Smart Canvas to Bring New Functionality to Google Sheets

Google's new smart canvas experience will make Google Sheets more dynamic and interactive, with better project management tools, easier formulas, and new APIs.

Google’s annual I/O conference just wrapped up. As usual, there were several announcements of interest to users of Google Sheets and Tiller. 

The biggest Google Sheets news relates to the announcement of smart canvas. Google describes smart canvas as “a new product experience that delivers the next evolution of collaboration for Google Workspace.” 

“For over a decade now, we’ve been pushing documents away from being just digital pieces of paper and toward collaborative, linked content inspired by the web. Smart canvas is our next big step.”

– Erika Trautman, Director, Google Workspace

Sheets, Docs, and Slides will all feature new interactive building blocks—smart chips, templates, and checklists— that will “connect people, content, and events into one seamless experience.”

New “smart chips” will make it easier to link your Sheets to people, files, tasks, and meetings, which you can then skim and preview without changing tabs or contexts.

(If you’ve used Notion, the idea of cross-linking documents is similar, with commentators saying
“Google has just turned its workspace suite into a Notion alternative.”)

  • There will be new views in Sheets that you can toggle between to better manage and interact with your data. (Sounds like Airtable, perhaps.)
  • Google Sheets will become a more powerful project management tool with a new dynamic, interactive timeline that makes tracking tasks easier and faster. Use it for things like marketing campaigns, project milestones, schedules, and cross-team collaborations.  
sheets timeline view
  • More assisted analysis functionality will be available in the Sheets web experience. Formula suggestions will make it easier for everyone to derive insights from data.
  • Greater Sheets intelligence will also help you build and troubleshoot formulas, making data analysis faster and reducing errors.
  • Google is also planning to build additional APIs to bring information and actions from third-party tools directly into smart canvas elements like smart chips, checklists, and table templates.
  • New collaboration tools to pull content into conversations and conversations into content especially via Google Meet. Directly from Google Sheets, you can now present your Sheets content to a Google Meet call on the web. And later in 2021, Google will bring Meet directly to Sheets on the web, so people can actually see and hear each other while they’re collaborating.

Discuss!

What are your hopes for ways smart canvas and the other features mentioned above might improve your Google Sheets experience? Share your thoughts in the Community!

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Edward Shepard
Marketing Lead at Tiller. Writer. Spreadsheet nerd. Get in touch with partnership ideas at edward @ tillerhq.com.
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Notable Replies

  1. Is there a chance that the new API functionality would allow a programmatic way to trigger an update of Tiller Sheets through the Add-On? At the moment I use the Google API to grab data collected by Tiller Sheets, but if I want Tiller to update I must manually open the Tiller Money Feeds Add-On.

  2. Hey @Dataphile, great question!

    I don’t think there’s anything in there that would directly help with this. However it is a problem we’re wanting to solve and keeping an eye on possible solutions.

    Just to get a better sense of your use case – would your scenario be better served by something like a web hook that you could configure when there is new data for your accounts? Or a Zapier integration of some kind? I’ve been finding that many times people asking for this particular kind of feature would actually prefer to bypass Google Sheets altogether, so I’m curious if that applies here as well.

  3. You’ve got my use case correct. I’m using Google Sheets API, but it’s really just an interface to grab data and store it on my own server. Everything works fairly decently, except that there’s no way to programmatically trigger an update of the sheets. For instance, Capital One requires me to manually update with a texted code, and if I want the new data to update in Google Sheets, I’ve got to manually trigger an update with the Add On.

    If I could just use a web hook or get to the data through another direct interface, that would be preferable.

Continue the discussion at community.tillerhq.com

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