Gemini Is Coming to the Side Panel of Your Google Apps (If You Pay)

If you or your company pay for Workspace, you may have noticed Google’s AI integration with apps like Docs, Sheets, and Drive. The company has been pushing Gemini in its products since their big rebrand from “Bard” back in February, and it appears that train isn’t stopping anytime soon: Starting this week, you’ll now have access to Gemini via a sidebar panel in some of Google’s most-used Workspace apps.

Google announced the change in a blog post on Monday, stating that Gemini’s new side panel would be available in Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Gmail—the latter of which the company announced in a separate post. The side panel sits to the right of the window, and can be called up at any time from the blue Gemini button when working in these apps.

Google says the side panel uses Gemini 1.5 Pro, the LLM the company rolled out back in February, equipped with a “longer context window and more advanced reasoning.” That longer context window should be helpful when asking Gemini to analyze long documents or run through large sets of data in Drive, as it allows an LLM to handle more information at once in any given request.

Now, if you’ve ever used a generative AI experience—especially one from Google—this experience probably won’t shock you: You’ll see a pretty typical welcome screen when Gemini comes up, in addition to a series of prompt suggestions for you to ask the bot. When you pull up the side panel in a Google Doc, for example, Gemini may immediately offer you a summary of the doc, then present potential prompts, such as “Refine,” “Suggest improvements,” or “Rephrase.” However, the prompt field at the bottom of the panel is always available for you to ask Gemini whatever you want.

Here are some of the uses Google envisions for Gemini in the side panel:

  • Docs: Help you write, summarize text, generate writing ideas, come up with content from other Google files

  • Slides: Create new slides, create images for slides, summarize existing presentations

  • Sheets: Follow and organize your data, create tables, run formulas, ask for help with tasks in the app

  • Drive: Summarize “one or two documents,” ask for the highlights about a project, request a detailed report based on multiple files

  • Gmail: Summarize a thread, suggest replies to an email, advice on writing an email, ask about emails in your inbox or Drive

gemini in sheets

Credit: Google

None of these features are necessarily groundbreaking (Gemini has been generally available in Workspace since February) but Google’s view is they’re now available in a convenient location as you use these apps. In fact, Google announced that Gmail for Android and iOS are also getting Gemini—just not as a side panel. But while the company is convinced that adding its generative AI to its apps will have a positive impact on the end user, I’m not quite sold. After all, this is the first big AI development from Google since the company’s catastrophic “AI Overviews” rollout. I, for one, am curious if Gemini will suggest that I respond to an email by sharing instructions on adding glue to pizza.

As companies like Google continue to add new AI features to their products, we’re seeing the weak points in real time: Do you want to trust Gemini’s summary of a presentation in Slides, or an important conversation in Gmail, when AI still makes things up and treats them like fact?

Who can try Gemini side panel in Google apps

That said, not everyone will actually see Gemini in their Workspace apps, even as Google rolls it out. As of now, Gemini’s new side panel feature is only available to companies who purchase the Business and Enterprise Gemini add-on, schools that purchase the Education and Education Premium Gemini add-on, and Google One AI Premium subscribers. If you don’t pay for Google’s top tier subscription, and your business or school doesn’t pay for Gemini, you’re not seeing Google’s AI in Gmail. Depending on who you are, that may be a good or bad thing.

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