Action Items in Google Docs

Google Docs now supports Action Items, a specialized sort of comment that is indicated by an @mention and leads to various new use cases.

Here’s an example where I am adding a comment to a line in the doc, and I typed @stoweboyd:

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I then checked the ‘Assign to Stowe Boyd’ option. Afterward, a few other interesting properties appear, like a link to the comment, and the option to edit or delete the comment.

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It’s great to have a link to the comment, so that it can be externally linked, for example, in an email, another doc, or an external task management system.

There’s a number of additional features in Docs to support the management of assignments. Docs that have assignments reveal that at the folder list view with a new circle icon showing the number of assignments:

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Note also this new search filter is built into search:

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When assignments are made, the assignee receives an email with the assignment info, with buttons for replying to the comment and for opening the doc and comment:

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It would have been helpful if the Google developers had included the link back to the comment as text in the email, as well.

I’ve looked at IFTTT.com and Zapier, and there does not seem to be a way to capture the creation of an assignment and direct the information to another tool, like Asana or the like. For the present, these assignments will have to be managed within Drive/Docs or as email. I suppose I could redirect the emails via a Gmail filter to other applications — like Todoist — but for the present I will simply filter in Gmail to track them.

Nonetheless, a very significant increase in utility for Google Docs with the addition of assignment use cases, and which make Google a better work processing tool than its competitors. I suspect the others — Quip, Notion.io, Nuclino — will hustle to catch up.

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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