Google Docs tips and tricks

Thanks to Google Docs, the days of paying through the nose for Microsoft Office are gone. Google’s version offers capabilities that make writing, editing, and sharing content infinitely easier. Best of all, it’s free.

There is some confusion between Google Docs vs. Google Drive. Google Docs is a bunch of apps (similar to Microsoft Office) that interact with the online storage system, Google Drive. Google launched Drive back in 2012 to offer an alternative to other shared document systems such as Microsoft 365. Signing up to a free Google account is all you need to do to use Google Drive storage and a robust suite of office-based apps. It’s that easy. So, unless you've got a valid reason to line Bill Gates pockets, use Google Docs.

Wait. Are you one of the many people who still hasn’t made the full-time switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs? Are you are too comfortable with the Microsoft Office safety blanket. Perhaps you are put off by a few unfamiliar features you haven’t quite figured out yet. Or maybe it’s simply because old habits die hard. Don’t be that person. Google Docs is free and anyone can learn to use all the time-saving features it has to offer.

Unless you are a spritely millennial versed in nothing but the Google, chances are you might not be using Google Docs to its full potential. There are are a lot of tricks that even power users might not be aware of it. Did you know that you can upload Microsoft documents and work on them in Google's software?

We’ve set out to demystify the most popular and little-known Google apps features. With these tricks at your disposal, you no longer have to wonder if “there must be an easier way to do this.”

Before we get started, make sure you’re using Google Chrome browser, if not download it here. To get the most out of Google Docs, use the Google Chrome browser. Many of the following features require it.

Google Docs hacks

Discover the Google Docs features that make writing, editing and sharing easier. Let’s dive into the Google hacks that will save time and create efficiencies all around.

Fast track editing

We’ve all been there. You’re taken the time to draft an impressive blog, white paper, or whatever else you’ve poured your heart in to. Now you’re at the finish line, and it’s time to tidy thing up--but you’re running out of steam. The following tips call on Google to step in and lend you a hand.

Organize your document with an outline

As you write your material, create sections using the Style drop-down as you go. Once complete, go to Tool and select “Document Outline." Google will automatically generate a table of content. Look to the left of your doc. You’ve not got an outline based on the headers you’ve applied. This is essential when you are working through a large document. Now you can click through sections with ease.

Perform advanced edits via spoken command

Dictation can mean some real swift editing. Lucky for us, Google’s voice command system supports a huge range of functions. Ask for specific phrases, words, paragraphs. You name it.

With your voice alone, you can apply different formatting types to the text, cut, copy, past, and even scroll through the documents or jump to parts of a page, all without lifting a finger. To become a pro at editing the lazy way, check out Google’s guide to all possible voice commands.

Enrich your work

If you’re struggling for inspiration, and your work is feeling a bit flat, listen up. These tips are designed to enrich your creations in Docs. Take inspiration from Google or your own notes.

Call on Google to clarify definitions

For any content publishers reading, it’s worth hammering home again how convenient the explore feature is. All you have to do is highlight the text you’re pondering over, right click for more options and hit explore to rack Google’s brain (Google search). You’ll soon get to the bottom of anything and everything within Goggles extensive grasp. The Explore button can also be found on the bottom right-hand corner of your doc. It’s the icon of a star inside a small speech bubble.

This feature provides instant suggestions based on the content in your document, including related topics to learn about, images to insert, or more content to check out in Docs. You can also find a related document from Drive or search Google right within Explore.

View Keep notes while working in Google Docs

To access your Keep notes, head to the Google Doc Tools menu. You should see an entry for Keep Notepad. The first time you open this, you will be prompted to enable the feature. Click on “TRY IT” to log in, and the Keep notepad will open as a sidebar in your document. If you’re already using keep, you’ll notice all of your notes arranged in a linear fashion. Scroll through the notes to find what you need. Note that the addition of Google Keep only works in Docs, it won’t cross over to Sheets.

Collaboration in Google Docs

For a project that involves more than one pair of eyes, you need to learn to collaborate. With the following. Did you know that you can add up to fifty users per collaboration, and everyone can view and edit at the same time? While this might sound overwhelming, there’s a trick or two to organize people suggestions.

Go into suggestion mode

In Suggestions mode, anyone with permission to edit a document can suggest edits to the document owner (instead of simply making changes). The document owner has a chance to review the suggestions and accept or reject each edit, and keep track of who changed what. As you make changes to a document in Suggestions mode, everything you type becomes bracketed, and anything you delete gets a strike-through.

Suggestions mode is only available for Google Docs. To turn it on follow these instructions.
First you need to enable tracked edits. To do this, click the pencil icon on the right hand side of the toolbar and select ‘Suggestions’. Now, when you type, or make changes, they appear with colour coded highlighting visible to anyone viewing the document. what you’ve added are visible in the document.

Click Tools, then Review Suggested Edits. A ‘Suggesting’ box will appear in the top right-hand corner of your document. Now, when you add any new text or delete any existing text.

When it is time to review the document, click on a suggested edit to activate it’s bubble in the right column. To accept an edit, click the checkmark to accept, to reject a suggestion, click the ‘X’. If you’re unsure about a suggestion, it’s possible to leave a comment for the editor. Just reply within the edit bubble.

When there are many suggestions on a document, it can be difficult to follow the flow of the text. To preview what your text will look like with or without suggested edits, click ‘Viewing’ mode.

Google doc features to boost your productivity

Who doesn’t want to save time in the working day? Dismiss these productivity boosts tips at your peril.

Use templates to save time

Yes, we covered the benefits of using templates earlier. How about templates specific for Google Docs. These are handy for recurring projects such as customer invoices and meeting proposals to save you starting from scratch each time. Find templates for everything from project proposals, onboarding notes, job-offer letters you can modify to your needs. More templates for things like statements of work and sales of work are available as add-ons.

Use apps to take away the heavy lifting

Does making conference calls from within a doc, adding an e-signature to a contract, or sending a fax without a fax machine sound good to you? Of course, it does. For more of these exciting add-ons, check out the best productivity boosting Google Docs apps.

Google Sheets tips

Keyboard shortcuts

Shave precious time off editing by using shorts for Google Sheets. Refer to Google’s guide to shortcuts to navigate, format and use formulas in PC, Mac, and Chrome OS spreadSheets.

Grab data from other Google Sheets

The Importrange functions let you pull data from one spreadsheet to another. This function is one of the easiest in Sheets and can be extremely useful. To learn how to use Importrange in Google SpreadSheets, follow this guide.

Formulas made simple

Some shy away from one of the best Sheets features - Formulas. Gone are the days of boldly trying out a formula, only to be greeted with a # ERROR! message. Now, you just start typing a function and Sheets will display the ‘syntax’ usage, as well as tips on how to use it. With this handy feature, you can tackle the learning curve with ease.

  • To use this feature, click the cell you wish to apply the formulae to

  • Type an equals sign (=) into a cell, then the name of the formula you want to use.

  • Select the ‘parenthesis’ you want to use from the suggestions box. You’ll now see a popup box teaching you how to use it as well as a link to a more detailed Docs Editors guide like this one for the popular ‘Sum’ syntax.

Connect Sheets with other services

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t have the tools that make up your digital life, all playing nicely together. Well, you can. Now, your Trello cards, or Dropbox files, all kinds of apps can connect to a spreadsheet to analyze and review. If you’re looking to centralize your apps and log everything in a spreadsheet, follow this tutorial to learn just how to do that using IFTTT (If This Then That) technology.

Protect entire Sheets or cells from edits

There are times a spreadsheet is available to multiple people, such as a weekly shift rota - When you don’t want them to be able to modify it, you might want to consider protecting specific cells or entire tabs. This way, you can control who makes changes to your Sheets worksheet.

  • Lock cells

    This is particularly useful if you plan to share your spreadsheet with a large audience. By locking key cells, you can ensure that they aren't accidentally modified.

    • Highlight a cell or range of cells that you want to protect.

    • Click the ‘Data Protected Sheets and ranges’ menu.

    • The ‘Range editing permissions' message pops up. Select the ‘restrict who can edit this range’ option.

    • Now, choose who is allowed to edit this range; Only you, or Custom. With custom, you can specify which collaborators can edit the selected range.

    • Click ‘Done’ to apply your restrictions.

  • Sheets

    If your sheet contains calculations for general observation, such as a timesheet, and under no situation, is it to be amended, simply lock the entire sheet from public editing.

    To protect your entire worksheet, head back to Data and select the Protected Sheets and ranges menu. This time, you don't have to choose any cells before you start. Just click on ‘Sheet,' and then choose the spreadsheet to protect from the dropdown menu.

  • Show a warning on particular cells

    Use this feature when you don’t want to totally restrict a cell from editing. A warning appears each time someone edits the cell.

    To add a warning, follow the steps above, except, at the Range editing permissions window, select the ‘Show a warning’ option before you press Done. Now, every time a user tries to edit the cells, they will see a warning message, warning that the cell or cells aren’t intended to change. Although, this option still allows them to do so.

Clean up your text

When your Spreadsheets are looking a bit messy, the last thing you want to do is retype each cell individually.

If your text needs a cleanup, use the add-on tool, Change Case. Highlight the text you want to format, select Change Case from the Add-ons menu, and choose from Uppercase, Lowercase, First letter capitals and so on.

Find specific data with filters

Filtering is a real lifesaver when you're an enormous spreadsheet with reams of datasets to sift through to find what you’re looking for. To start filtering data in a table, hit the filter button to add filters to your table like the example below.

Select the button on the column you want to apply it to, and refine what’s shown by selecting the values you want to display.

Explore in Sheets

Google Explore is a fantastic way to decipher data, this time using words, not formulas to get an answer. You can get answers to questions like, "How many units did I sell on Black Friday?" or "Where do I sell the most products?"

Use AI to create your charts and reports

Google is flexing their muscles with this feature. Instead of creating reports and charts from scratch, simply type the instructions in plain English, and let Google do the heavy lifting. To use AI to generate charts and reports in your own Spreadsheets, click Explore (located in the lower right corner of the sheet. Browse the suggested data points including pivot tables, bar charts and graphs.

Alternatively, type out the chart you have in ‘Ask a question about your data’ box. Watch in awe as an answer is generated for you - based on the information in your Google Sheet.

Convert excel files to Sheets

If you’re wondering how to convert your files from Microsoft Excel into a Sheets friendly format, this tip is for you. You can even convert .XLSX files to Sheets and start working on them right away. Messing with file formats might sound daunting - it’s not. The process is beginner-level and only requires some dragging and dropping. To get started, follow the instructions >here.

Use pivots to analyze data easily

We’ve all been there, staring at a huge data set and struggling to pull together a report. This is a tip for the power user of Microsoft Excel. If pivots won’t convince you to make the switch to Sheets, nothing else will. Pivot tables take huge tables of data and help you find meaning in them.

Pivots are a drag and drop tool to build reports with finesse. To get started with pivots, take some time to this guide. Walk through the steps and you’ll find meaning in even the largest datasets.

Print Sheets the right way

You’re just about done with your Spreadsheet, hit the Print button, and the printer chucks out a table printed over 3 sheets, or with the end cut off. We’ve all been there. Spreadsheets are notoriously hard to print; You’re asking to print limitless columns and rows on a page that’s limited in size. To make sure your spreadsheets print correctly, every time, follow this guide.

Google Slides tips

Save time with Master Slides

There are times when we need to update or modify something in all Slides. One function most people don’t notice is the “Edit Master” option. With the Master template editor, you can edit all the Slides in your deck, simultaneously, without visiting them individually. This feature is great for when you want to do things like changing the background or add branding to your Slides, and much more.

When you edit a master slide to change your slides corresponding layouts, the editing appears in slide master view. To learn how to customize your entire Slideshow in a few clicks, refer to this straightforward guide.

Present with Chromecast

Picture this. You're presenting to an important client. They've shown interest in your product, but everything lies in your presentation to seal the deal. You've built the perfect Google Slides presentation that informs and convince them. Oh wait, you forgot your laptop. So, you’ve got no equipment to play the presentation though. Or have you?

With Google Slides, all you need is the Chromecast app and simple mobile device you can use your smartphone as a remote control. Now you can deliver your Google Slides presentation on a projector, a TV, or a monitor.

To use your phone as a backup plan. Install the Google Cast extension in Chrome. Then just connect to the same Wifi network as your Chromecast device, click the small drop-down arrow on the Present button in your presentation, and select your Chromecast device from the options. That’s it. Your presentation will now how on your Chromecast ready device.

Add sounds to Slides

Tired of being the only voice in the room? Add some snap, crackle, and pop to your presentation. Add music from any streaming device from Apple Music, Spotify, and more and it will automatically play the sound in the background. Learn how to do that in this video.

Explore in Slides

Using the explore feature in Slides makes light work of designing a presentation. As you create your Slides, Explore suggestions a range of designs based on the content of your Slides. If you like the look of a design and want to apply it, simply click on the suggestion. There’s no need to reformat any of your work. It couldn’t be more simple.

Edit videos

Thanks to the Video Options feature, there’s no need to leave your document to edit a video. You might want a video to start at a certain point for example, rather than playing in its entirety. Here’s how to go about that.

  1. Start by clicking ‘Insert’ in the Toolbar, then ‘Add video.' This opens the ‘Insert Video’ pop-up window.

  2. Notice three tabs ‘Search,' ‘By URL,' and ‘Google Drive.' These are the places you can pull a video from. If you don’t have a video in mind, you can ‘Search’ Google videos. If something from Youtube caught your eye, simply paste a YouTube URL into the By URL option. Alternatively, upload a video from your Google Drive. Click Select to add the video to your slide.

  3. To edit your Video, right-click on the video and select ‘Format Options.' This will launch a new panel to the right of your screen. From here you can make some simple edits. Click the ‘Video playback’ tab to trim, autoplay and mute your video. Select ‘Size and position’ to toggle the how it appears on your slide. Finally, add a ‘Drop Shadow’ for dramatic effect

  4. Notice a small version of your video in the ‘Video playback’ tab. Directly underneath, you can set when the video starts and when it video stops. There’s also the option to ‘Autoplay when presenting’ which means the video will automatically play when you open the slide, or to ‘Mute Audio’ entirely.

  5. There’s no need to save when you’re done. Simply close the panel and the changes you’ve made will be live when you present.

While this tool hasn’t got as many options as an independent video editing app, it’s certainly enough to save you time drafting an interactive presentation.

Make a stand out Q and A session

Question and answers sessions can be pretty mundane. With Slides Q&A, you can raise the bar. In slides, you can make an interactive session that's fun and time-saving. Participants can go to the URL of your presentation and add their questions, anonymously if they like. Simply share a link with your audience to automate the whole process.

Once they’ve had some time to add their questions, go to Presenter view to check out the questions. Your audience members can vote up or down questions as well. Learn how to implement an interactive presentation in this tutorial.

Using slide templates

Again, we’ve mentioned how great templates are. If you’re interested in drafting a visually stunning presentation in less time, let’s take a look at your options with Google Slides. If you’re not impressed with the default templates, upload one. Sites like SketchBubble offer a variety of options for Google Slides templates to help you up your game.

Mask (Google Slides only)

Once you’ve added an image to your presentation, there’s a trick called masking to make it stand out. This feature can be used to put your image into the shape of your choice. Masking an image is simple. Select an image, click on the arrow icon as in the example below.

Browse a variety of Shapes, Arrows, Callouts, or Equation symbols. Select the design you would like to mask your image with. The example below is an oval shape.

Link to your Slides

If you are working on a large presentation, it can be helpful to link to Slides in the presentation. This way you can from one slide to another, easily. To add a link to your Slides follow these instructions.

Share individual Slides

To share a specific slide in a Google Presentation, open your presentation and go to the slide you want to share. Copy the URL from your browser's address bar. Each slide in a Slideshow has its own unique, permanent URL that loads when you change Slides. Share the link via IM, Email or however you like.

Useful Google Docs Add-ons

Add-ons are companion apps for G Suite that allow you to perform a variety of tasks. There are a lot of useful add-ons available for Google Docs, all accessible from the toolbar. Depending on your needs, you might find it worthwhile to browse through Google Docs add-ons library. When you use these hacks to extend your abilities, you can get more done in less time.

  • Extensis Fonts - Bored of the same old fonts? Up your font game with this add-on. Access and use thousands of fonts from the Google Fonts collection in your documents.

  • Consistency Checker - Struggle to keep text consistent? To make the best impressions you have to make sure your document is free from consistency mistakes. Issues with hyphenation (e.g. ‘parttime’ and part-time) and spelling (e.g. ‘centre’ and ‘center’), capitalization (‘WIFI,' and ‘WiFi’). can become more apparent when working with multiple authors. The online consistency checker looks for errors to deliver a document that makes the best impression with your text.

  • PandaDoc- Get proposals out of the door faster. Create, send, track and eSign documents with PandaDoc. Look like a multimillion-dollar business without spending a fortune thanks to a plethora of business and marketing templates. Use PandaDoc to create impressive, interactive sales documents with embedded media and custom designs. This software even notifies sales when deals are signed on the dotted line.

  • HelloFax - Tired of your clunky fax machine? Ditch it thanks to HelloFax. With this add-on, you can send faxes from your own computer. HelloFax is an incredible tool that lets you send and receive faxes online. Use your current fax number, or get a new one. To send a fax, open a Google doc, select the ‘Hellofax’ add-on, enter the fax number of the recipient, and hit send. Add an optional cover letter if you wish.

  • Uberconference - Use this add-on to make conference calls within a Google application. Let's say you're collaborating on a Google doc. The UberConference add-on lets you book a conference call with your collaborators right from the sidebar.


Though some of these short-cuts may seem like minor details, combined, they will make a major difference in productivity! Keep in mind, the more you use Google’s Apps—and encourage your staff, colleagues, and clients to do so, the more efficiencies you create that aren't possible with Microsoft Office.

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