The complete guide to using Google Docs.
Since its initial release in 2006, Google Docs—or “GDocs” to the marginally hipper crowd, *wink*—has had its stake at the hearts of content creators, marketers, and professionals alike.
There are many companies using Google Docs to create different documents, from contracts, writing pieces, and more. More than 5 million businesses use G Suite, the overarching suite of office tools that GDocs falls under. Though a far cry from Microsoft Office 365, the Google app favorite is indisputably ubiquitous.
Regardless if you’re meant to use it for work or for personal document creation, it pays to know how to make the most out of Google Docs.
In our ultimate guide, we’re breaking down just about everything you need to know about how to use Google Docs: from setup, tips-and-tricks, and important features.
What is Google Docs?
Google Docs is a word processor. But it’s unique in that it exists and functions entirely on the cloud via GSuite. It’s worth noting that Google does support offline usage via Google Docs’ offline feature, but the app itself doesn’t work as a standalone desktop app like, say, Microsoft Word.
Google Docs is part of a suite of office tools called G Suite, which also comes with other tools such as Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Drive, Google Tasks, Gmail, and others.
Getting Started: Setting up your Google Docs
Being a part of Google’s arsenal, Google Docs is unsurprisingly free. Anyone who has a Google Account will have automatic access to Docs. Just go to docs.google.com or follow this link to get to the Google Docs login.
If you don’t have a Google Account just yet, it’s easy to create one. Making a Google Account is completely free and will give you access to some of Google’s other tools, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, and so on.
Go to their sign-up page and create your account if you haven’t.
Accessing Google Docs can be done in a number of ways. The most common, perhaps, is thru their website, docs.google.com. But if you’re on the go and would like to work on documents using your mobile phone, you’ll be happy to know that Google Docs have apps for both Android and iOS. The Google Docs apps work very well on either platform.
Once you’ve done all of that, you’re set. You can start creating documents and collaborate with your team.
How to Use Google Docs: 5 features you need to know about
There’s a long list of benefits and advantage to using Google Docs. Many of it boils down to the features that Google has baked into the app.
Here’s a list of 5 Google Docs features that we think you need to know about.
Real-time editing and collaboration
One of Google Docs’ biggest pulls for me is how it makes collaboration so easy. Each document can be shared across everyone or select individuals in your team. What’s more, there are a bunch of other collaboration tools such as the app’s famously helpful “Suggestion Mode”—perfect for editorial teams.
Explore tab for easy research
After years of using Google Docs, I’ve found that the Explore tab is one of its greatest features. The ability to fact-check a line or a quote natively from within the word processor is a tremendous convenience. It also acts as a built-in library and thesaurus.
Extensive revision history
A revision history comes in handy when you need to revert to a previous version of a document. It’s also particularly useful for tracking edits, changes, and more.
Google Fonts support
Google Fonts is an expansive collection of web fonts. Being part of Google, Google Docs enjoys support for a huge selection of Google Fonts, plus a few non-Google Fonts to help you customize the type of your document.
You can add Google Fonts to the default ones that come out of Google Docs out of the box. You can do so by going to Fonts > Add more…
As previously mentioned, Google Docs works even without internet. Simply fire up Chrome and go to docs.google.com and you can start creating or editing documents. It’s important to remember, however, that changes you make to the document won’t be saved until you’ve reconnected to the internet.
A running list of the best Google Docs tips and tricks that make document creation easier
Google Docs is a robust, feature-rich software on its own. But many users don’t get the most out of it by overlooking some of its more obscure features and quirks.
On this part of the guide, we’re listing some of the more common tips and tricks you need to know about Google Docs.
How to use voice typing on Google Docs
Want to use voice typing instead of actually typing? Go to Tools > Voice Typing…, speak through your microphone, and Google will transcribe your speech.
Google does a pretty decent job transcribing spoken word in a lot of the times we’ve tested.
How to add a Table of Contents in Google Docs
To add a Table of Contents to your document, simply go to Insert > Table of Contents, and choose the format of your ToC.
How to add Google Sheets spreadsheets to Google Docs
A lot of people will simply copy-paste tables from Google Sheets to their document, but there’s a cleaner way to do it. Go to Insert > Chart > From Sheets…, and select the pre-made Google Sheet you want to add to the document.
How to clear text formatting on Google Docs
Clearing text formatting on Google Docs is easy. Simply go to Format > Clear Formatting…
How to add images to Google Docs via URL or clipboard
Don’t want to save an image and insert via Image Upload? You can add images to Google Docs using the Image URL. To do so, you need to go to Insert > Image > By URL.
Alternatively, you can just copy the image to the clipboard and paste it to the document (Ctrl+V).
How to extract images from Google Docs
Unlike Microsoft Word, Google Docs doesn’t allow you to extract and save images from a document. Luckily, there are a bunch of workarounds. We wrote about them in this article: “Download Images from Google Docs: 3 Quick and Easy Ways”.
How embed a Google Docs file anywhere on the web
You can embed a Google Docs file by heading over to File > Publish to the Web…, from which you’ll select Embed. Copy the embed code and paste it to an HTML editor like you would other embeddable content.
How to extend Google Docs’ functionality through add-ons
Google Docs allows developers to make add-ons that extend Google Docs’ features. To get access to these, you need to go to Add-Ons > Get Add-Ons…
How to use Google Docs faster (and more efficiently) using keyboard shortcuts
Want to become a Google Docs grandmaster? There are quite a few keyboard shortcuts to master.
Here are some of our favorites.
|Paste without formatting||Ctrl + Shift + v|
|Insert or edit link||Ctrl + k|
|Open link||Alt + Enter|
|Show common keyboard shortcuts||Ctrl + /|
|Find and replace||Ctrl + h|
|Clear text formatting||Ctrl + \
Ctrl + Space
|Apply normal text style||Ctrl + Alt + 0|
|Apply heading style [1-6]||Ctrl + Alt + [1-6]|
|Left align||Ctrl + Shift + l|
|Center align||Ctrl + Shift + e|
|Right align||Ctrl + Shift + r|
|Move paragraph up/down||Alt + Shift + Up/down arrow|
Click here for a full list of Google Docs keyboard shortcuts.