Google Docs is a popular alternative to Microsoft Word. With a range of collaboration features, the word processor stands as a good choice for professional and personal use.
Despite this, Google Docs can appear to be a bit complex for new users. This may be due to the range of tools and options that can be found in the word processor.
To make your overall editing experience a bit better, we offer some tips on how to get the most from Google Docs.
Here are 18 Google Docs tips everyone should know…
You might also want to check out our list of
useful add-ons for Google Docs.
Use Google without changing windows
Google has added its search engine capabilities into Google Docs itself, so you can add in search research into your work without even leaving your current window.
Doc’s ‘explore’ tool is located in the greater Explore tab or by clicking Ctrl-Alt-Shift-I or Cmd-Alt-Shift-I, for Apple users.
You’ll be able to add in Google images, search results and relevant documents to you work with relative ease.
Add an e-signature
E-signatures are great for adding that personal touch to multiple documents. They save you printing out docs, physically signing them, scanning them back to the PC and then emailing them out.
To create one, follow these steps:
Go to the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Drawing’, and then the ‘Scribble’ option. From there you can draw your signature.
Manage repeated text
Let’s say you’re a project manager who frequently writes “needs more explanation” in draft project docs. To save time, go to Tools, Preferences from inside a text document in Google Docs. In the pop-up window that appears, under ‘automatic substitution’, type nme below the ‘replace’ heading and needs more explanation below the ‘with’ heading. Next, click OK.
Back in your document, type nme and press the spacebar: You should see “needs more explanation” appear automatically.
If it doesn’t work, go back to Tools, Preferences to make sure that ‘Automatic substitution’ is checked. Try to choose substitutions that are short and use unique letter combinations, so that Google Docs won’t mistakenly overwrite a desired word with a substitution.
Claim more real estate
To give you more space onscreen, go to View, Full Screen or press Ctrl-Shift-F from inside a document. This feature reduces the menu-bar size for text documents, drawings, spreadsheets, and presentations.
Keep in mind that you must set this preference for every separate document type. So if you set compact controls in text documents, for instance, your spreadsheets will not use this layout until you also set it in the spreadsheet editor.
If you want even more space, try viewing your documents in full screen. This setting does not expand into your full display size, but it does take over your entire browser tab and hide all of your Google Docs menus and toolbars.
If you’re writing a pretty lengthy document, you might want to split it up into sections to make it easier to read or collaborate on.
Bookmarking sections will create a sidebar of contents which are essentially hyperlinks to certain parts of your document.
Go to Insert then Bookmark to create a bookmark and then insert the link when prompted.
View plain text files
If you prefer to use plain desktop text editors such as Emacs, Gedit, Notepad, or Vim, you may find that files created in those apps won’t display in Google Docs.
Before you upload a plain text file to Google Docs, right-click the file and select rename, and then add the .txt filename extension to the end. Now you’ll have no problem reading your document in Google Docs.
Speech type a document
Google has rolled out speech typing for Google Docs enabling users to write and edit text with simple voice commands. For example, users can say ‘highlight [word]’ and then express ‘delete’ to remove said word.
To use this feature, go to ‘tools’ then ‘voice typing’.
If you are collaborating with lots of people on a Google doc, you can make a comment on the document and tag a certain person. This will mean that they will receive an email notification and they can respond from there.
Go to comments, then put an ‘+’ symbol and type in their email address and add your comment.
Create a personal dictionary
If you use a lot of jargon that you don’t want to picked up as spelling mistakes, you can create your own personal dictionary.
Go to tools, then personal dictionary. You can easily add words from there.
Use Search (it is Google after all)
It is so easy to create, receive and share a document that I lose track. But this is Google and you don’t need file and folder discipline to keep a tidy house. Head to Docs, sign in and search for what you are looking for. Google Docs will find it, whether the search term is in the document or the file itself, regardless of what type of Google Doc you are looking for.
Turn off notifications
To stop email notifications, open the offending document, click the comments drop-down menu at the upper right of the screen, and select notification settings.
In the pop-up window, select don’t send me any email notifications for this doc (not recommended). If a global opt-out is too extreme for you, several filters are available. You could, for example, choose to be notified only when you are mentioned in a comment, or when someone replies to something you commented on. Once you have the settings you want, click OK.
In Google Docs there are more contextual menu options than meets the eye. When in a document, hold down Alt and hit the / key, and you will see a ‘Search the menus’ option. Look for pretty much any feature you have used in another word-processing app, and you will likely find it here.
Open Google Docs in different tabs
By default, Google Docs opens each of your documents as soon as you click them (obviously), but you can change its behaviour so that it opens docs in a new tab. Ideal if you’re working on lots of things at one time.
Click the three dots on the right of the document, this will open a drop down menu. Click ‘open in new tab’.
Find out who changed an item
Google Docs allows you to see who made which changes on any collaborative document, with as much or as little detail as you need.
To get started, click file, see version history. A sidebar will open on the right side, detailing all of the recent document changes. Every person who edited the document appears in the sidebar, with a corresponding colour.
Changes from different editors are highlighted in their assigned colour. If you want to see additional detail, such as cell-by-cell revisions in a spreadsheet, click the Show more detailed revisions button at the bottom of the sidebar. To restore your document to a previous version, find the version you want in the history and then click Restore this revision under the editor’s name. If you want to see document revisions without the color highlighting, uncheck the Show changes box at the bottom of the sidebar. To exit revision history without making any changes, click the X at the top of the sidebar.
Quickly insert images
In Google Docs you can insert almost any image into a new text document just by dragging and dropping the file from your desktop into your document (as long as you are using a recent version of a major browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari).
Avoid the Internet
Google Docs does now offer offline creation and editing for all users. There is a setting for ‘enable offline syncing’ where users can download files onto their devices and edit them offline. When an internet connection is re-established, Docs will automatically sync and update these files.
On the Docs homepage, click the left menu option which is displayed as three horizontal lines, then choose settings and ‘turn on’ offline syncing. This will open a new window and you can choose enable offline syncing from there.