Google Docs has a lot going for it as an office or writing tool, and we imagine the Research sidebar, which appears to have recently launched on the suite, will help bolster its popularity. After selecting Tools > Research or using a shortcut, Docs will bring up a sidebar, letting you either type in a term or right-click one in the document to research it. It's a bit more than a glorified search bar, though. Snippets of the web results can be added to the document itself, images can be dragged and dropped, and the tool will automatically generate citations to credit whatever you've used. You can even limit the image search to Creative Commons-licensed free results.

In the short term, this will probably lead to some terrible grade-school research papers, since the results aren't all that easy to sort (although you can limit them to quotes, images, or web pages.) In the long term, it's a reminder of everything we'd still like to see integrated into Google Docs. We're sure many students and researchers, for example, would welcome an integrated citation manager in the style of Zotero or a dedicated Books or Scholar toolbar. Academics have had mixed reactions to Google's forays into the ivory tower, but making its archival systems easier to use would be a win for almost everyone.