Google Docs is easy to use, free of charge and accessible to anyone with a Gmail account, it has made pretty much anything that involves word processing much easier.
But even the smoothest software can be tweaked, and there’s more than a handful of ways to use Google Docs to work better for you. Here’s how to get the most from Google Docs, from organising your files to the tips and tricks to make you more efficient.
Organise your documents within Google Drive
If you get into a document and find that it’s floating around in your Google Drive without a specific folder, you can move its location without leaving your Google Doc. Click on the grey folder icon – near the title of the Google Doc you want to move, and you can move the location of the document within your Drive.
Use an outline
Occasionally, you’ll find yourself confronted with a huge document with no conceivable structure. Using the inbuilt outline tool for Google Docs is useful for longer documents, particularly if you’re working collaboratively. Go to View, then press show document outline. This will create a document outline on the left-hand side of the Google Doc, which you can use to navigate through the document. It’ll help you organise your thoughts easier – and can also make the process of writing long reports, articles or letters somewhat less daunting. To add new headings, select the phrase you want as a heading, and use a heading option on the toolbar.
Customise your preferences
Even the most convenient software won’t be able to read your mind. If you find yourself using a phrase often – something with quirky spelling, or a trademark – add it to your shortcuts so that Google Docs doesn’t automatically correct it. Go to Tools, then Preferences. It’s also handy for words that are a little tricky, phrases that Google Docs might draw a red line under and brand or place names that don’t need to be capitalised. Similarly, you can double-check that the shortcuts built into Google Docs actually work for you. If you know you use some commands way more often than others, you can remove the inbuilt shortcuts which are more annoying than convenient. Go to Help, then press Keyboard Shortcuts, and edit to your heart’s content.
Edit your document offline
Sometimes you’re working to a tight deadline and you could really use those extra two minutes on the tube to tighten something up. Turn on offline editing to make sure your changes save and give yourself that extra breathing room – go to File, then press Make document available offline. This means that your edits will save automatically, and when you connect to the internet again, those changes will be automatically applied. You have to turn this on manually in each document. If you want to extend this to all of your documents – and make it a default setting, go to Google Drive, press the cog symbol in the top left-hand corner and tick the necessary box. Your changes will update automatically once you’re connected to the Internet again.
Navigate the internet without leaving your Google doc
Sometimes you’ve got 30 tabs open and you just need to check one date or find one link. You can even do so from the comfort of your Google Doc – just go to Tools, then Explore. A search bar will pop up – with your default search engine – and you can do your research from there. If you need to add some generic images in – like clip art, or an icon – you can find those in the explore tab too and add them in easily. Just make sure you double-check the URLs.
Use an add-on
If you’re only using Google Docs for basic document editing and collaboration, add-ons might not be necessary for you. But if there’s something specific missing, try installing an add-on – the Add-ons button on the toolbar, between Tools and Help. Some are best for specific uses – like Google Reports for Google Classroom, which is best suited for teachers, while others like Code Block make copying blocks of code easier. If the add-ons become too cumbersome, just go back to Add-ons and select the option to Manage Add-ons.
Use and create your own templates
A blank page can be intimidating, and sometimes, it’s just not what you need. Google Docs has a fairly comprehensive selection of templates that you can use – from business letters to resumes to proposals, which you can use as a starting point to build exactly what you want. Simply find the template you want in the gallery of templates. You can also save your own templates if there’s a standard you want to keep returning to, in your Google Drive.
Import images and edit them too
Inserting images into your Google Doc doesn’t have to be a difficult process. You can drag and drop images from your desktop, and if it’s an image with a URL, you don’t even have to save it. Go to Insert, then Image, and then By URL. If you need an image and don’t have one, you can navigate around the Internet to find the right one – go to Insert, then Image, then press, Search the web.
If you have an image you need to use but it just doesn’t look quite right on the page, you can edit it within the document. You can drag and drop images from your desktop, and then double click – a menu will pop up with options to crop, edit and resize your image within the document itself.
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