The Google Docs Beginner’s Guide

If you are just starting with Google Docs, you may feel somewhat confused due to its multiple functionalities and tools. Therefore, we have some tips to help you start using this powerful alternative to Microsoft Word.

What is Google Docs?

If you are already using Google Docs, do not hesitate to go ahead and continue. Now, if you’ve never heard of him, you can read an intensive course about what you need to know. In this way, you will know the basics and we will explain what Google Docs is and how you can start using it immediately.

Google Docs is a free web-based word processor that Google offers as part of its complete office package. Google Drive, to compete with Microsoft Office. The other main services included in the cloud-based suite are Sheets (Excel) and Slides (PowerPoint).

Google Docs is available on all devices and platforms; All you need is an internet connection and a web browser. In the case of mobile devices, the applications used for this purpose. Google does the rest, working on the heaviest part of the work concentrated in the cloud.

Docs supports several different types of files, including .doc, .docx .txt, .rtf and .odt, which makes it easy to view and convert Microsoft Office files directly from Google Drive.

And since Docs is an online word processor, you can share and collaborate with several people in the same document, tracking reviews, changes and suggestions, all in real time.

Register first and get an account

The first thing you should do before you can use Docs is to sign up for a Google account. If you already have an account, do not hesitate to move on to the next part. Otherwise, you will see the simple way to create a Google account and set it up with Docs.

  1. First, go to accounts.google.com,
  2. click “Create account” and then “For me.”
  3. On the next page, you must provide certain information to create an account, such as first and last name, username and password.
  4. In addition, you should verify your mobile number to make sure you are a real human and not a bot.

After you verify your mobile number, the following pages require you to provide a recovery email address, date of birth and sex, as well as accept the privacy statement and terms of service. Finish with this and you will have your own Google account.

Learn to create a blank document

Now that you have a Google account, it’s time to create your first document. Go to Google Docs and place the cursor on the multicolored “+” icon in the lower right corner. Similarly, the “+” symbol becomes a blue pencil icon; Click there

Chrome tip: if you are using Google Chrome, you can type docs.new in the Omnibox and press Enter; This stops to automatically create and open a new blank document.

How can you import a Microsoft Word document

Even if it’s new to Google Docs, you may already have many Microsoft Word files that you would like to use. If that is the case, you will have to upload all your documents before you can see them. While it may not be compatible with some of the more advanced features and formatting of some Word documents, it works quite well.

When you import a Word document, you can use Google Docs or Drive to upload your files. Both methods allow you to drag and drop a file from your computer directly into the web browser for easy loading.

Your Drive contains all your uploaded files, but for convenience, when you go to the Docs homepage, it only shows document-type files. Now, from the Google Docs homepage, click on the folder icon in the upper right corner, then on the “Upload” tab.

Once the Word file is loaded, Docs automatically opens it, ready for you to start editing, sharing and collaborating. To open a Word document that you want to edit, click on the file with the blue “W” next to the file name from the Google Docs home page.

Click on view the Word file or edit it in Documents. When you finish with this document, you can download it again in DOCX or PDF, ODT, TXT, HTML or EPUB format.

You just have to click on File and Download as. Then, click on the desired format and it will be downloaded directly to where the files are saved from your browser.

How to check your spelling in Google Docs

Now that you have some documents, it’s time to make sure the spelling and grammar are correct. Docs is equipped with a spell checker, all ready for you; Every time you write something wrong, underline the error with a wavy line, which tells you to make a change.

This should be enabled by default, but you can make sure in Tools, then in Spelling and Underline errors.

To see spelling corrections and suggestions, right-click on the word with the line below. Alternatively, press CRTL + ALT + X (Windows) or Command + Alt + X (Mac) to open the spelling and grammar correction tool.

Another way to access the spelling checker is to click on the icon with an “A” and a check mark. This enables the tool and analyzes your document for spelling and grammar.

Along with a spell checker, Google Docs comes loaded with a dictionary and an integrated synonyms dictionary. All you have to do is highlight a word, right click on it and then click on “Define (word)”.

While this should help you get started, we have a deeper dive into the spelling and grammar checker in Docs if you want more information.

How to collaborate on documents with other users

One of the best features of Google Docs is the ability to generate a link that can be shared; which allows anyone to see it, suggest edits or edit your document.

Instead of sending a file back and forth between collaborators, they can make edits and suggestions at the same time, as if they were on the same computer in real time. The only difference is that each person has their own text entry cursor to use on their personal computer.

From the document you want to share, click on the blue «Share» button to choose how and with whom you want to send a link to your file. You can enter email addresses manually or click on “Get link to share” in the upper corner to deliver the invitation yourself.

You can select several options

From the drop-down menu, you can edit how much power users will share on the file when you select one of these options:

  • Off: Sharing is disabled. If you have previously shared a link with others, it will no longer work and revoke the permissions they once had.
  • Anyone with the link can edit: Give shared users full read and write access. However, they still cannot remove it from your Drive, this is only for the content of the file.
  • Anyone with the link can comment: allow shared users to leave comments if they wish; This is ideal for team projects.
  • Anyone with the link can see: shared users can view the file, but cannot edit it in any way. This is the default action when you share a file. And the best option if you are trying to share a file to download.

How to view all recent changes in a document

When you share documents with other people, it is difficult to keep track of all the small changes that occur if you are not present. For that, there is a history of reviews.

Google Docs tracks all changes that occur in a document and groups them into periods, maintaining order. You can even revert a file to any of the previous versions listed in the history with the click of your mouse.

You can view a list of all recent changes by clicking File, Version History and View Version History.

How to suggest an edition to a document?

If you are the owner of a document and prefer that collaborators have to suggest modifications to your file instead of editing it directly; You can set the access permission to «Suggestions». This allows others to edit a document without worrying that they are manipulating your file.

When a collaborator makes an edition, you receive an email notification regarding the suggested edition and you can choose to keep or discard the change.

If you see in the upper right corner of the document window, you will see its current status. When you are in the “Suggest” section, then you are ready to start. If you see the “Edit” or “Display” sections, click on that button and then on the “Suggest” option.

How can you use Google Docs offline?

What happens if you need to access Google Docs but don’t have an internet connection? Although Google Docs is a web-based product, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it offline.

You must download an extension for Chrome and make sure you enable the file for offline use beforehand. Any changes you make to the file will be updated the next time you connect to the internet.

After downloading the official Chrome extension, go to the Google Docs homepage and in the upper left corner, click on the menu and then on Settings. Once here, change from «Offline» to the «On» position, then click on «OK».

To save storage space on your local machine, Google only downloads and makes the files you have accessed most recently available offline. To manually enable a file, click on the three-dot icon, then activate the “Available offline” option.

Learn how to use the best Google Docs plugins

Now that you’ve learned all the basics of Google Docs, you can become a true advanced user with the addition of add-ons. The add-ons are very similar to extensions for web browsers, but they are specific to Google Docs and allow you to obtain additional features from external developers.

You can install tools to increase productivity with additional proofreaders, document signing applications, a document translator and even a master rubric creator.