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Google Docs Masterclass: The Infographic

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Google Docs Masterclass

About a year back, the Boston Globe wrote a piece on the history of word processing machines with the assistance of Matthew Kirschenbaum, a professor who currently teaches English at the University of Maryland. The focus of their discussion was on how a computer, generally seen as something cold and impersonal, could actually improve the content creation process.

Kirschenbaum said, "There was a fear that the word processor would seduce young writers into thinking the work was done simply because it looked nice on the page."

While that fear may have been justified when people first began using word processing programs in the 1980s, the allure eventually faded away and these tools became a necessary part of our personal and professional lives. Software programs like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, AppleWorks, and WordPerfect introduced a new way to write, one that was faster, cleaner, and more efficient than the typewriter or handwritten approaches taken before them.

It was when software made a move for the cloud that everything changed.

In the mid-2000s, Google acquired a number of companies that would help position them within the word processing market. They first tackled the storage aspect of the technology, enabling users to save their word processing documents in the cloud. They then began to roll out web-based tools by which users could create content. It was in 2010, however, that Google was able to launch Google Docs. In 2012, they added a collaboration feature and gave us what we now know to be the premiere office suite of word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software.

While Microsoft may have held the word processing baton for a long time, it's clear that Google has picked it up in recent years and evolved this technology in bigger and better ways. The following infographic will help you to quickly become a Google Docs master. It assumes that you are already comfortable with the basics of word processing so that you can get to the interesting stuff. In an hour or so, you should be able to use this great office suite for all your work.

Start Using Google Docs This Morning and Master It by Lunch

Start Using Google Docs This Morning and Master It by Lunch

Google Docs is a full-featured word processor that you use through your web browser. It's a whole new way of working that allows you to create, edit, and store documents in the cloud. This allows you to access and work on your documents from any computer anywhere. Follow along and learn everything you need to be a Google Docs master.

Getting Google Docs

  • There are three primary applications in the Google office suite
    • Google Docs (word processor)
    • Google Sheets (spreadsheet)
    • Google Slides (presentation)
  • They are all part of Google Drive
    • Google Drive is free for most people
      • If you deal with very large amounts of data, you may need to purchase extra disk space
    • Once you have a Google Drive account, you automatically have the office suite, since it works in your web browser
  • Signing up
    • Go to http://drive.google.com
    • Follow the instructions (just a couple of clicks) and you are done!
      • It is set up by default to use your gmail account
      • If you don't have an account, you can use another email address
        • Just click "I prefer to use my current email address"

The Basics

Google Docs should be very familiar to anyone who has used any word processor in the past. It allows you to format text using the menu and button bars. The only thing that may be a little confusing is that there is no save function; the application does that automatically. Below are some less obvious, but important aspects of Google Docs.

Upload Files and Folders

  • Upload files or entire folders onto your Drive
    • Go to File > Open in the menubar
    • Click on the Upload tab
    • Drag your file into the box
  • Docs supports the following file types:
    • Microsoft Office
    • OpenOffice
    • Rich Text File
    • PDF
    • HTML


  • Create Bookmarks in a Document
    • Instead of scrolling through a document in order to find a certain section, Google Docs allows you to create bookmarks inside documents
      • Bookmark
        • Create a bookmark by clicking on a place in the document, go to the Insert menu, and select "Bookmark"
      • Link to bookmark
        • Create a link to that bookmark by highlighting a section of text, go to the Insert menu, select "Link," select the correct bookmark from the list, and click "OK"
      • Open Links From Inside the Insert Link Box
        • When inserting a link into a document, you can search for and open links in a new tab from the insert link box
          • To do so, begin by inserting a link and entering some text in the link box
          • A dropdown list of potential pages will pop up
          • To open a link in a new tab, click the black box icon with the white arrow inside it
            • This allows you to make sure you are linking to the correct page

Automatic Saving

  • Google Docs records changes every few microseconds
  • Select File > "See revision history" to:
    • See every change made to a document
    • Restore the document to any revision point


  • >Insert an Image as a URL
    • Rather than save an image to your computer and then uploading it to your documents, you can insert images directly as URLs
      • To do so, find and copy the URL for the desired image
      • Then go to Insert > Image and select the "By URL" tab
      • Paste the desired image's URL into the box
      • Click the blue Select button to paste the image into the document
    • >Edit an Image
      • To edit an image in Google Docs, just click the desired image and select the "Image options..." button
        • This will open a sidebar that allows you to modify the image:
          • Color
          • Transparency
          • Brightness
          • Contrast

Personal Dictionary Management

  • You can easily add words that Google thinks are misspelled (such as a person's name) to your personal dictionary
  • But if you discover that you've made a mistake and accidentally entered a misspelled word into their dictionary, you can remove that word
    • To manage the list of words in your personal dictionary, go to Tools > "Personal dictionary…"
    • From there, you can add new words or remove words from the list

Full Screen Editing

  • For distraction-free writing, hide the toolbars so that only the writing space is visible
    • Click on the View menu, and then select "Full Screen"
    • Use full screen mode in your browser to remove browser toolbars as well

Web Clipboard

  • You have access to a web clipboard, similar to a regular operating system's clipboard, but with some key advantages, including:
    • Multiple items can be saved to the web clipboard, not just one thing at a time
    • Items saved to the web clipboard can be accessed from any other computer, so long as you can access your Google account
  • To copy to the web clipboard, highlight the desired text or image and go to Edit > "Web clipboard" > "Copy selection to web clipboard"
    • This puts the selected item into the clipboard
  • To access those items, go to Edit > Web clipboard > and then select the desired item to be pasted
  • Items placed in the web clipboard will vanish if they are unused for 30 days
    • You can also manually clear their web clipboard by going to Edit > "Web clipboard" > "Clear all items"

Use Google Docs Offline

  • This feature is only available if you use the Google Chrome browser
    • Go to your Google Drive settings and check the box next to "Sync Google Docs, Sheets, Slide, & Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline"
    • The offline version of Drive is limited to:
      • 4,000 items, or 5 GB of data


Allow Others to Use Your Documents

  • You can change any document to allow specific people to
    • View
    • Comment
    • Edit
  • Go to File > Share…
    • This will open a dialog that will allow you to change permissions for everyone and to set them specifically for individuals

Chat Inside a Document

  • While multiple users are working on the same document, they can chat with each other using the built-in chat feature
    • Click on the chat box symbol in the upper right hand corner of the screen
      • The box won't appear if only one person is editing the document

Web Publishing

  • You can easily publish your document to the web
    • To do so, open the document, then go to File > Publish to the Web
    • In that menu, you will be able to:
      • Publish the document
        • Get a link to their published document
        • Get the embed code to their document
      • You can also decide whether the published document will:
        • Remain as it was when it was published
        • Update as the original document is changed
          • To make this choice, check or uncheck the box in the "Published content & settings" section marked "Automatically republish when changes are made"
        • If you decide that you don't want your document to be accessible anymore, you can unpublish it by clicking the "Stop publishing" button under the "Published content & settings" section

Document Styles


  • Save Font Faces and Sizes as Styles
    • If you don't want to have to resize/change the font of your documents manually, you can save your choices as styles
      • To do so, format some text and select it
      • Then select the styles box (the one that includes "Normal text," "Heading 1," "Heading 2" etc.)
      • On the right-hand side of each style there is a black arrow
      • Select the style you'd like to change, click the arrow, and select the box that says, "Update 'blank' to match" (where 'blank' is the style you selected)
    • Now you can easily change your text to a specific style by selecting it from the style box
  • Automatically Create a Table of Contents
    • You can insert a table of contents that automatically contains all headers in your document and links to them
      • Highlight the heading of each section and change it from "Normal text" to something in the dropdown menu (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc)
      • Then locate the cursor where you want it to go, and select Insert > "Table of contents" to generate the TOC

Free Templates

  • Take advantage of hundreds of templates for Google Docs by visiting https://drive.google.com/templates including:
    • Resumes
    • Party invitations
    • Recipes
    • Newsletters
    • Invoices
    • Lesson plans
    • Press releases

Advanced Features

The Research Tool

  • The research tool allows you to easily do research and then cite your sources
    • The tool even allows you to choose your citation format, whether it's Chicago, APA, or MLA
  • To use this, click the Explore button at the bottom right of the screen
    • This will open the research sidebar
  • You can search for research topics in the sidebar - filtering results to look for webpages, images, or your Google Drive documents
    • You can choose to insert the citation directly into their document by clicking the quotation mark that appears when you hover over the result
    • You can change the style of citation by clicking on the three vertical dots above the result list


  • Draftback is an add-on for Google Docs that automatically creates a graph that charts a timeline of changes in the document, such as:
    • How quickly the document grew
    • When changes happened
    • Where on the page those changes happened
  • Due to the way Google Docs is coded, Draftback allows you to track the revision history of highlighted text, even if that clause/sentence/paragraph wasn't originally a single unit
  • Draftback was created so that people could get a better understanding of how their writing changes over time

Keyboard Shortcuts

(For Mac, use the "Command" button instead of "Ctrl")

Common Actions

  • Find and replace
    • Ctrl + H
  • Insert page break
    • Ctrl + Enter
  • Show common keyboard shortcuts
    • Ctrl + /
  • Word count
    • Ctrl + Shift + C
  • Insert a link
    • Ctrl + K
  • Open link
    • Alt + Enter

Text Formatting

  • Strikes through text
    • Alt + Shift + 5
  • Superscript
    • Ctrl + .
  • Subscript
    • Ctrl + ,

Paragraph Formatting

  • Create a bulleted list
    • Ctrl + Shift + 8
  • Create a numbered list
    • Ctrl + Shift + 7
  • Decrease indent
    • Ctrl + [
  • Increase indent
    • Ctrl + ]

Comments and Footnotes

  • Insert a comment
    • Ctrl + Alt + M
  • Insert a footnote
    • Ctrl + Alt + F
  • Opens discussion thread
    • Ctrl + Alt + Shift + A

Images and Drawings

  • Move by one pixel
    • Shift + Arrow keys
  • Resize larger
    • Ctrl + Alt + K
  • Resize smaller
    • Ctrl + Alt + J
  • Rotate clockwise by 15°
    • Alt + Right arrow
  • Rotate clockwise by 1°
    • Alt + Shift + Right arrow
  • Rotate counterclockwise by 15°
    • Alt + Left arrow
  • Rotate counterclockwise by 1°
    • Alt + Shift + Left arrow


  • File
    • In Google Chrome: Alt + F
    • All other browsers: (add Shift)
  • Edit
    • Alt + E
  • View
    • Alt + V
  • Insert
    • Alt + I
  • Format
    • Alt + O
  • Tools
    • Alt + T
  • Table Table
    • Alt + B
  • Help
    • Alt + H

Text selection with keyboard

  • Extend selection one character
    • Shift + left/right arrow
  • Extend selection one word
    • Ctrl + Shift + left/right arrow
  • Extend selection one line
    • Shift + up/down arrow
  • Extend selection to the beginning of the line
    • Shift + home
  • Extend selection to the end of the line
    • Shift + end
  • Extend selection to the beginning of the document
    • Ctrl + Shift + home
  • Extend selection to the end of the document
    • Ctrl + Shift + end

Text selection with mouse

  • Select word
    • Double-click
  • Extend selection one word at a time
    • Double-click + drag
  • Select paragraph
    • Triple-click
  • Extend selection one paragraph at a time
    • Triple-click + drag


  • Open revision history
    • Ctrl + Alt + Shift + H
  • Open dictionary
    • Ctrl + Shift + Y
  • Move to next typo
    • Ctrl + '
  • Move to previous typo
    • Ctrl + ;

Gone are the days when you had to be tied to a particular computer because that was where your files and applications were stored. With cloud-based applications and storage, you can work more efficiently and collaboratively from whatever computer you find yourself on. And Google Docs makes it super easy to do so.

Sources: Chrome.google.com, Docs.google.com, Drive.google.com, Support.google.com, Cbsnews.com, CrystalRichard.com, Draftback.com, GoogleSystem.blogspot.com, Howtogeek.com, Jsomers.com, Lifehacker.com, Softonic.com, Teamtreehouse.com, Mashable.com, Zapier.com.


Brenda Barron

About Brenda Barron

Brenda is an active online publisher and experienced WordPress blogger. She has been building websites since 1997. In addition, she publishes science fiction and fantasy stories under the name Brenda Stokes Barron.


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