Google Docs: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide 
New to Google Docs? Want to get away from Office 365? No problem, we got your covered with this extensive guide to Google Docs for beginners…
What is Google Docs?
Google Docs is a word processor like Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages. But unlike Word or Pages, Google Docs is completely free to use – all you need is a Gmail account to start using it on your phone, tablet, and PC/Mac as part of Google Drive.
If you have a Gmail account, you already have a Google Docs login – all you have to do is download the app, in this context, Google Drive, and you can start using it. Docs and Drive runs on all platforms too – from iOS and Android, to macOS, Windows, and Linux.
Google Docs runs in the cloud, so while you download an app on your phone, you can run the entire platform via your browser too. All of your data and documents are automatically synced and saved, so you can start an idea on your phone while traveling on the train and then pick up where you left off on your PC when you get home.
And because Google Docs is part of Google Drive, you can collaborate with other users on documents. All you need to do is add them or share the document via Gmail. The other user will then be able to collaborate in real-time on the document with you as well as make changes.
This is one of the main reasons why loads of businesses have switched over to Google Workspace, formally known as G-Suite.
Getting Started With Google Docs
Like all the best things in life, Google Docs is completely free. All you need to use it is a Gmail account. If you have a Gmail account, guess what: you already gave Google Docs – it lives inside Google Drive.
If you don’t want or need all of Google Drive’s additional applications on your phone or computer, you can just download Google Docs – here’s the link for that.
Google Docs is available for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows, as well as Linux. Basically, Google has made its word processor available to all on every possible modern computing platform, so it is incredibly easy to get up and running.
And the best thing about Google Docs is that, because it works in the cloud, it takes up very little computing power compared to native applications like Word and Pages.
If you have an old computer, for instance, and RAM and CPU power are lacking, Google Docs will run much more smoothly – via your browser – than a dedicated, CPU-hogging application like Microsoft’s Word.
Google Docs is also browser-agnostic too; it will run in Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, and DuckDuckGo – just navigate to Google Docs, log in and you can start working or pick up where you left off in your browser.
How To Install Google Docs On Your Phone, Tablet & Computer
If you’re using Google Docs on your phone, there is a dedicated application available for both Android and iPhone. Simply go to the Google Play Store or the App Store and download it.
You will need a Gmail to sign-in, however, and if you don’t have one of them, you can grab one for free here.
Once you have the app downloaded, simply open up Google Docs and hit the + icon to start a new document.
Make sure you give the document a name, though, as this will make finding it later easier. No one wants to end up with hundreds of Untitled Documents in their Google Drive. Trust me, it gets annoying.
If you’re on your PC and/or Mac, you can run Google Docs in your browser. Just click here to access Google Docs.
Once you’re signed in, all of your work and previous Google Docs will appear. You can also download Google Drive for Mac and Windows too, if you’d prefer to manage things natively on your desktop computer or laptop.
If you use the Chrome browser, the best thing to do is just set a Bookmark for Google Docs. That way, you’ll have quick and easy access to Google Docs without having to type Google Docs into Google and then go through the process of signing in.
To set a Bookmark in Chrome for Google Docs, simply open Google Docs and hit COMMAND+ D on Mac and on Windows just hit Ctr + D.
How To Create A Google Doc
If you’re using Google Docs on your computer, phone, or tablet, opening up a new Google Doc is exactly the same. In the bottom right corner, you’ll see a + icon inside a circular button. Click this to create a brand new Google Docs document.
Once you’ve done this, you can then name the document. To do this, click where it says UNTITLED DOCUMENT, and then add in a name for the document.
How To Save Google Docs Files
You don’t really need to worry about saving your work in Google Docs, so long as you’re connected to the internet, Google will automatically save all of your work every time there is a change made.
This means, you can just get on with what you’re doing and, when you’re finished, simply close the app and not have to worry about saving the document, finding a place to store it on your phone or computer. You can just close the window and all of your work will be saved and synced in the cloud.
For instance, I usually have ideas for posts late at night, when I’m watching Netflix or a film. When this happens, I quickly open Google Docs on my phone, jot down and few ideas, and then pick it up once again in the morning when I start working.
Can You Open A Word Document In Google Docs?
Yes, you an open and edit Word documents inside Google Docs. All you have to do is download the Word document and then add it to Google Docs. If you’re on your computer, you first have to upload the Word document to your Google Drive. Once you’ve done this, and the file is uploaded, right click on it and, when you see the option OPEN WITH, select GOOGLE DOCS.
On your phone, the process is the same. First, you need to upload the Word document to Google Drive. From here, you will then be able to select the OPEN WITH option and this will open the Word document in Google Docs on your Phone.
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How To Check Word Count In Google Docs
One of the most annoying things about Google Docs is that it doesn’t show a word count on the page, unlike Word and Pages.
To view your word count in Google Docs you need to go to Tools in the navigation bar and select Word Count. You will then be presented with totals for word counts, characters, and the total number of pages you have done.
Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut (on Mac) to show word count – COMMAND + SHIFT + C .
How To Add A Text Box In Google Docs
Test boxes are super handy, especially if you’re making a document that needs to show a lot of information in one place. With Google Docs, you can make and insert text boxes really easily.
To add a text box to your Google Docs document, follow these steps:
- Click Insert > Select Drawing From Menu
- Click on TEXT BOX
- Use Your Mouse To Create The Text Box In Your Google Docs
- When It Is The Correct Size, Release Your Mouse And You’ll Have A Text Box
- You Can Now Start Adding Information To The Text Box
How To Draw on Google Docs
If you want to draw inside your Google Docs, this feature is covered too. And it is pretty similar to how you add text boxes in Google Docs. Again, follow these simple steps to draw inside your Google Docs:
- Select INSERT > Drawing
- Select New
- Wait For The Drawing Window To Open > Choose Actions
- A Text Box Will Appear, Add Your Text & Then Edit It
To be frank, Google Docs’ drawing capabilities are pretty limited, so if you want to use it to sign a document, you’re kind of out of look. A better option would be to use Google Drawings instead and then insert this into your document. Here’s how you do that:
- Go to Google Drawings
- Create What You Want To Draw
- Save It To Google Drive
- Go Back To Your Google Doc
- Click Insert & Add Your Drawing
- And you’re done. Simple, Right?
How To Print From Google Docs
Printing from Google Docs is super-simple. Both on your phone and PC. If you’re on PC or Mac and you want to print out a document, simply go to FILE and select PRINT. This will then direct you to your printing options. You will need to have a printer set up, of course, and make sure that it is connected to your home network. If you have all of these things, simply click OK and your Google Docs will be printed.
On your phone, go into the Google Docs you want to print, hit the hamburger icon in the top right corner > go to Share and Export > then select Print. Again, you’ll need a printer on your network and your phone connected to the same WiFi network. But if you have both of these things, you’re good to go.
How To Convert Google Docs To PDF (And Other Formats)
Having the ability to create PDFs is super useful. You can use PDFs to share information with people where you work or inside marketing materials. PDFs, by their nature, are not designed to be edited, so a PDF can be used as a download to showcase your work and ideas. And Google Docs has full support for PDFs, as well as Word, OpenDocument, Rich Text, Plain Text, Web Page, and EPUB.
To convert your Google Docs to a PDF, simply follow these steps:
- Select File
- Click DOWNLOAD AS
- Choose PDF – You Also Have Options for Word, OpenDocument, Rich Text, Plain Text, Web Page, and EPUB
- The Google Docs Document Will Now Be Downloaded As A PDF
- Click Hamburger Menu
- Click SAVE AS
- Select PDF & Click OK – You Also Have Options for Word, OpenDocument, Rich Text, Plain Text, Web Page, and EPUB
- The PDF Will Then Be Stored In Downloads
How To Get Dark Mode in Google Docs
Dark Mode is great. Most phone platforms – meaning Android and iOS – now support it. With OLED displays, Dark Mode looks amazing. And it is easier on your eyes too. But can you get Dark Mode in Google Docs?
Yes, you can – although it is hidden away inside Docs’ Settings tab. To activite Dark Mode in Google Docs, follow these steps:
- Open Up Docs > Menu (In The Corner)
- Go To Settings > Choose Theme
- Select Dark
This will now switch your Google Docs to Dark Mode. If you want to switch back to light mode, simply follow the same steps but toggle the switch back to Light. Simple, right?
How To Make Google Docs Landscape
If you want to create a Google Docs document in landscape, again, you can do this and all that is required are a few clicks. To switch your Google Docs file to landscape, click FILE > PAGE SETUP > Choose Orientation (PORTRAIT OR LANDSCAPE > Click OK. And that’s it, your Google Docs document is now in landscape.
Google Docs Also Works Offline Too
If you’re working on something and your internet connection drops, like on a plane or a train, normally, and previously with Google Docs, you’d lose your work or the document simply wouldn’t function. However, thanks to an update to Google Docs you can now set-up Google Docs (and Google Drive) to work offline.
You do have to set up Google Drive and Google Docs to work offline first, though, so if you do want to work on Google Docs offline, you need to do the following stuff first. And you do need to be connected to the internet to setup offline mode in Google Drive and Google Docs.
Setting Up Google Drive For Offline Work:
- Install and Switch on Google Docs Offline Chrome extension – you can get it here.
- Then you need to check that you have enough storage on your phone or PC/laptop
- Next, Go to Google Drive
- Click Settings
- Turn on OFFLINE Setting
- You Can Now Use Google Drive, and all of its apps, offline.
And if you’re a business user, and you want a branded Gmail account, so [email protected], for instance, make sure you check out the latest prices for Google Workspace – it’s basically Google Drive on Steroids!
- Can Google Docs Be Used Offline?
- Google Drive: A Complete Beginner’s Guide
- Google Photos: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Richard GoodwinRichard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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