[Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest developments and features Google has added to Apps for Work (G Suite) since this review was first written.]
- Google announced the imminent launch of a Backup and Sync app which automatically backs up files and photos from a PC onto Google Drive. The enterprise version will follow later in 2017.
- G Suite admins benefited from the introduction of automatic provisioning for six new apps: Asana, Dialpad, Freshdesk, Lucidchart, RingCentral, and Smartsheet.
- Google has extended the ability of G Suite admins to restrict certain users from creating Team Drives, and this functionality will be available indefinitely (instead of expiring in 2018).
- Gmail admins received the ability to notify internal mail senders with an informative warning when a message gets quarantined due to an issue with compliance policies.
- Google Vault was graced with a number of new features to make retrieving data a more accurate process, including detailed metadata for files exported from Google Drive.
- Google’s Jamboard, the massive collaborative digital whiteboard, went on sale in the US on May 23. You need a G Suite plan to use the 55-inch board which costs $5,000 (£4,100).
- The Quick Access feature, which attempts to intelligently highlight the files you might need before you’ve even searched for them, arrived for Google Drive on the web.
- Smart Reply – Google’s nifty system which automatically suggests quick responses to emails, in order to save you the effort – is coming to Gmail for Android and iOS.
- Google added pre-integrated single sign-on support for 9 more third-party apps, including Asana, Dialpad, Evernote Business, Expensify, Keeper, Pagerduty and Trello.
- Gmail on Android received a boost in security with the introduction of anti-phishing checks to warn users when they click on a suspicious link in a message.
- New settings were introduced in the admin console to allow for better management of users’ offline access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files.
- Google Sites was improved with the introduction of the ability to add a logo to your site, which the app will intelligently scan for colours, and offer to use them across your theme.
- For those firms that use Google+, which became part of G Suite last autumn, admins now have access to improved enterprise-focused reporting on adoption and engagement.
- Google Cloud Search is now available as an iOS app (it was already on Android). The app offers a machine intelligence-powered, unified search experience across G Suite.
- Google began the rollout of a refreshed Google Accounts login page, which has a new look and feel that’s designed to be consistent across phones, tablets and PCs.
- Gmail on the desktop has been improved so that when you receive a message with a video attachment, you’ll be able to preview the clip from right inside your inbox.
- As part of an effort to better integrate G Suite with Salesforce, Google made it possible to export a Salesforce Opportunity List View directly to Sheets in order to bulk edit data.
- Google announced that Jamboard, its giant digital whiteboard – billed as the ‘ultimate freeform collaboration experience’ for G Suite users – will be out in May costing $5,000.
- Google launched a fresh app, Meet by Google Hangouts, a videoconferencing solution for businesses that allows for video calls with up to 30 group members.
- G Suite saw the addition of the Google Keep app, an Evernote-style note-taking effort which you can now access from a sidebar panel in Google Docs.
- Google clarified that Hangouts users won’t be able to make video/audio calls in Firefox 52 due to plugins being disabled for security reasons, but it’s actively working on a solution.
- Google Drive users can now view password-protected Microsoft Office documents in Drive, in read-only form – and this works for Gmail attachments, too.
- Sheets (and its mobile apps) now supports the ability to rotate text within a cell, plus Google introduced new border styles and improved accounting number formatting.
- Google also changed Sheets on the web so users can link to specific cell ranges, so for example it’s now possible to create a linked table of contents for your spreadsheet.
- Want to insert videos directly from Google Drive into Google Slides presentations? You can now do exactly that, with a number of options to pick from such as autoplay.
- Google Cloud Search was brought to G Suite, offering bolstered search functionality across the productivity suite, and machine intelligence-powered recommendations.
- Google added enterprise-grade controls and visibility to G Suite, including improved data control with Data Loss Prevention measures, and more scope for analytics.
- It became easier to create documents and the like from templates, as the latter can now be accessed directly from Google Drive (rather than having to go into the G suite apps).
- The mobile apps for both Google Docs and Sheets got a number of new features, including the ability to insert headers/footers, plus improved manipulation of images.
- Google made it easier to create group chats for teams in Hangouts, allowing for the easy creation and naming of ‘placeholder’ group chats which can be swiftly shared.
- Basic Mobile Management was introduced to G Suite, which lets admins implement basic security on iOS devices with no need for the user to install an MDM profile.
- Google Sheets received some tuning, including a new setting to keep a limit on iterative calculations, and some interface improvements were made with the Android app.
- Gmail has been improved to make ‘bounce’ messages – the notifications users receive when an email fails to be delivered – more easily understandable and informative.
- Google bolstered the Explore feature (introduced in September) by making it dead easy to insert citations as footnotes in Docs, Sheets and Slides.
- Finally, this past month, we discovered that G Suite is only half as popular as Microsoft’s Office 365, at least according to one survey of European enterprises.
- The mobile apps for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides had a ‘trash view’ introduced whereby you can now see and restore previously deleted files.
- Google opened up applications for the Early Adopter Program for the Team Drives feature in Google Drive, a new and more robust way of sharing files between teams.
- Slides was tweaked to enable users to be able to save in the OpenDocument Presentation (ODP) file format for compatibility with the likes of LibreOffice and OpenOffice.
- G Suite has introduced custom templates for Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, so you can set up your own specifically tailored templates for colleagues to use as needed.
- The overhauled Google Sites has been rolled out to all G Suite users, boasting a refreshed design, six new themes, and the ability to track performance with Google Analytics.
- Google pushed out a new Gmail app for iOS with major changes including an improved design, better search functionality, and an ‘undo send’ option to retract email mistakes.
- It was announced that the Google Drive desktop app won’t be supported by Google for Windows XP, Vista or Server 2003 as of the start of next year, January 1, 2017.
- The voice features of Docs got a serious boost, with the introduction of new commands to format text, and do things such as inserting links and comments.
- Google teamed up with Slack so users of the team-focused messaging solution can directly import files from Google Drive, or create new documents from within Slack.
- Google also announced that those using aged versions of the Google Drive desktop app should note that support for versions 1.27 or older will be discontinued in February 2017.
- Google Docs now lets you include page numbers in the table of contents you can create for a document.
- Google introduced integrated search functionality for Gmail, Calendar, Groups, and Drive on the web, meaning that search results will be pulled from across all of these.
- Google has renamed Apps for Work as G Suite, which the company says better reflects the software's mission in terms of putting the emphasis on real-time collaboration.
- Docs, Sheets and Slides witnessed the introduction of a new Explore feature consisting of intelligent assistants that help you craft better documents.
- A new Quick Access capability was brought to Google Drive. It uses machine learning to automatically surface files it thinks you'll need next based on your usage patterns.
- Google rolled out a new offer for users of its productivity suite, with a free 60-day trial of Chrome device management which is good for up to 10 devices.
- Google Drive made searching easier with the introduction of natural language processing, meaning that you can phrase your search in everyday conversational terms.
- Google announced a partnership with Box whereby the latter will be integrated with Google Docs, allowing users to edit documents directly from Box's cloud storage.
- A new Google Hangouts Chrome extension was pushed out allowing for multiple chat windows to be incorporated into one, and making more chat content readily visible.
- Google introduced a 'Cast…' function in the main menu of Chrome, and this can be used to share the contents of a browser tab – or the whole desktop – into a Hangout session.
- Forms received a new feature which allows the insertion of images into surveys, so you can now do things like have a multiple choice question with pictures for answers.
- The Android apps for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides were improved to make it easier to create tables and better looking charts.
- A couple of security tweaks were applied to Gmail, the most important of which is that the webmail service will now issue a warning about a link if it leads to a known malware site.
- Inbox got integration with Trello and GitHub, so Trello users will receive a summary of what's new with projects, and GitHub denizens will get a summary of code changes.
- Google Drive's preview feature was improved to make viewing previews of stored files a slicker experience, with a cleaner UI and better zoom functionality.
- Google introduced a new scheme to help train employees on its productivity suite, with the system designed to act like a 'virtual coach' to help users learn when IT staff aren't around.
- Google tweaked the Admin app for Android to let delegated admins (and not just super admins) use the software to access functions while out and about.
- Google gave the Admin console some attention in terms of two-step verification, allowing admins to view the real-time status of where each user is in the 2SV enrolment process.
- Apps for Work is apparently being muscled out by Microsoft's Office 365, at least if sentiment from Redmond's Worldwide Partner Conference is on the money.
- Google launched the new Quizzes feature in the Forms app, designed to allow teachers to easily create and mark assessments for students.
- Google Springboard was announced, a search tool (currently being tested) that can be used to quickly find things across Google Apps, plus it makes proactive recommendations.
- Google Sites got revamped with a new preview version boasting a simple drag-and-drop design which is more intuitive, and support for real-time collaboration was introduced.
- A 'new and notable' section was introduced to the Google Apps Marketplace, in order to highlight the best third-party apps available to businesses.
- The Android and iOS apps for Google Docs and Sheets gained the ability to edit content in Print layout view, and to edit existing conditional formatting rules in Sheets.
- Google tweaked Docs, Sheets and Slides so notifications of comments made not only arrive via email, but you can also get a notification on your Android device or web browser.
- Google announced its new Spaces messaging app designed for small groups – but there's no news as yet on when (or indeed whether) it will come to Apps for Work.
- At Google I/O new APIs were introduced for Sheets, giving developers a "new level of access" to some of the most popular features in the app.
- New APIs were also brought to Slides allowing developers to easily push data from other third-party apps into Slides for maximum convenience.
- Google revealed that Android apps will be available for Chromebooks, and this opens up more productivity possibilities including using the Android version of Microsoft Word.
- Google integrated its BigQuery service with Google Drive, allowing users to query files directly from Drive, and save query results from the BigQuery UI directly to Google Sheets.
- Google Slides benefited from a new Q&A feature that lets audience members submit questions to the speaker directly from their mobile devices during a presentation.
- The Synergyse service was fully integrated with Google Apps, a virtual assistant that helps train users in the various apps and was previously a Chrome extension.
- Google Drive and Evernote were integrated, allowing Evernote users to seamlessly access any file on Drive.
- Google Apps for Work received two new certifications: ISO 27017 for cloud security and ISO 27018 for privacy.
- A new 'Find a Time' feature arrived in Google Calendar for Android, allowing mobile users to find convenient times for meetings when they're on the go.
- Google's scheme of providing Apps for free to medium-sized firms who want to migrate over but are locked into an Enterprise Agreement was extended until the end of 2016.
- Reminders pitched up in the web version of Google Calendar, and said reminders will sync across browsers and mobile devices.
- The Google Admin app received bolstered mobile device management capabilities, allowing for admins to handle security breaches even when they're out and about.
- Research into the most-used business apps on the web ranked Google Apps for Work in fourth place – behind Office 365, Salesforce.com and Box.
- Google launched its #maketime website, which aims to help you prioritise how you spend time during work hours, and highlight how Google Apps for Work can save you time.
- Google expanded support for its Identity Platform to cover logins for far more third-party apps in the Google Apps Marketplace, including Office 365 and Facebook at Work.
- A whole bunch of new templates were added to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
- Gmail's existing Data Loss Prevention features got a boost with the addition of OCR for scanning attachments and additional predefined content detectors.
- Google also gave Gmail the ability to flag email accounts that it deems 'insecure'.
- Google Docs was enhanced with voice typing, allowing users to dictate to their word processor, and also access editing and formatting commands.
- Google Forms gained support for add-ons and the ability to edit Apps Scripts, plus work and education-related templates were introduced to the home screen.
- The Gmail for Android app received support for rich text formatting, and an option for one-tap instant RSVPs was introduced.
- Instant comments were introduced to Google Docs, allowing users to click a simple icon to add an immediate comment to a document.
- The ability to add comments arrived in the Sheets and Slides apps for both Android and iOS.
- Google further bolstered the Sheets Android app with the ability to open and edit CSV and TSV files, along with additional files supported for import and export.
- Google Calendar for Android and iOS apps was graced with smart suggestions that pop up suggested event titles, places and people.
- Search became more powerful across Google's productivity suite, so when users search from Docs, Sheets, and Slides home screens, they get results from across all three apps.
- Google rejigged device management in the Admin console, categorising the various settings to make everything easier to find.
- Also check out our guide on how to achieve 'Inbox Zero' in Gmail (and Outlook)
Darren Allan contributed to this article