6 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Google Docs

Apr 14 2009 by Daniel Shain | 20 Comments

There are many services out on the web for online collaboration, but there’s no doubt that Google Docs is rapidly becoming one of the more popular brands. Google Docs is free, web based (i.e. cross platform), and quite simple to use. But that doesn’t mean it lacks features.

Whether you’re a regular user or have just been thinking about trying it out, here are the top 6 tips and tricks to help you get the most out of Google Docs.

1. Chatting in Google Docs

Chatting.

To get the most out of Google Docs, you’ve got to be able to communicate in real time and with more efficiency than simply writing notes to each other on the shared page. Google Docs takes care of this issue with a built in chat client that hides easily in the top right corner.

Chatting in Google Docs.

When sharing a presentation, the chat client has the ability to share inline photos from Picasa or Flickr and videos from Google video and YouTube.

2. Organize your documents easily.

Colors

Google Docs uses a pretty clean interface, but any time you’re sharing with multiple people it pays to be as organized as possible. With Google Docs the best way to stay organized is by making use of colors and comments.

Comments

In a spreadsheet colors can be set to follow certain rules (such as turning the text of every cell with your name in it purple), and you can insert comments by right clicking on any cell to get your message across without taking up space.

Colors in Google Docs.

In the overall Docs interface, folders can be color coded too in a manner similar to gmail labels.

3. Share with others

Sharing documents on Google Docs.

Google Docs is all about sharing, but you knew that. The key, however, is to know exactly how you can share. At the discretion of the owner, collaborators can be invited to edit or simply to view a shared document.

Sharing on Google Docs.

By default anyone who can edit the document has the ability to share the document with others, and if you really want to open the floodgates you can open the document for universal viewing or editing. Be warned though, there is a limit of 10 people for simultaneous editing of documents and presentations (for spreadsheets, the limit is a much safer 50).

4. Scale back (revision)

Make Revisions.

You already know Google Docs is autosaving everything you do, but you may not know that you can manipulate past revisions in order to see exactly what’s changed.

Revisions.

All Google Docs will keep a revisions history so you can track your changes and, if you want, revert to them at any time. In the document revision history, you even have the ability to look at two versions side by side to view color coded changes.

5. Draw

Drawing.

Just recently Google added a collaborative drawing feature to Google Docs. This opens up a whole new array of sharing options, as diagrams and charts can now be constructed and shared with ease. The options are obviously not comprehensive, but you have your choice of a variety of shapes, lines, arrows, or text boxes, and you can color and rotate and even layer the objects to a certain extent. The picture for this one is Google’s.

6. The rest

There are a number of other features located within Google Docs that you may or may not find useful.

HTML.

Google gives you the ability to edit the html or even the css of your documents. In a spreadsheet, you can reference one sheet from the other, allowing users to stay on their own sheet while simultaneously updating others. There is also Google’s live lookup which can be used to have cells contain data gathered live from the internet, and much more. And yes, that html will put a marquee on your google doc.

Google Docs is currently in Beta and frequently changes. Google provides their own tutorial here and blogs about many of the changes they make here.

What’s your favorite Google Doc tip?

This article was written by Daniel Shain, one of the best editors working for LaptopLogic.com. Are you planning on buying a new Dell laptop? Check the latest laptop computer reviews before you make your final choice!

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About the Author

Daniel Shain is freelance writer for the Laptop Logic Team – providing news and reviews on mobile technology. He’s also an avid Boston sports fan. Daniel graduated from Union College in ’07 with a BA in English and a minor in Computer Science.

20 Comments

Hasan Tayyar BEŞİK

April 15th, 2009

“Google Docs” is the biggest :)
I don’t need any other online doc manager.

TheNorba

April 15th, 2009

great post: detailed and useful :)

lavann amartin

April 15th, 2009

Hi, Daniel.

Thank you for breaking that down into simple sections that were easy to understand.

Love the chat feature in Google docs!

~Lavanna

Kayla

April 15th, 2009

I haven’t used many of these, I love Google docs though. I’ll have to consider using it more in the future. Great tips!

Sean McColgan

April 15th, 2009

Use Google Docs daily – with Google Gears installed it is the perfect online/offline application.

Angie Bowen

April 15th, 2009

I just recently started using Google Docs and love it. This was a very helpful article, especially to a newbie like me :)

Clint Maher

April 15th, 2009

Google just keeps adding so much value to our lives, and Docs is just the start of it. Great article =)

Jacob Gube

April 17th, 2009

@Clint Maher: Excellent one-liner summary of how I feel about Google.

Abdul Haseeb

April 17th, 2009

nice post , nicely elaborated and useful as well

Mark Max Henckel

April 18th, 2009

Yes, really good stuff, really good tips and really good post. Thanks!

Milton Ramirez

April 18th, 2009

I am fond of all Google apps and I had been using Google Docs as a word processor but thanks to your tips I am now going to change habits.

Good stuff. -Milt

DemoGeek

May 29th, 2009

The real productivity enhancer is the collaborative editing feature. That’s bound to be part of a web based solution like this but they’ve done it really nice.

BTW, the folder structure with which you can organize your Google Docs in the cloud is another killer feature that draws me closer to using Google Docs than M$ Office $$$$.

Pankaj

July 11th, 2009

Google Docs only brings document collaboration features. Online collaboration should include schedule coordination, task management, and online conferencing features. Try HyperOffice sometime, which integrates the above features with document collaboration.

JayF

August 13th, 2009

Nice post. Has the ability to chat about a document been spread to all Google doc types? I can only find it in my spreadsheets.

medyum

August 16th, 2009

Use Google Docs daily – with Google Gears installed it is the perfect online/offline application.

Lady Katherine

May 18th, 2010

I had a problem 2 weeks ago, when using Google Doc, to save things I use each week on my blog and copy and paste. The hmtl went crazy leaving spaces, changing the font, and adding apple span on it. I tried to delete most of the spacing and change the size of fonts, too me hours, I know little about hmtl, but learned a lot in this process. lol Still had many spaces but not ones pages long between sentences. I went back to the old editor, thinking this was the problem. Did a practice post and only copied one sentence from Google Doc and it was large spaces. So this week I did everything the old way. Retyping everything instead of copy and paste from Google Doc to my blogs editor.

christoph trappe

August 14th, 2010

Thanks for the breakdown. Very helpful.

I’m looking for a mobile app for android that allows me to easily edit google docs. Any suggestions?

Tom E

September 20th, 2010

Google docs is great for the simple stuff. Ironically I wouldn’t want to write my memoirs on it by virtue that it would be totally open to Google to do what they want with it.

medyum

April 17th, 2011

I had a problem 2 weeks ago, when using Google Doc, to save things I use each week on my blog and copy and paste. The hmtl went crazy leaving spaces, changing the font, and adding apple span on it. I tried to delete most of the spacing and change the size of fonts, too me hours, I know little about hmtl, but learned a lot in this process. lol Still had many spaces but not ones pages long between sentences. I went back to the old editor, thinking this was the problem. Did a practice post and only copied one sentence from Google Doc and it was large spaces. So this week I did everything the old way. Retyping everything instead of copy and paste from Google Doc to my blogs editor…

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