Google documents also referred to as Google Docs can be used either as personal or business. With personal Google docs, you can write, edit, and collaborate wherever you are. For Free. While with business along with the basic features of being able to write, edit, and collaborate wherever you are all for free, the Google Docs you love with added security and control for teams.
This is a suite of Microsoft Office-like products that allows for simple collaborative work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Although the interface and features are reminiscent of the familiar MS Office, it has both unique benefits and certain drawbacks.
Overall, it is a great way to share, collaborate, and build simple documents and spreadsheets but it does not include many of the advanced features of the MS Office suite.
Google Docs brings your documents to life with smart editing and styling tools to help you easily format text and paragraphs. Choose from hundreds of fonts, add links, images, and drawings. The most interesting part of all these is that they are ‘’All for free’’.
It is very easy to setup as you can easily choose from a wide variety of resumes, reports, and other pre-made documents — all designed to make your work that much better, and your life that much easier.
It is also easily accessible as you can access, create, and edit your documents wherever you go either from your phone, tablet, or computer even when there’s no connection as google docs offline also works very well.
With google docs, everyone can work together in the same document at the same time which makes it very flexible and interesting.
You never have to hit “save” again because all your changes are automatically saved as you type. You can even use revision history to see old versions of the same document, sorted by date and who made the change.
With Google Drive, you can easily access all your documents from any computer or mobile device where you’ve signed into your Google Account. That makes working entirely in the cloud an enticing possibility.
You can drop what you’re doing on your work PC and pick it up later at home, or make quick changes on your phone. As long as you have an internet connection, it’s super convenient. The rub comes when you lose your connection.
Definition of Google Documents (Google Docs)
According to Wikipedia, Google Docs is a word processor included as part of a free, web-based Google Docs suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. Google Docs is available as a web application; mobile app for Android, iOS, Windows, BlackBerry; and as a desktop application on Google’s Chrome OS.
The app is compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The application allows users to create, view and edit files online while collaborating with other users in real-time.
Edits are tracked by user with a revision history presenting changes. An editor’s position is highlighted with an editor-specific color and cursor. A permissions system regulates what users can do.
Updates have introduced features using machine learning, including “Explore”, offering search results based on the contents of a document, and “Action items”, allowing users to assign tasks to other users.
Google Documents Supported Files
Supported file formats
Files in the following formats can be viewed and converted to their Docs format:
For documents: .doc (if newer than Microsoft Office 95), .docx, .docm .dot, .dotx, .dotm, .html, plain text (.txt), .rtf, .odt
Limits to insertable file sizes, overall document length and size are listed below:
Up to 1.02 million characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size. Document files converted to .gdoc, Docs format cannot be larger than 50 MB. Images inserted cannot be larger than 50 MB, and must be in either .jpg, .png, or non-animated .gif formats.
Google Docs and the Google Docs Editors suite are free of charge for use by individuals, but are also available as part of Google’s business-centered Google Workspace, enabling additional business-focused functionality on payment of a monthly subscription.
It is a word processing for teams as with Google docs, you and your team mates can achieve the following:
- Create and edit text documents right in your browser—no dedicated software required. Multiple people can work at the same time, and every change is saved automatically.
- Work in a single document with teammates or people outside your company. See edits as others type, communicate through built-in chat and ask questions through including comments.
- Import your documents to make them instantly editable, including Microsoft® Word and PDF files. Export your work in .docx, .pdf, .odt, .rtf, .txt or .html format.
- Track changes made to your documents and undo anything you choose. Previous versions are kept indefinitely and they don’t count toward your storage.
- and many more
Read Also: Google Sheets: Complete Beginners Guide
Google Documents Features
Collaboration and revision history
Google docs app and the other apps in the Google Drive suite serve as a collaborative tool for cooperative editing of documents in real-time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users simultaneously and users are able to see character-by-character changes as other collaborators make edits. Changes are automatically saved to Google’s servers, and a revision history is automatically kept so past edits may be viewed and reverted to.
An editor’s current position is represented with an editor-specific colour / cursor, so if another editor happens to be viewing that part of the document they can see edits as they occur.
A sidebar chat functionality allows collaborators to discuss edits. The revision history allows users to see the additions made to a document, with each author distinguished by colour.
Only adjacent revisions can be compared, and users cannot control how frequently revisions are saved. Files can be exported to a user’s local computer in a variety of formats (ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Office Open XML). Files can be tagged and archived for organizational purposes.
In March 2014, Google introduced add-ons; new tools from third-party developers that add more features for Google Docs. In order to view and edit documents offline on a computer, users need to be using the Google Chrome web browser. A Chrome extension Google Docs Offline’, allows users to enable offline support for Docs files on the Google Drive website. The Android and iOS apps natively support offline editing.
In June 2014, Google introduced “Suggested edits” in Google Docs; as part of the “commenting access” permission, participants can come up with suggestions for edits that the author can accept or reject, in contrast to full editing ability.
In October 2016, Google announced “Action items” for Docs. If a user writes phrases such as “Ryan to follow up on the keynote script”, the service will intelligently assign that action to “Ryan”.
Google states this will make it easier for other collaborators to see which person is responsible for what task. When a user visits Google Drive, Docs, Sheets or Slides, any files with tasks assigned to them will be highlighted with a badge.
A basic research tool was introduced in 2012, later expanded into “Explore”,launched in September 2016, enabling additional functionality through machine learning.
In Google Docs, Explore shows relevant Google search results based on information in the document, simplifying information gathering. Users can also mark specific document text, press Explore and see search results based on the marked text only.
In December 2016, Google introduced a quick citations feature to Google Docs. The quick citation tool allows users to “insert citations as footnotes with the click of a button” on the web through the Explore feature introduced in September. The citation feature also marked the launch of the Explore functionalities in G Suite for Education accounts.
How to Create New Google Documents Files
Google Drive gives you access to a suite of tools that allows you to create and edit a variety of files, including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. There are five types of files you can create on Google Drive:
- Documents: For composing letters, flyers, essays, and other text-based files (similar to Microsoft Word documents)
- Spreadsheets: For storing and organizing information (similar to Microsoft Excel workbooks)
- Presentations: For creating slideshows (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations)
- Forms: For collecting and organizing data
- Drawings: For creating simple vector graphics or diagrams
The process for creating new files is the same for all file types.
How to use Google Docs
Google Docs is an online word processor that lets you create and format documents and work with other people.
Step 1: Create a document
To create a new document:
- On your computer, open the Docs home screen at docs.google.com.
- In the top left, under “Start a new document,” click New.
You can also create new documents from the URL docs.google.com/create.
Step 2: Edit and format
To edit a document:
- On your computer, open a document in Google Docs.
- To select a word, double-click it or use your cursor to select the text you want to change.
- Start editing.
- To undo or redo an action, at the top, click Undo or Redo .
Note: To edit a document on a touchscreen device, like a Pixel Book, double-tap the document to start typing.
You can add and edit text, paragraphs, spacing, and more in a document.
Step 3: Share & work with others
You can share files and folders with people and choose whether they can view, edit, or comment on them.
Now let us try to compare Google Docs with Microsoft and try to determine which is better and more beneficial to its users below:
Meanwhile before we dig into the difference between the two further, let me say that there is some confusion between Google Docs vs. Google Drive. Google Docs is a bunch of apps (similar to Microsoft Office) that interact with the online storage system, Google Drive.
Google launched Drive back in 2012 to offer an alternative to other shared document systems such as Microsoft 365. Signing up to a free Google account is all you need to do to use Google Drive storage and a robust suite of office-based apps. It’s that easy. So, unless you’ve got a valid reason to line Bill Gates pockets, use Google Docs…. Smiles
Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word
Let’s not forget about Microsoft Word, however. Microsoft Word been around longer than Google Docs and remains exceptionally popular today. Millions of individual users and companies still pay big money to use Word. So, how do Google Docs and Word compare?
For one, Google Docs is free with a Google account. Microsoft Word must be purchased as part of a Microsoft Office package, which includes other Microsoft products such as PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook.
The Home and Business packages run from $69.99 (for an individual user at home) up to $150 (for an individual user at work) for an annual membership. Google Docs, on the other hand, allows you to collaborate with any number of people, anywhere in the world, for free.
Another differentiating factor is that, with Google Docs, all of your work is saved to the Cloud. That means you won’t lose your 20-page report … even if your laptop croaks. (Whew!) With Microsoft Word, your documents live on your computer; your coworkers can’t check them out unless you save and share them via email or the like.
Whether you choose Google Docs or Microsoft Word, it’s not difficult to sync the two. You can create a new Google Doc by simply uploading an existing Word file. Here’s how.
Open your Google Drive and click New.
Tap File upload to access the files saved on your computer.
Choose your Word file from your computer and click Open. This will upload your file to your Google Drive. Once uploaded, double-click it to open. Once open, click Google Docs from the drop-down menu at the top.
Voila! That’s how you convert a Word doc to a Google Docs file. Now, let’s dig a bit deeper on how to use Google Docs.Collaborating in Google Docs
There are a plethora of tips and tricks that users can take advantage of while using Google Docs — whether working as an individual or with a team.
Google Docs allows multiple people to work, collaborate, and edit within a single document in real-time through any web browser. Here’s how.
Sharing Your Google Doc
Individuals can share their document with as many people as they want, as well as edit their permissions to limit what they can do.
To get started sharing, click File > Share.
There are four sharing options — the one you pick is totally your choice.
1. Create a shareable link.
The simplest way to share a Google Docs page is to generate a shareable link. This allows anyone to click a unique URL and view your document.
After clicking Share, tap the Get Shareable Link button in the top right corner.
Select a sharing permission for your document.
After defining permissions, press Copy link.
The URL will then be copied to your clipboard for you to send to anyone who wishes to view the document.
2. Share via email address.
You also have the option to share your document with an email address. This will send an invite to that person’s inbox, and add the document to their Google account.
To do this, head back to the sharing box.
Enter the email address of the person you’d like to share your document with and select an option from the drop-down to edit their permissions.
If you add a note to this invite, it will be displayed in the email invitation.
3. Choose the advanced sharing options.
Head back to your sharing box and hit Advanced.
Here, you can see all sharing settings — including who has access to your document, their permission settings, and the option to invite more people or remove others.
4. Make your document editable by anyone.
Want to grant anyone permission to edit the contents of your document? Hit File > Share to get your shareable link.
In the drop-down menu displayed, click More…
After that, choose On — Anyone with the link and set the permissions in the bottom drop-down menu.
As this option clearly states, anyone with your unique URL will be able to make changes, edit, and even delete your document … so be careful about who you’re sharing it with.
Using Google Docs Shortcut Keys
There are a number of shortcut keys to help increase your productivity while working in Google Docs. Review the following chart to learn some of the most popular shortcuts.
|actions||mac shortcuts||pc shortcuts|
|Copy||⌘ + c||Ctrl + c|
|Paste||⌘ + v||Ctrl + v|
|Cut||⌘ + x||Ctrl + x|
|Paste without formatting||⌘ + Shift + v||Ctrl + Shift + v|
|Undo||⌘ + z||Ctrl + z|
|Redo||⌘ + Shift + z||Ctrl + Shift + z|
|Insert/edit link||⌘ + k||Ctrl + k|
|Open link||Option + Enter||Alt + Enter|
|Show common keyboard shortcuts||⌘ + /||Ctrl + /|
|Save (Google Drive automatically saves to Drive)||⌘ + s||Ctrl + s|
|⌘ + p||Ctrl + p|
|Open||⌘ + o||Ctrl + o|
|Find||⌘ + f||Ctrl + f|
|Insert page break||⌘ + Enter||Ctrl + Enter|
|Hide menus (compact mode)||Ctrl + Shift + f||Ctrl + Shift + f|
For a complete list of Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, and iPad shortcut keys, check out this page.
Creating and Writing in Google Docs
Which Google Docs features will help you and your team create powerful documents, no matter your location? Here are some options for you to try.
- Work Offline
- Voice Typing
- Google Docs App
A bonus to using Google Docs is that you’re able to edit, save, and create documents through your web browser even when you’re not connected to the internet. This might come in handy if you need to get some work done while traveling. The changes you make are still saved and will sync when you go back online.
But, this isn’t an automatic feature. You’ll need to set-up offline connections in your account.
To do this, visit the Google Docs homepage and locate the menu button on the left-hand side.
Then press Settings.
A pop-up box will then be visible on your screen. To set up offline editing, toggle the Offline button to On. (This should turn the button blue, rather than gray.)
Your browser will then adjust to offline editing and you’ll see the following icon when editing your document without internet.
Voice technology is a growing industry, and Google has been at the forefront of this trend. You can speed up your writing process by using voice typing in Google Docs.
To use the feature, begin by checking your device settings to confirm that your microphone works.
Then head to Tools > Voice Typing. You’ll see a microphone icon.
Click it and start speaking. Google will convert your spoken words into text, which you’ll see appear on the page.
Google Docs App
With the Google Docs app, users can continue to edit, share, collaborate in real-time, add images, and create content all while on-the-go.
The free app even works offline once you’ve turned on that setting — the same way you did on your laptop or desktop — and it automatically saves your work to the Cloud.
Have you ever been writing about a topic and stopped to think, “Wow, I could use a suggestion or two on how to improve my piece.”
Google Docs has you covered.
The Explore feature — found by clicking Tools > Explore — Google Docs will scan the content you provide and suggest information that you could add to your piece.
These suggestions might include details you may have forgotten, images to enhance your piece, or possible research that you could include to back your points and claims.
Formatting Your Document in Google Docs
Google Docs empowers you to create a document that works for you and the content you’re creating. Whether it’s the page orientation, images, or page numbers, these tips will help you format your document any way you want.
- Changing page margins
- Changing page orientation
- Adding a text box
- Adding page numbers
- Creating a hanging indent
- Inserting an image
- Creating a table of contents
Changing Page Margins
If you’re looking to make the most of the blank space in your document or format your document for printing, you might need to change the margins.
Before doing this, you’ll need to make sure the ruler is visible above your document.
Simply head to View > Show Ruler.
You should see a ruler below the formatting bar in your document.
Then, to change the margins of your page, locate the small blue button on the left-hand side of the ruler and slide the button to alter your left margin.
To change your right margin in Google Docs, repeat this process using the blue button on the right side of your ruler.
If you need strict margins in your document, click File > Page Setup.
You’ll then see the following pop-up box where you can change the margins.
If you need the same margins in every document you create, save time and hit Set as Default. This will automatically copy your margin set-up to all new documents.
Changing Page Orientation to Landscape
Looking to change the orientation of your document? Head to File > Page Setup.
Then, select Landscape under Orientation.
If you want all of your documents to have the same orientation, press Set as Default.
Adding a Text Box
Text boxes are a great option if you’re looking to add an extra visual element to your document. They allow you to position additional text anywhere on your page without altering the format of your existing document.
In Google Docs, text boxes are classified as drawings. You can insert one by clicking Insert > Drawing.
This will open the Drawing feature. Next, press Text Box.
Drag your cursor into the drawing space to create a box that fits your requirements
Once your box has been created, it’s time to enter your text.
You can change the font, color, and alignment of the text in your box by using the navigation bar in the pop-up window.
Happy with your text box? Hit Save & Close to insert it into your document.
From here, treat your text box as an image. Select the image to change the alignment or move the box around your document for ideal placement.
Adding Page Numbers
Page numbers make your document easy to navigate and allow for better organization when printed — you’ll avoid asking yourself, “Does this page go here … or there?”
Add page numbers to your document by clicking Insert > Header > Page Number. Then choose the option of your choice.
Creating a Hanging Indent
Hanging indents are indents that automatically change the margin of a paragraph without interrupting the format used elsewhere on your page.
Here’s an example:
To add a hanging indent in Google Docs, make sure your ruler is visible by pressing View > Show Ruler.
Then, head back to your main document and highlight the text you want to format.
Add a hanging indent by locating the ruler above your document and sliding the blue arrows to your specification.
Slide the arrow on the left side to alter the left indent, and the arrow on the right side to change the right indent.
Inserting an Image
To add an image to your document, simply put your cursor wherever you want to insert the image.
Scroll up to the top of the page and click Insert > Image.
Choose the image location — there are multiple options that include your computer, the web, Google Drive, or by URL.
Select your image, click Open, and voila! Your image should appear.
For more on this process, check out this page.
Creating a Table of Contents
If you’re writing a presentation or whitepaper, a table of contents is a great way to display each section you’re creating and the page number that it can be found on.
You can insert a table of contents in your Google Doc by ensuring all subheadings are formatted with a heading tag. To do this, highlight your subheading and press the appropriate tag in your formatting bar.
As a general rule of thumb, the Heading 1 tag should be your main title. Heading 2 tags should be subheadings, and Heading 3 tags should be sections below a subheading.
Now you’re ready to create a table of contents. Hold your cursor where you’d like to insert it and click Insert > Table of contents to choose an option based on your preference.
Editing Your Document in Google Docs
Google Docs offers a variety of editing features to ensure your work reaches full potential.
- Tracking changes
- Adding comments
- Finding word count
- Running spell check
- Adding a strikethrough
If you’re working with another person on your document, you can ask them to track their changes and edits. This will show you who made the edits, when they made those edits, and what the text was prior to their edits.
You can track changes in Google Docs by changing Editing to Suggesting in the top right-hand corner of the page.
Then, when someone edits your document, any changes will show up in a different color, with a box on the right-hand side to show their name, photo, and editing details.
You can then browse the tracked changes and accept or reject them as necessary.
With Google Docs, you and your team can leave comments in any document for each other to view. These are often used as reminders to come back to a specific section, leave more detailed revision ideas, or add URLs to other sites and images for reference.
To do this highlight the word, sentence, or paragraph you want to comment on and click the Add Comment button (the text box with the plus sign inside).
You can then write a comment — or paste a URL — in the comment box. Click Comment when you are ready to post your box.
To edit the information in the box, click the three dots on the right and select Edit. You can also thread comments beneath the original comment by typing in the Reply box.
To get rid of a comment box you can either delete it or resolve the comment. Click the three dots on the right and select Delete to delete the box. Click Resolve in the top right of the box when the issue has been resolved and you no longer need the comment.
If you are looking for more in-depth information on adding and resolving comments in Google Docs, look at this page.
Finding Word Count
Have you ever struggled while writing a paper, report, or blog post because of a required word count that you were trying to reach?
Although reaching a required word count may not always be easy, Google Docs makes the count itself simple.
Once you’re in your document, click Tools > Word Count. (You can also use the shortcut ⌘ + Shift + c.)
Google will then display the total number of words (along with the total number of pages, characters, and characters excluding spaces).
To count the words within a specific sentence, paragraph, or page, highlight the text you want to include and follow the same steps above.
Running Spell Check
It’s not uncommon even for professional writers to make an occasional spelling mistake. Google Docs can help all writers with this dilemma.
Run a spell check to locate and correct any errors you may have missed. Think of it as your personal proofreader or editor.
To run a spell check in Google Docs, click Tools > Spelling > Spell check.
Google Docs will then scan your entire document for misspelled words and grammatical errors. You’ll be given the choice to accept or ignore Google’s suggestion.
If you find that you’re frequently using a word that Google doesn’t recognize, you can add it to your dictionary. This will prevent Google Docs from highlighting the word in future spell checks.
Adding a Strikethrough
In Google Docs you can add a strikethrough by highlighting the text you want to strike and clicking Format > Strikethrough.
Using Google Docs Add-Ons
You can add third-party tools, or add-ons, to your documents. These add-ons contain unique features to help you improve your work in various ways.
You can find these add-ons by clicking Add-ons > Get add-ons…
Here are a few popular add-ons you may find helpful.
Writing a document that needs supporting data? Install Google Keep to your browser to collect notes, case studies, and references you’re planning to cite. Then, use the add-on to pull them in as needed. You can also edit the notes you’ve saved with Google Keep.
Consistent branding is important, but that can be tricky when you’re using unique fonts. The Extensis Fonts add-on imports thousands of fonts from the Google Fonts library into your document to enhance your piece’s overall aesthetic.
Need a translator? Install the Translate add-on to easily translate your content into another language.
The Lucidchart add-on allows you to add unique diagrams to your document that are easy to design and edit. It’s perfect for anyone working with data or looking for a fun way to display information.
Language Tool makes proofreading easy in over 20 languages. You won’t have to wonder about your spelling or grammar anymore. This add-on catches errors and mistakes no matter the language.
EasyBib is an automatic bibliography generator with over 7,000+ style options, including MLA, APA, and, Harvard-style.
Using Google Sheets and Google Forms with Google Docs
With Google Docs, it’s easy to integrate with other useful tools such as Google Sheets and Google Forms. If you create a spreadsheet or chart in Google Sheets, you can insert that information directly into Google Docs.
With Google Forms, you can create surveys that are automatically saved to your Google Drive for easy access and review from Google Docs.
Google Sheets is a great option for anyone who needs to build any type of chart, list, plan, or spreadsheet. It is a spreadsheet generator — similar to Excel — and it’s free.
Once you’ve opened Google Sheets and created your chart, you can easily insert it into your document.
Do this by heading up to the toolbar and clicking Insert > Chart > From Sheets. You should be able to view and select the chart you want to add to your document.
You and your team can collaborate and select a template from Google’s gallery — or create a unique template from scratch to style it to your taste.
Additionally, all of your Google Forms documents and responses are automatically saved to your Google Drive so you can easily access them while in your Google Docs page.
To do this, click on the Apps icon when you open Google Docs. Scroll down to Forms to find the form or survey you want to open.
One last feature to note is that the people responding to your form or survey can do so on any type of device, making Google Forms a convenient option for everyone.
Using Google Docs also has its own limitations as discussed below but the good part is that the benefits outweighs its limitations.
Limitations of Using Google Docs
Printing from Google Docs is not straight-forward like it is in Office. You can download your doc in various formats (Word, PDF, etc) and then print it from your local computer, or use the web browser’s standard “print” command (although this results in extra stuff in the header/footer regions of your document).
Complex formatting features are best left to MS Office products, but Google Docs does allow for headers, footers, various font sizes, about 18 different fonts, sub and super-script, and standard page/paragraph indent and layout options. You can insert images and hyperlinks as well. Don’t even bother trying to generate envelopes or mailing labels with Google Docs, it’s just not worth the trouble.
Standard right-click features most Windows users are accustomed to don’t really function in Google Docs. Instead, you must use tool-bar commands like “Edit, Copy” and “Edit, Paste” or press “CTRL-C” to copy and “CTRL-V” to paste text.
(4) File Formats
In order to edit documents in Google Docs, they must be in special Google Docs formats. If you upload an MS Word document with lots of formatting…it’s unpredictable what may happen, it may not even be legible! If you want to upload existing documents and then edit them, you’ll need to have Google convert them upon upload.
This may remove custom layout, font, and formatting from the document. You can re-convert these files back to Word or Excel when you download them, but they won’t really look the same as your original.
If you’re not on-line, your out of luck. This is a web-based set of applications and you need a live connection to the Internet to view, modify, save, or print files that reside in Google Docs. Download files in WORD format to work on them locally, then upload them when you have an Internet connection to once again allow access to others.