10 Google Docs Hacks That Will Make Writing, Editing and Sharing a Little Easier
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Consider a Google Doc a blank canvas, but don’t let that stress you out. Google has built in a variety of features to help you create, edit and share documents easily and efficiently.
You might be used to Microsoft Word, but Google Docs has some of the same features. In fact, you can even edit a Word doc in Google Docs without permanently converting it into a Google Doc.
There are all kinds of tricks hidden in menus, plugins and keystrokes that can help you maximize the potential of the cloud-based word processor. But be warned: To get the most out of Google Docs, use the Google Chrome browser. Many of the following features require it.
Click through to discover 10 Google Doc hacks.
Revert back to Word.
You might know by now that you can open Word Docs in Google Drive and view and edit them as Google Docs. But did you know that you can still retain the document as a Word doc? If you want to go this route, you have to use Google Chrome as your browser. From there, make sure Office Compatibility Mode is enabled in Google Docs by installing the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides Chrome extension. Under the “File” menu, make sure “Office Compatibility Mode" is listed.
When you’re done editing, you can save and export the document as a Word file (go to “File,” then “Download as” and select Word doc or your desired format). This works in Sheets (Excel) and Slides (PowerPoint) as well. If you want instructions for iOS, Android or Chromebook, click here.
Go back to previous drafts.
In addition to its auto-save feature, one of the most reassuring things about working in Google Docs is that you can revert back to old versions of your work. Say you meant to copy and paste a section of text and move it up in your document, and you forgot to hit paste. Now it’s gone forever! Or is it?
Go to “File” and click “Version history,” then “See revision history.” In the right margin, you’ll be able to click to a specific date and time and view a preview of the document as it existed at that time. This also allows you to see who made which edits if you’re working on a collaborative document. If you’d like to revert back to an older iteration of the document, click “Restore this version” -- a blue button at the top of the screen.
Edit on the go.
Don’t have Wi-Fi access? You can still write and edit in Google Docs, your work just won’t auto-save. You can still create a new document or view or edit an old one, and when you resume internet connectivity, your changes will sync and save immediately.
Before you try this for the first time, you’ll have to enable offline editing. Go to the Google Docs home screen and click the menu button (blue square with 3.5 horizontal lines). Click “Settings,” and then toggle on “Create, open and edit your recent Google Docs files on this device while offline.”
Also, make sure you’re signed into your Google account before you try to work offline. (You won’t be able to sign in without an internet connection.)
Find your collaborator.
Collaborating on a lengthy document? If you’re trying to find where your colleague’s cursor is in the Doc, click their photo or avatar in the top right corner of the page. No need to “Control + F” or “Command + F” or scroll to find where the person is working.
If you use Google Docs already, you’ve probably seen the Google Docs home screen that features previews of your recently opened documents, along with a variety of templates that you can use instead of starting out with a blank page and doing all of your own formatting.
Click “template gallery” to see the options of document styles, from meeting notes to independent contractor agreements to newsletters to resumes.
Chances are you’ve completely ignored the “Add-ons” menu at the top of the page, even if you’ve used Google Docs hundreds of times.
This menu leads users to a variety of tools to expedite creating, analyzing and fine-tuning. There’s a screenplay formatter, a rhyme finder, a bibliography maker and more. There’s even an add-on that generates revision history analytics, so you can see the proportion of collaborative efforts each user has contributed to a Google Doc.
Ping a new collaborator.
Want a particular person’s two cents on any aspect of the document? Make a comment (highlight a word or section and click the symbol next to the hyperlink symbol that looks like a square speech bubble with a plus sign in it). In that comment, type a plus sign, then begin typing the email address of the contact whose input you’re seeking. From there, that person will receive an email alert letting them know you’re requesting their attention.
Set up text shortcuts.
If there’s a certain phrase or character string you find yourself having to type over and over, make your own shorthand. Go to the “Tools” menu and click “Preferences.” You can type in a shorthand in a new “replace” field and then add the full-length text to the adjacent field. You can also disable the “automatically capitalize words” setting and any existing shortcuts (such as the auto-formatting of 1/2 to a fraction with smaller text.)
Use your voice.
Too lazy to type? Use voice recognition. Go to the “Tools” menu and click “Voice typing.” A small window should appear. When asked to allow access to your microphone, click “allow.” You’ll know it’s working if it turns red and the words you’re speaking begin to appear on the page. Testing testing testing…
If you need to add punctuation, just say “comma,” “period,” etc. You can also format by saying “new line” or “new paragraph.”
To edit via voice, once you finish voice typing, say “italics” or “go to the end of the line,” for example.
Find an appropriate link.
You can conduct a Google search right in Google Docs! Highlight a word or phrase, then click the hyperlink symbol at the top of the page. Under the blank link box in the pop up, Google will do a quick search for you and find something relevant to link to. Use “find more” to refine your search. Or, if you already have a URL in mind, just paste it in. Click “Apply” when done.