It’s now easier to create charts from data stored in Google Sheets, thanks to a new feature added Thursday. Users can open up the Explore tab and type in the sort of chart they want, and the software will produce it for them. For example, typing “bar chart of revenue and profit” is supposed to generate exactly that.
The feature uses machine learning to parse a user’s text input and translate that into a chart. It’s designed to make it faster for people to create visuals based on their data, without requiring them to wade through a set of menus using trial and error in order to get the right result.
That builds on Google’s existing investments in using machine intelligence to simplify the creation and analysis of data in its spreadsheet software. The company launched the Explore tab in Sheets in 2015, which automatically generated charts for users based on the content of a spreadsheet.
Google is locked in a battle with Microsoft over which tech titan will provide productivity software to modern workers, and these intelligent capabilities can help the company compete. In addition, Sheets gained some capabilities that are aimed directly at addressing the needs of legacy Excel users.
Users can now set their own custom keyboard shortcuts for particular functions, so that they can use the same keybindings they’re used to from Excel. Google also updated Sheets’ printing functionality, so that users have more control over how a spreadsheet looks on paper.
Sheets’ chart editing capabilities got an upgrade, too. Users can select custom colors for their diagrams, add multiple trendlines, and create 3D charts. Users who have iPhones and iPads can also edit charts on their mobile devices, something that wasn’t previously possible.
Google’s spreadsheet software also now supports syncing data in tables between Sheets, Docs, and Slides. Users can copy data from a spreadsheet and paste it into a document or presentation, then click the update button to get the latest version of the information. That feature builds on support for live-updating charts that Google added last year.