Have you ever worked on a group project where you all try to share and work on one piece of paper together? How about a list of groceries you want all your suite mates to see without it getting lost? Or are you interested in reducing how much paper you use? If any of these scenarios apply to you, Google Docs might be the tool for you.
Google Docs is part of Google Drive, a system in which people can easily share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, and more. You can access anything on Google Drive from any computer once you sign in.
Google Docs allows you to create documents as if you were on Microsoft Word and access them anywhere. You can chose to keep it just to yourself or share it with as many people as you like. You can allow them to view only, edit, or comment on your doc.
Some might worry that the visually appealing aspects of Word might get lost by using Google Docs instead. Not to worry. In the Lynda.com tutorials of Google Drive Essential Training, Chapter 4 is called Working With Google Docs. There are seven videos in this series, totaling 27 minutes, that explain the basic workings of Google Docs.
Video one, Creating and Naming a Document, explains the basics of Google Docs. It is important to remember that Google Docs always automatically saves the document and you do not need to continuously press save. To name the document, click the upper left hand corner where it says, “Untitled Document” and rename it.
Video four, Inserting Headers, Footers, Images, and Page Breaks, breaks down how to format the document in an organized way. A header appears at the top of every page, and the footer at a bottom. Google Docs allows you to make the header anything you want, and change the color to make it as bold or as least distracting as you would like. These can be really helpful for papers, such as if you want to add your last name to the top of every page, or the subject of the essay at the bottom of each page. A page break separates two concepts and puts them on separate pages for better organization. This is a great way to make a document look clean and professional.
This video also discusses how to insert an image into the document. Images are able to be inserted into the document in a variety of different ways, whether they are screen shotted, uploaded, dragged and dropped, or chosen from Google Drive. They can also be placed in many different ways, either in line with text, or put it in a fixed position, which gives you the most flexibility. This video is great at creating a base knowledge for formatting in Google Docs and making your document look the most professional it can.
Video six focuses on the styles you can use in Google Docs. In many documents, you may wish to create headings to clearly mark where a section begins. It is easy to change the size and color of words to make it simply look like a heading, but Google Docs’ headings can be really useful in organization. There are different heading styles depending on how broad or narrow the topic is that you are heading. Heading 1 is the largest and you would use for the overall theme. Heading 2 is for a subtopic, and heading 3 an even narrower subtopic. To add a real heading, go to the Styles menu and select one of the heading styles. Using these “real” headings can also be helpful in creating a table of contents, making it easy for your readers to find different sections of your document. They also are an important accessibility tool for screen reader users, as it allows them to more easily understand the page structure.
It is easy to change the fonts, align spacing, and size of body text as well. Use the styles toolbar to change the features and then you can set other body text to the same settings. With the correctly formatted text highlighted, select the drop-down menu you used to change the headings and click “normal text.” Hover over the arrow and click “Update “Normal Text” to match.” This will change all the “normal text” to the same style as the text you formatted. You can do the same thing with headings. If you want to use these formatting settings in every document you make going forward. This can be very helpful if you find a style that would be suitable for most of the documents you make and you do not want to waste time formatting it every time. But not to worry, if you want go back to Google Drive’s default styles, you can easily go back to them.
Video seven, Preferences, Margins, Spelling, and Translating is the final video in Chapter 4 that helps clean up the document. To check spelling, right click on a red underlined word and Google will prompt you with words that may be the spelling you were aiming for.
You can also add a word to the dictionary if you want Google to recognize it as a correct spelling from now on. If you have an unusual name like me, this can be very useful so every time you say your name it does not receive the red underline. If the red lines bother you, you can also easily turn off spellcheck. Google Documents can also always correct a word for you, which can be especially helpful if you consistently spell a word incorrectly. As you can see in the picture on the left, I always spell cousin incorrectly, so I have told Google Docs to correct it for me. These Lynda videos were created in June of 2013, which is pretty recent, but there have been even more features added since then, including faster spell checking in Google Docs. Another helpful tool is making Google Docs automatically recognize a link. You can also rid of a URL but still link text to a page.
For example, you could change the text to say “Google Docs” instead of http://www.docs.google.com, but it can still link to the page. A recent change in Google Drive is where Google Docs shows link suggestions. This allows you to type words for a link and then google search for the websites. There are also many other options you can make to your document’s style, such as the paper size, the orientation, the background of the paper color, and the margins. You can also translate a document into a different language. This could be great if you are working with someone who wants to read what you have to say but you encounter a language barrier.
Google Docs is a great word processing program that can be used to send files to anyone. It has all the formatting perks of Microsoft Word without the cost and immobility. If you would like to learn more about the other features of Google Drive, check out the other elements of Google Drive: Essential Training. If you need some more help, visit Google Drive: Help on Docs. For more information on formatting in word processing, you can look at Katie H.’s blog post, Using Styles Formatting In Word. Please feel free to comment below with some ideas on how you can use Google Docs and formatting in your everyday education and personal life. Enjoy making your documents look pretty!