Working With Google Documents

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 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.

Naming a document

Naming a document

Video one, Creating and Naming a Documentexplains 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.

Inserting an image

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.

Applying formatting to the rest of the document

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.

Google can automatically correct words and phrases for you.

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.

Translating a document

For example, you could change the text to say “Google Docs” instead of, 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!

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19 Responses to Working With Google Documents

  1. Kelly F. says:

    Hey Tabitha, your post was very succinct, and I really enjoyed reading it. I didn’t know that you could have Google Docs correct you on words that you often misspelled; that is a pretty cool feature. When you mentioned that Google Docs could be in another language, does that mean you can write something in English and have it translated into Spanish via Google Translate? If so, that could mean there are grammatical errors. I say this because in the past Google Translate has never been a truly reliable translator for complete sentences.
    Overall, though, wonderful post.
    – Kelly

  2. Maria H. says:

    Tabitha, for as long as I have been working with Google Docs, I never knew about much of this information! Changing the format of the header and footer is new to me, as well as page breaks. Showing link suggestions was also a new concept, and is something I will definitely use from now on! Your description of Google Docs was very easy to read and enjoyable to learn about. Great post!

  3. Sara R. says:

    Tabitha, this was a very well-written and informative post! I must admit, I was always one to simply change the size and style of my text in order to make it appear like a title. I was unaware of the fact that there was a function on the toolbar to create such and how it those are actually important to use because, as professor Taylor showed us, they can be distinguished by screen readers. Additionally, I was always one to press the “return” key several times to create page breaks instead of using the page break function. And if I added a line to a previously written section, the format of all the pages that followed would be changed. Therefore, I will use the page break function from now on. Thank you so much for the helpful tips!

  4. Steph G. says:

    Tabitha, this was an awesome post! I didn’t realize how many diverse features Google Docs has! I never think to make my docs look pretty, but now I definitely will using these tools and tips. I think the most interesting part is that fact that you can translate a whole document into a different language. Do you use that tool often? Great job!

    • Tabitha C. says:

      I’m not taking a language currently, so I don’t have to use the translate feature. However, I am studying abroad in Costa Rica next semester so maybe it will be of use to me there!

  5. Laura H. says:

    Nice work Tabitha! I really enjoyed learning about the dictionary feature, because I have used a document to write for an English assignment where made up words from the book are frequently used, so it would be helpful in that situation! And I always struggle remembering how to insert a picture, and I normally screw up the formatting, so it’s nice to learn about this! Top notch.

  6. Chelsea R. says:

    I like how you focused in on all of the screen shots that you took to get a better view of each picture. I thought it was really helpful to see all of the details along with your explanation. Thank you for sharing the different ways to use a google doc, and especially the last section of “Preferences, Margins, Spelling, and Translating”. I had no idea that you could translate a google document!

  7. Mary F. says:

    Great post Tabitha! I thought the translating feature was really neat, and as you mentioned about could totally help us out when we’re in Costa Rica! I had no idea that you could have Google Docs recognize a word you usually misspell and correct it for you, that will totally be a huge help for me because I know of some words that I can just never seem to spell right. Thanks for all this new information!

  8. Sydney R. says:

    Tabitha, I found this post to be very informative and easy to read. I like how you made sure to have a screenshot in each section so we would have a visual reference to go along with everything you were talking about. I really enjoyed learning about the dictionary feature because, like you, there are just some words that I always misspell and so having Google docs correct them for me would definitely come in handy!

  9. Chelsea S. says:

    I honestly had no clue that Google Docs could do all of this. While I have had a google e-mail for a few years now I never really paid attention to Google Docs since I knew how to work and that was good enough for me. Reading your post I realized that I have endured much stress by not using Google Docs and just e-mailing Word Docs to myself through different computers. Thank you for creating a post that was easy for me to understand and one that helped me realize how easy it is to use Google Docs!

  10. Alexia M. says:

    Tabitha, I thought you made a great post and I never knew that there were so many things that you could do with Google Docs! You mentioned some ways that you could use the program that I had never even thought of before. I had never known that you could make page breaks in the document. That is so cool that you can have the program actually correct words for you. I never knew that that was a feature of Google Docs. I think it’s really cool that you can change the language of a document, but I have a feeling there would be a lot of translation errors. However, it would probably at least help the foreign reader to get a feel for what you are trying to say. I think that using Google Docs is very helpful for class projects and working with other people, and I like how you explained different ways that we can use it!

  11. Angie E. says:

    Hey Tabitha! Thanks for such an informative post. I did not use Google Docs until I got on campus last year, but have used them so often for class and my job that I thought I was an expert. Using the page break feature and the different colored headings throughout a document could help me organize my CIS 220 journal and help me organize documents I create for school and work. I also never knew that you could change the paper size. That’s so cool! Like you, I also misspell a lot of words, so I love the spell-check feature of Google Docs. Like everyone else, I never knew that we could translate Google Docs. Though Kelly made a good point about the reliability of Google Translate, I agree with you that it could help us out in Costa Rica.

  12. Katie H. says:

    I was wowed by all of the information that you shared on your blog post Tabitha! I had really never used Google Docs until I came to college and used them for group projects and communicating with teachers. I never knew that it was possible to format Google Docs almost exactly the same as you do to Word documents. I enjoyed comparing the information about formatting from your blog to the information about formatting Word documents in my blog. I can totally see myself using these tools to customize my Google Docs in the future to create different headings and footnotes in the documents. I thought the word dictionary in Google was a very convenient tool to use that prevents common typos and eases the review process, which I usually struggle with. Thanks so much for sharing all of this information and I will be sure to use it in the future!

  13. Winna P. says:

    Tabitha, this blog post is so full of information! I totally agree with everyone else. I had really only started using Google Docs once I got to college and I really haven’t been taking advantage of all the features. I didn’t know a lot of these features even existed until after reading your post. As a Spanish minor, the part about the translator really appeals to me. I never tried to write my Spanish papers on Google Docs because I didn’t think it had the capability of translating into another language. Thanks for all this new information that I’ll be able to use throughout college and even after in the classroom as a teacher!

  14. B. Taylor says:

    Tabitha, Thanks for showing us new ways to use Google Docs. I think we all learned something new. Another new feature that came out at same time as improved spell checker you mentioned is expanded types for bullets – more like what we are used to in MS Word. See Google Drive Now Lets You Spellcheck Entire Documents At Once, Adds Customizable Lists. And here is the best part: a recent Elon graduate who now works for Google was the software engineer for this project – how cool is that! Check out the variety of bullets next time you create a Google Doc or presentation.

  15. Victoria B. says:

    Tabitha, I had no idea that Google Docs could do all that it does! I have used the program since my senior year of high school but I never bothered to find out all that much about it. The most interesting thing, I think, is that you can translate the entire document into another language. When I go to Costa Rica in the spring, I think this function could be very helpful. Thanks so much sharing!

  16. Aaron M. says:

    Tabitha, I have been using Google Docs since high school. I had no idea about the faster spell check feature, this will come in handy as I typically type my papers with lots of spelling mistakes. Eventually I go back and edit, but with the Google Doc version I can have the Dictionary feature you talk about help me with my commonly misspelled words. Thank you so much for sharing and introducing me to the dictionary feature of Google Doc.

  17. Robin G. says:

    I would like to start by saying how engaging your first paragraph is. I was immediately drawn into your blog post after reading the first few sentences. Your post then continued to be very thorough and informative. A feature in Google Docs with which I was unfamiliar prior to reading your post is how to format headers and footers. I honestly didn’t even know for what headers and footers were useful. Thank you for informing me!

  18. Anna B. says:

    Hey Tabitha! Great post! I am a frequent user of google Docs, but even so, there are some things you talked about here that I had no idea about! I did not know that you could change the Spell Check settings and even add in words that you know you misspell frequently. Google Docs has so much to offer and I think you really showed that in this post. I know that as a future teacher I will have my students use Google Docs often because of the mobility it provides. Thank you so much for sharing!

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