Smart Compose, the experimental autocomplete feature in the new Gmail on the web that Google announced at its I/O conference last week, is now available for testing.
Smart Compose is an AI tool that promises to automatically finish your sentences for you, using what it has learned about how people typically write. Based on my experience so far, it’s not quite as good as Google’s demo made us believe it was, but it’s still quite useful and will likely save you a few keystrokes as you go about your day.
You’ll have to enable “Experimental Access” in the new Gmail settings to be considered for this first test. I did so last week and the new feature is now live in my account.
I admit that I always feel a bit empty inside when I use Smart Reply, the somewhat more limited version of this feature in the mobile Gmail app that provides you with a few potential two or three-word replies. And I always wonder if the person on the other end knows I was too lazy to write a real answer. But it also makes me feel more productive because I end up answering more emails. It’s a trade-off that Smart Reply is currently winning. My guess is, the same will happen with Smart Compose.
For now, though, Smart Compose is still quite limited (and only works in English). When it works, it’s almost magical, and the suggestion is almost always spot on. But it only works for rather trite sentences so far. If you go off the script, you could write paragraph after paragraph without ever seeing the prompt.
It’ll happily autocomplete any cliché and write “Hi [name],” at the top of your email, which I guess is something, but that doesn’t feel especially intelligent. We’re still looking at an experimental feature, though, and these tools tend to get better as they learn more about how users behave.