Google Docs is getting a subtle but significant update to how it handles link previews for URL addresses inserted in a document. Summarily, Google appears to be rolling out a test that removes the ability to see the full URL of an inserted link on-click. Instead, clicking a link now shows the title of the page that's been linked to. Underneath that, the domain URL is shown. A snippet of any text on the page is displayed below that.
The feature appears to be undergoing testing in an unspecified G Suite channel, based on recent reports. So it isn't going to be available to every user. On the new card, icons labeled for copying the link, editing the link, and removing the link are included.
That change is only seen in the web version of the app, with no word about it being added to the mobile app for now.
What about the wider audience?
The ability to preview links directly in Google Docs is a step away from the relatively sparse interface users have access to now. Chiefly, that's because the current interface really only shows the first part of any given URL — the domain. While users are able to click on a link and then on an icon to edit their link via a clean card-like UI, this change takes that much further.
That means the word processing tool will align more readily with other modern alternatives users have access to but it may be more useful on one platform in particular. Chromebooks and other Chrome OS gadgets rely on Google Docs more heavily than other operating systems. The tool is included out-of-the-box. At least at the surface in the web iteration, it's very nearly on par with Microsoft Word.
Despite being cloud-based, Docs does still lag behind other apps and software in some areas though. Adding link previews would set Google's option ahead in some regards.
The feature would give users a clearer view of what pages are without leaving Docs. So nobody would need to open potentially dozens of new pages or tabs just to double-check those links anymore. It would be similarly beneficial to those who receive Google Docs documents containing multiple links.
As noted above, the feature is still limited to those who have specific G Suite subscriptions. That won't likely remain the case for long, given Google's drive to bring consistency across services. There's nothing about link previews that will serve business users any more than it will the average user.
What exactly do Docs link previews have to do with Chrome M77?
Perhaps because Google Docs is web-based, the company appears to be making this change in order to bring the app's features in line with other changes it's making to the Chrome browser. The new iteration of link previews is not dissimilar to how tab previews work with the rollout of Chrome version M77.
Prior to the update, those previews are effectively put forward as rollover-hints. So they basically show a page title on a tiny, shadowed card. With Chrome M77, Google is altering that so that they show a larger, card-style UI. Instead of just informing users of the page title, the new cards also preview the domain name of the tabbed site.
As shown in recent reports on the topic, that preview doesn't show a thumbnail of the current page load. But Google will add those visual previews in a future update.
Now, there's no guarantee Google is changing Docs specifically to fall in line with other Chrome changes. If it is, however, that could mean that a future iteration of Docs will also have full site preview thumbnails. That would make its newest word processor feature even handier when it comes to quickly determining what's behind a link.