Ahead of Google I/O 2016, Google has launched a new product that's meant to help people in a group share things more easily.

Called Spaces, the new product is launching as both a mobile app and desktop app for all Gmail accounts. The idea is that people in a group often have to use multiple apps when sharing content (because they often have to copy and paste links, find and share articles, browse and post videos and images, etc), but Spaces makes it so you can do all that within one app, allowing people to instantly share stuff around any topic.

Here's everything you need to know about Spaces, including how to use it and why you should try it.

Spaces is a new app that lets Gmail account users get together in a group via an invite, then instantly start conversations around any topic, and share things like links, articles, videos, images, and more. The best part is you never have to leave the app to find links, articles, videos, and images. That's because Google has built in core services such as Google Search, Chrome, and YouTube.

There's also plenty of features within Spaces that streamline the process of communicating with several people in a group. When someone shares something new, for instance, a conversational view lets you see what the entire group is talking about at that moment, and if you want to find something that was shared earlier, you can conduct a quick search in Spaces to pull it up.

Spaces is rolling out now on Android, iOS, desktop, and mobile web for all Gmail accounts.

Mobile app

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(Note: We've been using the iOS app; the Android app might have minor differences.)

  • Download and open Spaces for iOS or Android. It's free.
  • Upon opening Spaces for the first time, you will need to select/sign into your Gmail account (you might already be signed in).
  • You will then see a screen that lets you create a space. Tap Create a Space to start a topic about anything.
  • You will be brought to a screen with your space. Tap the Untitled Space area and enter a name for your space.
  • Once done, tap the Invite Via link below your space name to invite other people to join your newly-created space.
  • While on the screen for your new space, you can tap the Post button at the bottom to make your first post.
  • While on the Post screen, you will see four buttons at the bottom: link (Google Search), video (YouTube), image (your camera roll), quote (write a post). Choose from any of these options in order to compose and share a post to your space. 
  • Make sure to tap the Post button to actually share something.
  • Once you share a post, you can tap on the post in your space to see it in a conversational view and maybe say something about it, or you can tap the [...] symbol above it while on the Space screen to delete the post.
  • While on the Conversational view screen, you'll notice five buttons at the bottom: quote (write a comment), link (Google Search) image (your camera roll), camera (take a picture or video), sticker (post a sticker). Choose from any of these options in order to contribute again to your space. 
  • If someone has contributed to any of the spaces you've joined or created, you will receive a notification in the Activity center, which you can access from the main menu bar (at the bottom of most screens in the app).
  • You will also see a Spaces option in the main menu bar. Tap this option to see a collection of all the spaces you've joined or created. From there, tap on any space to open it. You can even create a new space from this screen.
  • To search your spaces, tap Spaces in the main menu bar. Your Spaces hub will appear, with a search field at the top. Enter a keyword or phrase to begin searching all your spaces.
  • To access Settings, tap the three-dot symbol at the top right of Spaces hub.
  • To manage which Gmail account you're using with Spaces, tap your profile picture from any screen, such as the Spaces hub.

Web app

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(Note: We've been using the desktop web app in Chrome; the mobile web app might have minor differences.)

  • Open https://spaces.google.com in your browser (desktop or mobile).
  • Upon opening Spaces on the web for the first time, you will need to select/sign into your Gmail account.
  • You will then see a main screen that lets you create a space. Click Create a Space to start a topic about anything.
  • You will be brought to a screen that lets you create a space. Click the Untitled Space area and enter a name for your space.
  • Once done, click the Invite Via link below your space name to invite other people to join your newly-created space.
  • You will then see a Post area with three buttons: link (add a link; can access Chrome extensions too), image (your camera roll), quote (write a post). Choose from any of these options in order to compose and share a post to your newly-created space.
  • Make sure to click the Post button to actually share something in your space. Everything you share and everything that other people share will appear in a conversational view below the Post area.
  • To see a collection of all the spaces you've joined or created, click the Spaces button in the top menu bar.
  • To search your spaces, click Spaces in the top menu bar. Your Spaces hub will appear, with a search field at the top. Enter a keyword or phrase to begin searching all your spaces.
  • If someone has contributed to any of the spaces you've joined or created, you will receive a notification in the Activity center, which you can access from the main screen (click Spaces in the top menu bar). The Activity Center will appear on the right-hand side of your Spaces hub.
  • The slide-out menu on the left also has links to your Spaces hub, Spaces built-in search function, Settings, and app downloads.

Google already has products that allow people to collaborate, including every productivity app it offers (such as Docs). But each of those productivity apps are focused on letting people share specific things. Docs, for instance, is about letting people create, share, and contribute text and links. Spreadsheets is about letting people create, share, and contribute stats and numbers, etc.

Spaces is unique because it lets people create a topic/space about anything. Call it whatever you want. Add whatever you want. You can drop in an image, or you can take a video in real-time. You can even conduct a Google search, then copy a link, and paste it. You're not limited to inputing text in a document or numbers in a cell. It's your space to do with what you want.