Billions of emails are sent out daily, with many being sent to and from Gmail accounts. To make the activity a bit faster (and smarter), Google developed Smart Compose. The feature, which is available in Gmail, can be used for quick replies.
Suggested words are displayed in a light gray font when you start typing a response to a message. On a desktop computer, you can press the Tab key to accept the suggestion. It might not be exactly what you want to say, but predictions are close. Google knows what you want to say, as Gmail is scanning your emails as you write them.
On the Gmail app for mobile phones, you tap and hold on the Space bar and swipe your finger to insert the text. This function is now being rolled out for Google Docs, but it comes with a warning.
Here’s the backstory
In case you are not aware, Google Docs is the company’s online office suite that consists of a word processor, spreadsheets and a design application. The Smart Reply function is now being incorporated into Google Docs, but it comes with a few caveats.
This first is that it can’t be used to tab your way through an entire document. The technology is pretty accurate, but it won’t help you compose an annual report or a company statement. Rather, the canned response is to be used in the comments window only.
When a document is sent off for review or feedback, recipients can leave comments on the document. The Smart Reply function will only be incorporated into this section so that you can quickly reply to any feedback.
What makes Smart Reply invasive
Like email in Google’s platform, the Smart Reply function uses machine-learning and AI to scan what is being written. So, if it isn’t immediately clear, Google keeps track of everything written in the comments.
It must do this so that it can suggest replies. As for why the function is being introduced into Google Docs, it isn’t quite known. Typing a response to a comment shouldn’t take more than a few seconds, at most.
In the announcement, Google said that it “saves you time replying to comments” and that you can do so “quickly and with confidence.”
How to turn off Smart Reply
Luckily you don’t have to use the function if you don’t want to. Whether typing a response to a benign question or working on sensitive material, you perhaps don’t want Google peering over your shoulder.
The function is turned on by default, so you’ll have to turn it off manually. Here’s how:
Open any document in Google Docs, and click Tools in the menu bar at the top. Click on Preferences, and in the General tab, untick Show Smart Reply suggestions and then click OK.
If you don’t have the option yet, it will be rolled out to all Google Docs’ users within two weeks.