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Google updates Docs with integrated search on Android, dictation, and advanced change tracking

Plus new templates, chart tools, and a Google Classroom update

Google's productivity suite just got a big update timed to students' return to school. Changes across Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Google's Classroom product for teachers focus on making common tasks effortless, product managers said at an event today in San Francisco. The changes, which include integrated search and voice typing for Google Docs, will begin rolling out today.

The biggest changes are coming to Google Docs, and they'll likely make your life easier whether you're a student or you've long since graduated. To start with, Google is rolling out dictation in 40 languages, building on its years of developing voice-recognition technology across its product lineup. Unlike most dictation software on the market, Google's "voice typing" doesn't require you to train it by speaking a bunch of practice sentences. You just tap and start talking, and it works on Docs for Android, iOS, and the web.

Just tap and start talking

The second big update to Docs is Android-only, at least for now: integrated search, which is available in the app's "Research" tool. Google Docs already has a research tool on the web, but searches kick you out of Docs into a new tab. The new tool opens up a split window that lets you search for text or images; when you see something you want to save, you can tap a new "insert" button and add it to your document. I assume a version of the feature will eventually come to the web and iOS, but Google declined to comment.

The final update to Docs lets you see all new changes to a document since the last time you opened it. Just click the "see new changes" button and they'll be highlighted on the page. If you're working on a document with multiple people, their changes will be highlighted in different colors; hover over the change and you'll see the name of the person who made it. Google Docs still has a full version history, but this makes it easier to quickly scan a document to see what's new.

Other updates to Google's productivity suite include a range of new templates for Docs, Sheets, and Slides; a refreshed user interface for Forms; and a new "explore" feature in Sheets that attempts to create useful charts automatically out of the data in the spreadsheet. Google is also rolling out a Chrome extension that lets teachers share web pages to every student in their classroom with a couple of clicks.