Google updates Sheets with macro record features

The move is part of the company’s broader plan to make G Suite apps more appealing to enterprise customers.

Credit: Preston Gralla / IDG

Google has rolled out updates to Sheets, including the ability to record macros - part of the company’s plan to appeal to more business users with it G Suite cloud product portfolio. 

Macro recording provides a way to automate repetitive tasks within the G Suite spreadsheet tool, potentially saving users hours of duplicated effort.

The macro recorder lets users record actions within Sheets and then play them back without writing code. Once recorded, a macro is automatically converted into an Apps Script – a Google scripting language derived from JavaScript. This can be later edited to update the macro, rather than forcing users to re-record it completely. 

It is also possible to write custom Apps Script functions and import them as new macros, Google said. 

“We want to help companies automate work by approaching macros differently: cloud-first,” said G Suite product manager Ryan Weber in a blog post Wednesday. As Sheets Macros are built for cloud-based files, users can run the macros while others are working in a sheet without interruption.

“For example, a finance team having a budget meeting can run macros while reviewing the same spreadsheet,” Weber said. 

The Sheets update comes as Google aims to attract more business users to its productivity suite with new features and products, such as the recently launched Google Hangouts Chat. G Suite now has more than three million paying customers, though Google lags far behind its main rival, Microsoft’s Office 365, which boasts over 120 million monthly active users. 

Wayne Kurztman, research director at IDC, said that recent updates to G Suite have positioned Google as a “serious contender in the office suite and collaboration markets.” While Microsoft still “owns the market,” IDC sees Google effectively chipping at market share, “bit by bit,” he said.  

“Google’s focus on user experience and functionality improvements, such as the Sheets update, play well to both regular and power users,” Kurtzman said. “This should be a concern for Office 365, [which] has focused on the regular users first.”

Other features added to Sheets this week include the ability to add printing page breaks, custom paper sizes, and more options for row and column grouping. It is also possible to add check-boxes in cells, and to group data by time frames - such as week, month or year - in pivot tables.  

The new features build on Google’s recent enhancements to Sheets, particularly involving pivot tables. 

In December, Sheets gained new A..I and machine learning capabilities, simplifying the management of large datasets. For example, users can ask Sheets questions using natural language and receive suggestions for which type of pivot table to use. That, according to Google, should make the tool simpler to use for non-technical business users.

In related news, details emerged about Google’s planned redesign of its Gmail web interface. According to several reports Thursday, an email sent to G Suite administrators detailed a range of new features that will become available as part of an early adopter program, including the addition of the Smart Reply function (already present in the mobile version of the application); the ability to ‘snooze’ emails for hours or days; and access to other G Suite apps such as Calendar from within Gmail.

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