Innovation

Machine learning comes to Google Sheets, boosting data visualization for users

Google Sheets, the G Suite competitor to Microsoft Excel, is getting a machine learning upgrade that will help users make better use of their business data.

On Thursday, Google announced in a blog post that its Google Sheets spreadsheet application would be getting a machine learning upgrade, allowing users to more easily and quickly visualize and share their data. The new features could also help users find useful insights in their data, making it more valuable to the business in the process.

The recently-added Explore in Sheets will see the most changes. Users can ask questions in natural, conversational language to perform data analysis and gain insights. In the blog post, one example given was to ask: "What are average sales on Sundays?"

Explore will also be the tool through which uses perform data visualization, the post said, allowing them to build charts and graphs with a natural language request. This lessens the manual work required for chart-building, the post said, as users can simply type "bar chart for ice cream sales" in Explore, for example.

SEE: 10 tips for getting the most out of Google's G Suite apps

The new visualization features will work well with the data syncing among G Suite apps that Google introduced last year. As noted in the post, G Suite users can instantly sync charts, graphs, and tables from Sheets to other apps like Docs or Slides. Tables will also now be easier to update among apps, the post said, because users will be able to simply copy and paste the data and click update to sync.

Google also introduced a host of other updates to Sheets as well. Default keyboard shortcuts can now be changed to better fit what a user is used to, and a new preview interface will allow users to look at Sheet data more closely and alter some of the formatting before printing, the post said.

A new sidebar, also introduced via the blog post, simplifies the chart editing experience as well. In addition to making it easier to create and customize charts, new chart types will also be made available, the post said. Finally, Google also unveiled a few new spreadsheet functions to help users get more out of their data sets as well.

The Sheets update is the latest move Google has made to utilize its experience with machine learning to make its apps more enterprise-friendly. Google also announced its use of machine learning in Gmail to improve security.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google Sheets is getting new machine learning features that will make it easier for users to instantly visualize their data using natural language.
  2. Google also improved data syncing between apps, making it easier to automatically update charts and tables in apps like Slides and Docs.
  3. Sheets also received new keyboard shortcuts, a new print interface, a new graph editor, and a set of new spreadsheet functions.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Pixtum

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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