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. And we read with awe and alarm as Google impacts our future lives.
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 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:
- 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 operators (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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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. When you dive down into the depths of the Drive, every little feature can help you create professional looking documents. 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