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Library Services During COVID-19: Google Docs

A guide to library services and academic support center services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Google Docs

Google Docs

Google docsThis is the one that's similar to Microsoft Word, and probably one of the tools you'll most commonly use if you're going with Google versus Microsoft while you're here at ICC.

This page's table of contents:

  • Create new / upload
  • Toolbar 
  • File
  • Edit
  • View
  • Insert
  • Format
  • Tools
  • Help

Creating a new doc

Create a new Google Doc

New buttonCreate a new Google Doc by clicking +New in Google Drive, and you can either start from scratch or choose a template (like a resume, report, etc.). 

Upload a Word document and edit in Google Docs

1. From Google Drive, click New. 

2. Click File Upload.

3. Right click on the file that uploaded.

4. Click Open with...

5. Click Google Docs.

Docs Toolbar

Here's a diagram of the toolbar in Google Docs, split in half.

The first half:

First half of the Google Docs Toolbar


Docs Toolbar second half

Docs File Menu explained

File menu in Google Docs

Docs File menu

1. Share… works just like the blue box in the upper right corner.

2. New lets you make a new doc, presentation, spreadsheet, etc.

3. Open… or Ctrl+O lets you open a doc from your Drive, a Shared file, a starred file, a recent file, or you have the option to upload.

4. Make a copy... name your file, choose its folder, and check the boxes if you want to share with the same people as before and if you want to keep the comments.

5. Download as may be one of the most useful—you can download your work as a Microsoft Word document, a PDF, etc.

6. Email as attachment… allows you to send your work as a PDF or other file type to whatever email address you specify, along with a message.

7. Make available offline is only recommended when working from a personal computer. You have to use Google Drive and this will definitely use space on your computer.

8. Version history allows you to name your current version, and this is a way to keep track of multiple drafts without saving them in a ton of different places.

9. Rename… You can re-title your document. You can also do this by simply clicking on the title at the top (double click to highlight, or click once if you just have to fix your spelling or add a word).

10. Move to… Stay organized and keep your work in folders. You can also add a new folder from this option.

11. Move to trash essentially “deletes” your item, but it actually stays in the trash for 30 days where you can still recover it. After the 30 days, you have another 25 days to contact a Google administrator to restore those items.

12. Publish to the web… gives you either a link or an embed code for making your document available to the public.

13. Email collaborators if you’re in a shared document.

14. Document details… shows you the file location, owner, last modification, and create date.

15. Language affects your spell check. It doesn’t actually change any of the interface to another language. That has to be done through other means.

16. Page setup… This is where you can set your layout to Landscape if you need to. Also set your margins, paper size, and page color here.

17. Print or you can use Ctrl+P on your keyboard.

Docs Edit Menu explained

Edit menu in Google Docs

Docs Edit Menu

1. Undo or Ctrl+Z on your keyboard will take back the last edit you made.

2. Redo or Ctrl+Y can redo the last edit you made.

3. Cut or Ctrl+X will “cut” text or objects from the page and save them to your clipboard.

4. Copy or Ctrl+C will copy the text or object to your clipboard so that you can “paste” it somewhere else.

5. Paste or Ctrl+V will “paste” the object you cut or copied into your work.

6. Paste without formatting will paste the text in without keeping the same styles as the place you got it from.

7. Delete gets rid of text or an object without saving it to your clipboard.

8. Select all or Ctrl+A will highlight everything in your workspace so that you can copy it, cut it, etc.

9. Find and replace… or Ctrl+H is useful in that you can type in the word or phrase you want to replace instead of combing through the document, and you can type in the word your phrase you want to go in its place in the form. Then you just hit either replace, replace all, or previous or next if you don’t want to replace ALL of them.

Docs View Menu explained

View menu in Google Docs

Docs View menu1. Print layout shows your work more like individual pages with breaks in between, whereas if you uncheck the box, it looks more like one continuous document.

2. Mode will be more relevant if you’re in a shared doc. Your default is Editing if you’re in your own doc, but this is where you can see if you’re in Editing, Suggesting, or Viewing mode. In suggesting, your edits will be turned into comments. In viewing, you can only see the doc, not edit or comment.

3. Show ruler is especially helpful if you’re dealing with a works cited or reference page and you need to check your hanging indent. It’s right at the top of your editing space, just below the toolbar.

4. Show document outline is really handy if you’re using that option that starts off as Normal text next to your font editing options. An outline is made from your headings, and can help you keep your document organized and easy to follow, especially if it’s lengthy.

5. Show equation toolbar lets you insert a bunch of fancy mathematical symbols.

6. Show section breaks will show you separation between things like your header, footer, and body of your page.

7. Full screen hides your title, toolbar, etc, so that the only things you see are the doc, the gray space, and your ruler (if you have show ruler checked).

Docs Insert menu explained

Insert menu in Google Docs

Docs insert menu1. Image – You can upload a picture from your computer or search the web, OR you can upload from your Drive, Google Photos, by URL, or take a picture with your computer’s camera (if applicable).

2. Table – Mouse over the number of cells across and down to make your table the size you want.

3. Drawing – Either create a new drawing or add one you’ve already had in your Drive.

4. Chart – Choose what kind of chart you want to insert – bar, column, line, or pie – or pull one from Sheets.

5. Horizontal line lets you insert a line across the page instead of trying to draw one, or worse yet, create one with underscores.

6. Footnote may be irrelevant to you based on the citation style you’re using, but if you need to add a footnote, this tool makes it really easy to do so.

7. Special characters… Not only can you choose a character from a whole list or search a character like “pi”--there’s also a box where you can draw the character you’re thinking of, and suggestions will appear!

8. Equation… Similar to special characters, but more specifically for writing equations.

9. Header & page number is especially important in formatting in APA, MLA, etc. Some styles require a running head, some want your last name and page number in the top right, etc. This is also where you go to edit a footer.

10. Break inserts either a page break or a section break. If you just want to start a new page, you can also press Ctrl+Enter  on your keyboard for a clean jump to the next page, rather than hitting Enter a million times.

11. Link gives you a two-part form. On the top, type the text you want to hyperlink. On the bottom, paste or type the URL of the link you want to insert.

12. Comment allows you to insert a comment, but you can just as easily find a comment icon in your toolbar to the right of where you format your text.

13. Bookmark inserts a little line with a ribbon (you won’t see it if you print) that bookmarks a particular spot on the page.

14. Table of contents will take into account all of the places you formatted as headings and create a table of contents out of them.

Docs Format Menu explained

Format menu in Google Docs

Docs format menu

1. Text – Make your text bold, underlined, italicized; draw a line through it; turn it into subscript or superscript; change the size; capitalize everything.

2. Paragraph styles – Set borders and shading. Also format your different sections, like Heading 1, 2, 3, etc.

3. Align & indent – Line your text up on the left, right, or center it; play with indentation.

4. Line spacing – set most papers to Double and make sure you’re not adding space between paragraphs.

5. Columns lets you give your page a column layout, more like a newspaper or brochure instead of a traditional essay.

6. Bullets & numbering lets you create ordered lists or unordered list, and from there you can choose the style of those lists.

7. Headers & footers… sets the margins for your headers and footers.

8. Table – Insert or delete rows or columns; merge cells; edit the colors and alignment.

9. Image – Crop or recolor (similar to Instagram filters but MUCH more limited); adjust things like constrast and brightness.

10. Clear formatting clears everything back to Arial 11.

11. Borders & lines is especially useful for images because you can make a frame for your picture, choosing the style, weight, and color of the borders and lines.

Other Google Docs Tips & Tricks

Other tips and tricks in Google Docs...

Creating a table of contents 

1. For each new section of your paper, you'll want to format the name of the section as some sort of heading. Your options are Title, Subtitle, Heading 1/2/3, and Normal Text (which is the default). So if you have a title already but it's set as normal text, you'll want to highlight it and set the format to Title by going to your toolbar and finding where it says Normal Text. Click that and find Title. Likewise, for any headings or subheadings you have, this is also where you'll pick the format. See the image below.

format heading vs title vs normal text


2. After you've formatted your text, go to Insert and find Table of Contents. Your options are a table of contents with page numbers, or a table of contents with blue links. If you plan to print and distribute your document, use the page numbers. If you're planning on sharing your document electronically, you'll most likely want to choose the blue links option, but it's ultimately up to you! Check the image below if you can't find the Table of Contents option.

Table of contents in the insert menu


That's all there is to it!

Find a function quickly

Docs has a lot of menus, as you've seen. But there's an easier way to find the tool you're looking for without manually digging through the menus.

1. Hit Alt and at the same time. A search menu should appear.

2. Start typing the function you're looking for. For example, if you want to insert a table of contents, start typing in "table" and Google automatically pulls up a few things that include table in them.

Bookmark places to jump to in your work

If you have a long document and don't want to keep scrolling to certain areas, you can insert a bookmark that will let you jump right to that spot. Make sure your cursor is blinking where you want the bookmark to go. Then, go to the Insert menu and click bookmark.

Tag one of your teammates in a comment 

When you've shared a document with a group, you can make comments as you're working. But did you know you can tag a collaborator in your comment? Just start typing @their-email-address and you can tag them. (Make sure you've shared the doc with them first!)


Exporting your Doc

Export a Google Doc to Word/PDF

1. Go to File.

2. Click Download.

3. Choose from the options that appear in the menu. Word or PDF are a couple popular options.


  • You can't lay text over an image in Docs like you can in word. It'll either be in line with the text or breaking the text.