For decades Microsoft Word was the default go-to word processor for nearly everyone from students to professionals. And for many types of documents it’s still the best option, but in recent years there’s been a glut of contenders who want to take over as word processor king.
The two biggest competitors are Apple’s Pages and Google’s Docs. Docs is a favourite of many because of its cross-platform capabilities. It works with virtually any OS in the world because it’s not a desktop application. Rather Google Docs is solely accessible in a web browser on the desktop.
Over the years, Google Drive has become indispensable to me. I use it for everything, from logging exercise and gym visits, to planning content and producing copy. I use Sheets for expenses and budgeting and Photos for media storage and quickly accessing images from my phone on my PC and/or laptop.
The UX is a little, umm… squiffy at times, but so long as you keep it organised in folders and whatnot it’s not too much of a hassle to deal with. Once you become used to working in Drive, you never have to worry about losing anything again. Ever. It’s all there, all the time – even if your PC dies, crashes or explodes.
I like being able to access my work wherever I am, either on my phone or on a computer. It makes working remotely a lot easier, as I don’t need to worry about bringing thumb drives with me wherever I go. As long as I have a web connection, I can work in my usual, normal environment with all my usual tools and files.
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Docs – and Drive, as it is sometimes called – you might not be aware that Google actually has its own computing platform, called ChromeOS, that runs on a variety of laptops.
ChromeOS is based on Google’s Chrome browser and is a super-lightweight computer OS that runs on tons of super-cheap, but super-useful Chromebook devices.
I use the Chromebook Pixel pretty much exclusively for all my laptop needs, after years of MacBook addiction. ChromeOS is less complicated and a lot more straightforward compared to Windows of MacOS, and, as a result, isn’t quite as powerful, but for more casual users – students, writers, etc, – it is perfect.
These means it works on Mac, Windows PCs, Linux machines, and, of course, Google’s Chromebook. When Google Docs was first released it was nothing more than a bare-bones word processor. Now it’s slowly become more full-featured. Here are 20 Google Docs tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of it.
1. Use Google’s Templates
You’re not limited to blank documents. Go to Google Docs Template Gallery to find a template to work from.
2. Edit Microsoft Office Documents
Docs can open Microsoft Office docs by not edit them. You can change this by grabbing the Office Editing by Google Chrome plugin.
3. Browse the Docs Add-ons Store
There’s also a host of other Google Docs add-ons to download for free. Browse them in the Google Docs Add-ons store.
4. Email a Document
Not everyone has a Google account, but everyone can still work on a Google Doc. Just email it to them by going to File>Email as Attachment in the menu bar.
5. Insert Maps
You can easily insert a Google Map into a Doc by opening the Explore panel and then typing in an address. Then simply click the insert button to add the map to your document. Open the Explore Panel by going to Tools>Explore.
6. Insert an Image by Its Web Address
To add an image from its web address go to Insert>Image>By URL
7. Edit an Image
Once an image is inserted you can perform basic edits on it. Click the image and then click the “Image Options” button in the toolbar to bring up editing controls.
8. Adjust A Doc’s Page Setup
You can fully adjust the page setup of any Google Doc. Just go to File>Page Setup and make your changes.
9. Remove Unwanted Formatting
When you paste text from the web, you’ll usually copy its formatting information as well and insert that into a Doc. If that happens you can strip this formatting by selecting the copied text and going to Format>Clear Formatting in the menu bar.
10. Search For The Menu Item You Want
There are a ton of File menu commands in Google Docs, which makes some hard to find. But you can quickly find and activate any of them by going to Help> and then use the “Search the menus” box to find which one you are looking for.
11. Translate a Single Word
Download the Translate add-on to translate a single word in your document.
12. Edit Offline
You don’t actually need an internet connection to edit a Google doc. You can do so offline by using the Chrome browser. Log into your Google account in it and then next time you open the browser and go to Google Docs, all your documents will be available offline.
13. Manage Your Custom Dictionary
Like most word processors, Google Docs lets you add custom words to your dictionary. You can manage this custom dictionary by going to Tools>Personal Dictionary and then clicking the X by any word to remove it.
14. Download A Doc In Other File Formats
Go to File>Download As to download the Doc in any number of other document formats.
15. Add More Fonts
From the Fonts drop down box, click “More Fonts…” to see a list of all the fonts you can add.
16. Insert Images from Google Images
In the Explore box enter the type of image you want to find. When the results are displayed, just drag the image from the Explore results into your document.
17. Use Compact Mode
If you are using a smaller screen and need more space you can hide the menu bar. Go to View>Compact Controls to hide it.
18. Publicly Share A Doc With Others
You can share a Doc with anyone by just giving them the link. Click the Share button then click the Get Shareable Link button and simply copy and paste the link provided.
19. Embed a Doc on the Web
You can also embed a Google Doc on the web. To do so Go to File>Publish To The Web and then grab the embed code.
20. Write In Other Languages
By default, Docs lets you write in English, but you can change this to virtually any other language by going to File>Language and selecting the one you want.