10 Google Docs Tips that Take Seconds & Save You Time
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2006 was a landmark year in Google’s history. The Oxford English Dictionary accepted “Google” as a verb.

Since then we have done quite a lot to make that action the grammar for our online lives. We follow its particular syntax to search for information. We follow the rules of Gmail netiquette On A Good Note: 4 Types Of Emails You Could Write To Start Your Day On A Good Note: 4 Types Of Emails You Could Write To Start Your Day Reading inspirational quotes, visualizing a successful day, and repeating a set of affirmations are some of the ways to start a day optimistically. Have you considered that sending out an email can work equally well? Read More . And we read with awe and alarm as Google impacts our future lives 4 Surprising Ways Google Will Soon Impact Your Life 4 Surprising Ways Google Will Soon Impact Your Life We won't be seeing interstellar spaceships and time travel machines any time soon, but here are a few Google projects that are going to change the way you live within the next few years. Read More .

If Chrome is the fastest way to get on the web every morning, Google Drive is the place for work productivity. The popularity of Google Drive has made the cloud a happy place to be. Of all the tools on Google Drive, Docs as the text editor is the first choice for everyday tasks. And every day we can do with some word processing tips Word Processing In Google Docs? 5 Important Tips To Keep In Mind Word Processing In Google Docs? 5 Important Tips To Keep In Mind For the majority of my life, Microsoft Word was the word processing tool to use if you were going to do any serious work. Sure, there were alternatives like Corel WordPerfect and later on OpenOffice,... Read More that makes working on Google Docs more productive. Here are ten.

Let’s start with this minor speed tip to get the ball rolling:

Go straight to Google Docs from the App Launcher when you’re signed in to other Google products. Click on the App Launcher and you’ll find Docs in the More section.

Quickly Search Google Drive

You can search for a specific file or folder in Google Drive or the Docs, Sheets, and Slides home screens by entering a word or phrase into the search box at the top. The little dropdown arrow next to the box helps you fine-tune your search with three options:

Google Docs Search Options

  • File type: Folders, documents, PDFs, Photos, PDFs etc.
  • Opens With: Google Docs, Google Drawing, Google Sheets, any specific add-on installed etc.
  • Ownership: Owned by me, Not owned by me, Owned by anyone.

Beyond this, you can refine your search in Drive using specific phrases or commands.

If you want to speed through the search, enter a phrase or an exact quote related to the file you want to open. Google Drive opens the document and highlights the search keyword you used. Just like Google Search, you can use Boolean operator Become Better At Finding Stuff With Search Engines: Boolean Search Logic Explained Become Better At Finding Stuff With Search Engines: Boolean Search Logic Explained It only takes Google's thousands of servers half a second to query approximately 50 billion indexed pages, it takes you significantly longer to scan only the first page of search results. On top of that,... Read More s (e.g. “OR”) to expand the scope of your search.

Speed Tip: Press / (forward slash) to go to the Search box.

Google Support pages has the complete list of search options inside Google Drive. And don’t forget to search in the trash, too!

Get to “Hidden” Menu Commands Quicker

Google Docs is no different from any other office suite. It may be simpler than MS Word, but the menu still packs a lot of commands. Press Alt + / to access the search feature for menus. Type in what you are looking for and presto – the feature opens up.

Google Drive Search Menus

The menu search box is also a serendipitous way to discover other editing tools Google Docs has to offer.

From Idea to First Draft with Google Keep

Google Keep is a nifty little tool for jotting down quick notes on the fly. One of the best Google Keep tricks 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos Read More is to use Google Keep to grab text in any photo and turn it into digital text. But did you know that with a single click you can create a Google Doc from a Google Keep note?

Send to Google Docs

Thanks to this export, you can expand, edit, and polish your ideas on Google Docs. For students and writers this seamlessness is a nice timesaving feature.

See the Words You Use Most with a Word Cloud

Writers, students, and academics can use word cloud or a tag cloud to get to the theme of a document quickly. Word clouds also help us see the words we use (or misuse) more often. We have earlier seen how a word cloud is an interesting tool to visualize information It’s Not Word Bling: 7 Interesting Ways You Can Play With Word Clouds It’s Not Word Bling: 7 Interesting Ways You Can Play With Word Clouds We, the denizens of the Web, who live and work here also call them as tag clouds. Call them “word clouds” or “tag clouds” – they are visualization tools that helps your brain process information... Read More .

In Google Docs, use the Tag Cloud Generator for any document that has 50 words or more. The free Google Drive add-on can be located and installed from Add-ons (menu) > Get Add-ons…

Access the add-on from the menu. The tag cloud is displayed on a small panel on the right. If you continue writing, use the blue Refresh Cloud button to generate the tag cloud again.

Google Docs -- Tag Cloud Generator

The display could have been bigger or expandable – but that’s a small complaint against this functional gadget. The Tag Cloud Generator also works with Spreadsheets.

Search and Insert with a Click

With the Research Tool you don’t need to leave the document you are working on to search for information. Opening another browser tab is a time sink in itself. The built-in research tool that helps you search, insert, and cite extra information in the Google Doc or Google Slide you’re working on. Go to Tools > Research.

You can add and cite quotes with a click. Type in the subject for a quote or select a word from the document.

Google Docs - Research Tool

Citation formats followed are – MLA, APA, and Chicago. As you can see from the screenshot above, inserting quotes with the proper citation is just one part. The Research Tools can also be used to cite a variety of data – including statistical data in tables. The usage of the search options is self-explanatory – for example if some data is buried in your Google Drive, use the Personal filter to search for the information.

Quickly Apply Formatting to Multiple Text Selections

The Paint format tool in Google Docs helps you replicate a specific format to any other part of the content. Select and format any text. Click the Paint Roller icon in your toolbar, and select the text to which you want to apply the formatting. The original format is “copied” to this second text.

Google Docs -- Paint Format

But what if you want to format text located in multiple places in your document? Simple – double click the Paint roller icon instead of the single-click. Highlight multiple text selections, and copy the same formatting to each selection.

Grab Royalty Free Images

Google Docs includes Google Image Search to help you quickly find and insert photos in your documents. Google also gives you two other rich sources for images – LIFE and Stock Photos. Images from LIFE’s archives are labelled for commercial reuse with modification. In 2012, Google curated 5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music, and eight other categories.

Google Docs -- Search Stock Images

Google specifies that the images are available for personal or commercial use only in Google Drive and must be used in accordance with their program policies.

Also: You can insert any image by URL. The image is saved in your document, so even if the original source file is removed from the web your document won’t show a blank placeholder.

Get Someone’s Attention on a Comment

Collaborative Google Docs are powered by comments. Google Docs has a quick way to tag persons individually so that they are notified about any comments you make on a document. Select the point in the document for the comment. Choose Insert > Comment. In the comment box, type an @ or + sign, then start typing the name of the person you want to notify.

Google Docs - Insert Comment

Google Docs automatically picks the name from your Gmail contact list and informs them with an email. If the person doesn’t have direct access to the doc, you will have to set the permission level for the user.

Speed through Math Equation Shortcuts

Google Docs brings with it a very handy Equation editor. Go to Insert > Equation. You can not only create equations easily with the symbols, operators, variables, and arrows provided but also collaborate on them with your team members.

Here’s a video from Daniel Kaufmann’s YouTube channel:

To speed through the process, use automation equation shortcuts. For example, if you type “\alpha” in an equation followed by a space or a parenthesis, Google Docs will convert your typing to an alpha. You can easily add superscripts and subscripts by pressing the “^” and “_” keys, respectively. Enter “\frac” for fractions.

Google Support has the complete list of equation shortcuts.

The Other Time Saving Shortcuts

Before we forget about how shortcuts can be the ultimate timesaver — Hit “CTRL+/” on your keyboard to display the massive list Google Drive has lined up for faster document management. A lot of the Gmail navigational shortcuts and those for Drive are similar. Google Drive also allows you to create your own shortcuts.

Go to Tools > Preferences > Automatic Substitution.

Google Docs Preferences

You can use the fields to auto-insert regularly used words, email addresses, abbreviations, and even frequently misspelled words with their correct versions.

It’s also worthwhile to select Automatically detect links and Automatically detect lists in the Preferences dialog box.

You can argue successfully that the ultimate speed tip is to use Google Drive templates 10 Money Management Tools Inside Google Drive You Should Use Today 10 Money Management Tools Inside Google Drive You Should Use Today The problem with money is that if you don't manage it, you end up without it. How about some useful money management tools to help you get started right inside your Google Drive account? Read More . When you dive down into the depths of the Drive, every little feature can help you create professional looking documents How Google Docs Can Help You Come Across As A Professional How Google Docs Can Help You Come Across As A Professional Google Docs has a huge, free repository of ready templates that you can use for almost any professional scenario. Let's take a look at five common documents needed in the workplace. Read More . The right speed tip helps you do it that much faster.

Are you a student, professional, or a homemaker? How do you use Google Docs every day? Which are the little features that have become a time-saving habit? Tell us down below.

Image Credits: Highway road via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Google Docs, Google Drive, Keyboard Shortcuts.

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  1. Dan Gravatt
    May 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Google Sheets has a problem.
    It does not support password protected documents.
    In other words, you want to open a password protected document it will not, so
    can't use it.
    It says on PC Version "Password protected files aren't supported"
    On android phone it says "Spreadsheet appears to be corrupted"

    Otherwise a nice program.

  2. ash
    August 7, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    i face a problem with the preferences, automatic substitution

    Whenever I enter the substituting word with some uppercase characters, when it substitutes in the doc, it prints them all in lowercase.

    Is this design or a bug? And I would like it if you have a workaround.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 9, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Looks like a bug. I couldn't duplicate them at my end though. Hope some reader offers a feedback on this.

  3. Guy
    May 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm


  4. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Here's a helpful tip, number your tips. This article was hard to follow and I lost interest somewhere between 1 and 3, I don't actually know cause there's no numbers.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 27, 2015 at 6:58 am

      Hey Adam, the tip is noted. The "tips" are all standalone, and I guess not numbering them works just as well. But yes, if you say it improves your readability then I will definitely keep that in mind. Thanks!

  5. Anonymous
    June 10, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Wow, what a great article. Thanks!

    • Saikat Basu
      June 19, 2015 at 7:18 am

      Thanks Karen. Hope it managed to actually save you some time :)

  6. Anonymous
    June 10, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Very helpful information for me. Actually I use it but still some of features is unknown to me.This article is very helpful for me.Thanks.