6 Google Bard improvements worth exploring

Now widely available, Bard can not only help with programming and Google Sheets functionality, but also makes it easy to transfer a response into Gmail or a Google Doc.

Photo: Andy Wolper/TechRepublic

Bard, an experimental chat system from Google, provides responses to prompts. It conveys content in traditional language, as opposed to a Google keyword search that delivers a result built around links. In addition, Bard supports a series of related prompts, and you can also talk to a colleague, which also distinguishes it from the standard search using a single thread.

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Google initially launched with a queue and a limited set of features, and it quickly iterated to expand Bard’s availability and improve Bard’s functionality, as detailed below.

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Bard is available in three languages ​​and 180 countries with Workspace accounts

As of May 2023, Bard supports three languages—American English, Japanese, and Korean—and can be accessed in more than 180 countries by people who are at least 18 years old. To use Bard, you will need to sign in to Bard with a Google account.

If you have a Google Workspace account, you can only sign in to Bard if your workspace administrator has chosen to allow early access apps (Figure A). The terms and privacy agreements for early access apps differ from the standard workspace, so some administrators may choose not to allow use of Bard.

Figure A

A Google Workspace administrator may allow access to Bard to people in their organization by enabling both early access apps and basic data access permissions in the Admin console.

In many cases, the administrator will want to log into the Workspace Admin console, then select Applications | Additional Google Services | early access apps. There, they can set the setting to On and check the box to allow basic data access permissions. Once these two changes are made, people in the organization can sign in and try out Bard with their Google Workspace account.

Send Bard responses to Gmail or Docs

Google makes it easy to move a Bard reply into a new email or document. Select the Export response button, which appears as an upward-pointing arrow above the line, and then choose either Export to Docs or Gmail Draft (Figure b).

Figure b

To further use the Bard response, select the up arrow button, and choose either Export to Docs or Draft in Gmail.

In the first case, the system uses your prompt as the title of the new Google Doc and places the response in the document, while in the second case, the prompt becomes the subject of the email, with the response in the body of the email. After selecting either of the two options, you can choose to directly open the respective document or email draft.

Try Bard for programming or Google Sheets functionality

In late April 2023, Google announced that Bard had added the ability to build, explain, and help debug in several programming languages, including C++, Go, Java, JavaScript, Python, C, C#, R, Swift, Kotlin, and PHP, Bash, Perl, Ruby, Lua, and Rust. In addition, Bard can help generate HTML, CSS, and SQL.

People who use Google Sheets may turn to Bard for help writing jobs. For example, you might ask Bard:

Could you provide me with a Google Sheets formula to determine the day of the week from a date entered?

Bard provides the functionality you need with a detailed explanation (Figure c).

Figure c

Bard can not only help with programming, but also help devise the functionality of Google Sheets.

Switch the dark and light Bard theme

People who prefer a darker view can switch to that with a tap in the lower left corner of the screen, as indicated by the oval in the lower left of the screen. Figure d.

Figure d

Select the Google it button to reveal some related topics. Next, select one to open a new Google search with the chosen terms. Separately, you can switch between dark and light themes in Bard, as shown at the bottom left.

While this may seem like a relatively simple option to offer, keep in mind that Google Docs on the web has not yet introduced dark mode support. The fact that Google quickly added a dark theme to Bard may indicate just how focused the company is on making sure Bard appeals to programmers.

Switch to “Google it”

You always have the option to select the Google it button after receiving Bard’s response, as described in Figure d. The Google it option takes your most recent prompt, paraphrases it for search, and then returns one or more topic options related to your search. Choose any of those, and the system opens to a new Google search results page for the selected keywords.

Compare responses with viewing other drafts

Some responses offer the option to view other drafts, selectable in the upper right corner of the response. Normally, the system allows you to choose between three options, as described in Figure e: the response was initially submitted along with two others.

Figure e

The View Other Drafts option now endeavors to provide drafts in a variety of formats, while the Rebuild Drafts button triggers the system to generate a different response to your prompt.

Drafts may vary in form, content and structure. Google has modified the feature to provide more variety among drafts. In addition, the Recreate Drafts button appears to the right of the drafts, as indicated by the rectangle in Figure e. When you rebuild drafts, Bard creates a new response and a new set of drafts for the prompt.

Thanks to the mid-May 2023 update, some drafts cite sources via links at the bottom of the response. These links make it easy to verify that the web pages from which the draft data was generated contain content that you trust. However, not every draft response includes these source links.

Remind me or message me on Mastodon (awolber) to let me know how you use Bard!

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