Google is making big changes to Workspace, the enterprise-grade productivity service that unlocks advanced features in Sheets, Calendar, and other apps. Formerly known as G-Suite, Workspace is now free for anyone with a Gmail account and will soon feature Slack or Microsoft Teams-like tools in its Chat and Meet software.
Most of Workspace’s features are collaborative, allowing you to @-mention users in your documents and present Docs, Sheets, or Slides in your Meet video calls. Other Workspace features, like AI Smart Suggestions, make filling out Calendar events or emails a lot less painful.
But Google isn’t just opening Workspace for free users; it’s also adding deep integration between its productivity tools and Google Chat (formerly known as Hangouts). Rooms in Chat, now called Spaces, can sit in a dedicated column while you work on documents and spreadsheets, allowing you to talk with coworkers while collaborating. Custom statuses, pinned messages, and “expressive reactions” are also coming to Chat.
These new Chat features sound like the Smart Canvas experience that Google talked about at I/O a few weeks ago. To that end, Google says that Meet will gain the Companion feature it teased at I/O for in-meeting polls, hand raising, and other participatory tools. New moderation tools and Calendar RSVP controls are also coming to Meet, along with advanced file protection settings for Drive.
Free users who want to unlock Workspace features can do so by enabling Chat. Google says that advanced Chat integration will arrive later this year, though Meet’s new features are live now.