Google's latest updates to Gmail, Docs, and more help you stay organized and improve productivity.
Google had a busy start to 2014: It acquired Nest Labs for $3.2 billion, launched Chromebox for meetings, and dropped Google Drive storage prices. But between its biggest headlines, Google also rolled out a handful of updates to its Google Apps productivity suite.
The Google Apps suite, which is now used by more than 5 million businesses and 50 million people, added a handful of new features and capabilities that can help you be more productive and stay organized. Its most recent updates include a library of add-ons for Docs and Sheets users, a new design for your Promotions tab in Gmail, additional Google+ controls, and new photo-editing capabilities in Google Slides and Drawings.
Here's a look at Google Apps' newest features, plus tips for how you can make the most of them.
1. Use add-ons in Docs and Sheets. In March, Google launched add-ons, new tools created by developer partners that give you more features in your documents and spreadsheets.
You'll find add-ons in the menu bar of any open document or spreadsheet. Click the tab, then select "Get add-ons." Once you install an add-on, it will become available across all of your documents and spreadsheets, and you can use it immediately.
A few add-ons you might find useful include Letter Feed Workflows, which routes your document to the right people and adds an Approve button. You can track who has approved it and publish the final version with a click. Merge by Mailchimp lets you send customized emails from Google Docs, and Avery Label Merge lets you import addresses or names from Sheets into Docs to print.
2. Test new Promotions tab in Gmail. If you like the look of Pinterest, you'll like a new a new design for the Promotions tab in Gmail that the company is testing.
"Promotional mail has a lot of images, from pictures of snazzy new shoes to photos of that rock-climbing gym you've been wanting to try," Aaron Rothman, Google project manager, wrote in a blog post. "But right now those images are buried inside your messages -- and with only subject lines to go on, it can be a challenge to quickly pick out the deals and offers that interest you most."
To sign up to participate in the field trial, visit g.co/gmailfieldtrial. If you're selected, a new grid view will display images from your deals, offers, and other marketing emails if you have the Promotions tab enabled. You can scroll infinitely in this view, and can toggle between the new view and the standard list by clicking a button at the top of the tab.
3. Control which Google+ users can email you. Google now lets users who have Gmail and Google+ accounts to email anyone who also has both accounts, even if the user doesn't know the person's email address. The company said that this change will be useful for people who know each other but haven't yet exchanged email addresses.
The new feature lets anyone send you email as long as the person follows you on Google+, which he or she can do without permission. Your email address won't be visible to the user unless you respond to the person's message.
These messages will land in one of two separate tabs within your inbox. If someone in your Google+ circles emails you, the email will appear in
Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio