In Gmail and Docs, Google Workspace uses a pencil icon with a star in the top left to indicate its generative AI capabilities. (The pencil or pen itself is a common symbol, already used by various FABs today, such as Gmail’s Compose.)
Gmail (mobile): FAB above the keyboard in the bottom right corner. The sheet that slides up is titled Help Me Write and contains Formalize, Elaborate, Condense, Bulleted Lists, I Feel Happy, and Write a Draft. While composing an email, the Gen-AI icon remains in the upper left corner with the selected function displayed next to it.
Google Docs (desktop): A circular Help me write button with an icon. Tap to display a full-width text box in which you can enter your prompt.
Beside the symbol, more interestingly, a bluish purple hue is used throughout. In the Google Docs example, it’s a button background and an expanded text box. When the text is generated, it will first appear in that color before turning to black. Similarly, the blue “Create” button will change to “Create…” with a flashing background when in action. This was also true for Gmail for Android.
“The New Era of AI and Google Workspace” has more examples of this, but the user interface shown here is probably not as complete as he’s Gmail or Docs. The text loading effect is a bit whimsical and an interesting tint while hiding that the generative AI takes literally a second to work.
I have previously argued that “Google Assistant” should be the company’s trademark for AI features that users manually invoke. At the initial launch, Google will simply associate generative AI capabilities directly with each product, rather than offering to add individual his AI products/services to his Gmail, Docs, etc. Microsoft is going in the opposite direction. After being rebranded as “Microsoft 365” last year, the Office suite adds “Copilot” (the company’s brand previously used in conjunction with his GitHub) to Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Outlook, and Teams. . It’s like putting an “AI” sticker on a figurative software box.
Until now, Google has avoided this flashy approach with its Workspace product. Features like Smart Reply and Compose are independent, even if they exist in Gmail, Docs, and Chat. It’s fitting that Google explicitly names products after their main features rather than imagining brands.
It remains to be seen which strategy will prevail (i.e. attract more users) for generative AI in productivity apps. Microsoft wants to promote and revitalize the (already widely used) tool. By its very nature, naming something means knowing what people should call it and giving it credit. Or blame the user. Google, on the other hand, has taken a timeless approach, viewing the addition of Gen AI tools as a useful continuation of the product’s iterations. In this sense, generative AI, once common and ubiquitous, has the potential to be an evolution rather than a revolution in the long history of computing.