, and then autocomplete the rest of the column for you.” Smart work, eh? 

Of course, most of us who grew our analytics skills using Microsoft Excel would recall that it had brought some machine-learning based features too. These can automatically add new columns based on its ability to detect patterns of names of states or cities within a state etc. Microsoft now boasts more than 100 such data types while Google doesn’t tell us how many it has. 

However, unlike Microsoft which auto-fills columns, Google allows users to have a handle on the formula that it automatically builds while understanding the pattern. This provides it with more flexibility and maneuverability that is a prerequisite for data massaging in analytics.   

Another feature that got added on today, but is slated for a later release beyond 2020, is the “Smart Cleanup”.  As the name suggests, this helps clean up data by finding duplicate rows or even formatting issues. Upon finding such glitches, it would highlight them and suggest changes that users can accept or move over. 

Nearby Sharing Goes Beta

While the Google Sheets announcements were coming thick and fast, so were leaks around what Android fans referred to as the AirDrop killer. Google is finally making its “Nearby Sharing” app official though it is still some way away from a formal launch. For now, we’re told that they are rolling it out for beta testing on some Android devices. 

Apple had launched AirDrop eight years ago, after initially releasing it in 2011. The service in both Apple’s iOS and macOS operating systems enabled the transfer of files among supported computers and iPhones and iPads without the use of an email or a mass storage device. The device found favour with users of Apple products as sending an image or a file was far easier. 

Android users have been making a hue and cry about having a similar feature on their phones and other devices. Finally Google has confirmed that the beta testing is on though the test field would be very small. It says the service would run on Android 6 and other platforms that includes Windows, Mac and the Chrome OS. This information was shared by Android Police, which said they were conducting a beta test and would share more inputs soon. So, watch this space folks and we will bring you more inputs about the AirDrop killer, if there is one.  

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