Mobility

How to use the new Google Explore feature

Google has rolled out a new feature that can make your life within Docs, Sheets, and Slides more efficient and productive. Here's how to use Google Explore.

explorehero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

Google is known for rolling out features for every aspect of their ecosystem. Sometimes these new features are a rousing success and sometimes a miserable failure. Other times, the new feature takes a while to gain much traction; but once it does, it winds up remaining a staple. Such will be the case for Explore. That's right, I'm calling it here: Google Explore will be one of those features you'll come to depend upon and Google will keep. It is, in a word, a winner.

What is Google Explore?

But what exactly is Google Explore? Although one might think it an overly complex tool. Is it a built-in AI that monitors what you type and responds, with related, on-the-fly content as you type? Although Explore does function, in part, like a second pair of eyes reading over your shoulder, it isn't quite that fluid. Let's take a look at how Explorer works and I'll explain.

How to use Google Explorer

When you open up a Docs, Sheets, or Slides document, you will find a small button at the bottom right of the window (Figure A). That button launches Explore.

Figure A

Figure A
Image: Jack Wallen
Launching explore is but a click away.

When you click the Explore button, the tool will open as a right pane (Figure B) and remain until you close it.

Figure B

Figure B
Image: Jack Wallen
Explore open with related content.

Theoretically speaking, Explore should open with content related to what you are typing at the time. So far I've not experienced this nearly as seamlessly as Google would have us believe. In fact, while crafting this post, I've opened Explore at various points, only to see the tool offer the same content, regardless of what I'm typing. Even if I go off topic.

Say, I mention Elementary OS Loki. Explore still insists on handing me the same related research (about Google).

The good news is Explore does allow you to do manual searches. To me, this is one of the handiest features of the tool. Instead of having to open up a separate browser tab, I can simply pop open Explore and enter my search text in the Search area at the top of the window. Hit Enter and your new search will appear (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C
Image: Jack Wallen
Even if you go off topic, Explore is there to help.

Even still, the related research does very often come in handy, even if it does tend to be a bit focused on your initial topic.

Help with Sheets

If you're a user of Google Sheets, you'll really appreciate what Explore has to offer. Open up a Google Sheets (either pre-existing or new) document, highlight some data (or add data and then highlight), and click the Explore button. The tool will then offer you information on functions, formatting, and more (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
Image: Jack Wallen
Using Explore within a Google Sheets document.

If you've ever wanted a quick means to easily format a collection of cells, Explore offers exactly that. With your cells highlighted, open up Explore and then click the option you like best under the FORMATTING section. It's that easy. Need a chart? Explore will create an on-the-fly chart based on the data you've highlighted. Click and drag the chart onto your document and you're ready to go (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E
Image: Jack Wallen
Adding a chart to your Sheets has never been this easy.

Help with slides

As for Google Slides, Explore will offer quick and easy slide layouts, based on the content of your slide. Create the first slide, open Explore, and click on the layout you like best (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F
Image: Jack Wallen
Changing the look of your slides is a click away.

Explore also offers the ability to search (web, images, and Google Docs), while you're working with Sheets and Slides.

A feature to depend on

Google has brought something seriously special to Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Since I first started using Explore, I've worked it into my daily routine, leaving it open with nearly every document I write within Google Docs. It's incredibly helpful, easy to use, and will become a tool you will depend upon.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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