Five new productivity tools for Google Apps

The constant evolution of Google Apps means there’s never a shortage of updates to its suite of productivity tools.

The last month was no exception, either: Among its many tweaks and new components are five updates that stand out from the rest.

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From pivot tables that help you decipher your data to an easier way to manage your calendar, check out these five features you may have missed that keep you organized and productive.

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1. Gmail’s People Widget

Gmail’s new People Widget does a few things to help keep you organized. First, it aggregates contextual information about your contacts that is already available to you, but might be hard to find.

For example, the new widget–which is rolling out to everyone over the next few weeks–displays a contact’s latest Buzz update, most recent emails to you, their calendar and availability and recent shared documents.

The People Widget also provides quick ways to contact the person, displaying buttons under the contact’s information to chat, email or talk with them, as well as buttons to start a group chat session and schedule meetings.

2. Pivot Tables in Google Spreadsheets

Pivot tables let you summarize large quantities of data according to factors that you specify in order to get high-level insights on what your data means. For example, retail chains may have thousands of data points that represent purchases. Pivot tables are an ideal way for managers to view the total annual revenue for each region without having to enter multiple formulas.

To create a pivot table, open a Google Spreadsheet that contains your data. Select all the data, then choose Data from the toolbar. Scroll to “Pivot table report” and select the rows and columns to analyze, as well as the values. Your pivot table will appear, and can be reorganized by moving sections within the Report Editor up or down.

3. Appointment Slots in Google Calendar

Finding a preferred meeting time can be a hassle as many execs’ schedules are constantly changing. One new update to Google Apps, called “Appointment Slots,” aims to make scheduling a little easier.

Appointment Slots lets you set and share with others times during the day when you are available. To start, create blocks of time you’d like to offer as appointment slots. Click anywhere on your calendar, then on “Appointment slots.” From there, create a single block of time or automatically split a larger block into smaller appointment slots.

Every Google Calendar has its own personal appointments sign-up page, which you can either embed on your Web site or direct friends and clients to via a URL. You can find this URL at the top of the set-up page, which you can access via the “Edit details” link.

4. Pasting Images into Gmail

About a year ago, Google announced an easier way to upload attachments to an email–by simply dragging it from your computer and dropping it into Gmail. Google has once again refined this feature, now letting you paste images straight from your clipboard, too.

Right now, this feature is only available if you’re using the latest version of Google Chrome, but Google says it hopes to enable it on other browsers soon. So, if you need to send along a screenshot to colleagues or family members, for example, copy the image on your screen and paste it right into the body of your email.

5. Google Docs for Android

Since many people regularly email and browse from their smartphones, Google has extended its mobile capabilities to its Docs suite, letting users access, edit and share content on the go.

The new app lets you filter and search for your content across any Google account, then edit docs using the online mobile editors. You can also share items with contacts on your phone from within the app as well.

Among the app’s other capabilities: uploading content from your phone (such as a photo), opening documents directly from Gmail, and adding widgets to your home screen to quickly access starred documents, take a photo to upload or create a new document.

Lastly, the Google Docs for Android app lets you use your phone’s camera to turn photos with text into editable Google docs with its optical character recognition (OCR) feature. You can access this by selecting “Document from Photo” or clicking the camera icon from the widget. Your converted document will appear in your documents list shortly after you take the picture.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at

Topics: Internet, Cloud computing, Software as a service

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