Google Docs Adds-Ons For Students: These 5 Will Help You Write A Paper

Dann Albright 27-03-2014

Word-processing for students has long been the domain of Microsoft Word. The recent release of add-ons is making Google Docs an appealing free option. The five add-ons we are about to meet have the potential to become quick favorites for people working on research papers, essays, and collaborative projects. But, are they good enough to make Google Docs the go-to option?


Google Docs won’t be toppling Word from the top of the heavy-duty text-editing list anytime soon, but add-ons like these will help keep it in the list of best alternatives to Office. The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives Microsoft Office is the king of office suites, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Here are some other office suites you might like better! Read More It will make it more attractive for those who want to keep all of their work in the cloud.

While Docs add-ons aren’t yet living up to their full potential, these five show promise and, with a few rounds of updates, could become indispensable tools for students.

Document Navigation: Table of Contents

If you’re working on a really long document, like a thesis, it can be hard to find the exact section or paragraph that you’re looking for during editing. The Table of Contents add-on automatically generates a table of contents from the headings in your document and displays it in the sidebar. By clicking on each heading, you can quickly jump to that section.


To insert a table of contents into your document, just click on the top of the first page, click on “Insert,” select “Table of Contents” and you’ll get exactly what you asked for. The inserted table of contents isn’t a very nice one — it isn’t editable, and lacks page numbers — but if you just need something basic, it’ll work.


Adding Charts: Charts

Research papers and essays often need charts, and creating, saving, and uploading them can be a pain. The aptly named Charts add-on makes this much easier by allowing you to add charts from a Google spreadsheet. Just select the sheet your data is saved in, choose the data range, and insert it!


There are few options for customizing your chart, and the display isn’t exciting. It can sometimes be difficult to format and select the data in a way that gets you the chart you’re expecting. With a little practice, though, it becomes easier and could save you a few minutes of working with Excel.

Collaboration: Track Changes [No Longer Available]

One of the best parts of using Google Docs is that you can easily work with others by giving them access to your documents. Before Track Changes came along, you’d only know if someone edited something, and not what they had changed, unless you agreed to insert text in a specific color.



Now, changes made by all users are highlighted in the document and displayed in the sidebar, where they can be accepted or rejected. The app seems to update itself sluggishly, with updates taking a few seconds to get highlighted and placed in the sidebar. It doesn’t slow down editing, though, so it’s still a good tool for managing collaborative writing.

Editing: Consistency Checker

While this doesn’t provide the versatility of a style-checking app like Expresso Improve Your Writing With Expresso, The Style Checker Meet Expresso. It will change the way you blog – for the better. Read More , it does help make sure that you stay consistent throughout your document. After scanning your document, the add-on will bring to your attention any instances where you haven’t hyphenated or spelled words in the same way, written out numbers in the same format, used different abbreviations, or where you’ve made any common typos.



It’s not a groundbreaking tool, but it can save you some time in editing by picking out all the times you wrote “four” instead of “4” or “email” instead of “e-mail.” I find it especially useful as an American living in the UK, as my spelling goes back and forth between American and British — Consistency Checker makes it easy to ensure that I stick with one style or the other.

Bibliography Creation: EasyBib

I know I’m not the only one who dislikes writing and formatting bibliographies. There are a lot of different solutions for managing references and creating works cited lists, but EasyBib is currently the only one that’s integrated into Google Docs. The add-on lets you quickly search for books and journal articles by entering the title, ISBN, or DOI, and websites via URL.


Each of the references that you add to your document is stored in a sidebar list, and you can insert your bibliography in MLA, APA, or Chicago format with a single click. This is about as simple bibliography creation can get. Unfortunately, EasyBib doesn’t provide support for parenthetical citations, so you’re going to have to do those yourself.


What’s Next?

As it stands, Google Docs still falls a bit short on versatility and power when you compare it to Microsoft Word, even if you know the best Google Docs tricks 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 . But Microsoft Office is expensive, and isn’t likely to get cheaper anytime soon. It looks like Google is making a run for the word-processing crown, and this is a great first step.

One worrying thing that I noticed about these add-ons, however, is that some developers might be using them as ads. For example, Consistency Checker is a lightweight version of PerfectIt, a type of proofreading software, and you’re confronted with links to a free trial of PerfectIt when you use the add-on. EasyBib also pimps their pro version. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend.


We certainly haven’t seen the best of what Google Docs add-ons can offer, and these five show that developers are working hard to bring high-quality extensions to the service. I’m hopeful that more detailed tables of contents, more expansive chart managers, and more comprehensive bibliography creation tools are on the horizon!

What other add-ons would you like to see? Are there any add-ons that would make you more likely to switch from traditional desktop software to Google Docs?

Related topics: Education Technology, Google Docs, Google Drive, Study Tips, Writing Tips.

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  1. Nancy
    April 7, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Google Docs needs a Grammar Check function for students to access, as well as the Spelling. I looked for it but can't find it, if it exists. Basic grammar check would be very useful.

    • Dann A
      April 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

      I believe that a very basic grammar check is included with the spell check function, but a more comprehensive option would be really nice. Hopefully a developer will pick up on the need for this and publish an add-on in the near future!

  2. Sean Day
    April 3, 2014 at 1:30 am

    The top two items I would ask for would be better control of images inserted in documents and an outlining function as can be found on Office 365. (Expand / Collapse sections)

    • Dann A
      April 10, 2014 at 10:18 am

      In my experience, most online text editors don't have great control over inserted images. Then again, I don't even like how Microsoft Word handles them. Let's hope better image functionality is on the way!

  3. Anon
    March 31, 2014 at 3:09 am

    LibreOffice is very good.

    • Dann A
      March 31, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      I've never used LibreOffice, but I've heard good things. How do you think it compares to Microsoft Word?

  4. Shisheen H
    March 29, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I know Google docs is great for students but, i agree it have a long way to go for business use. It have helped me reduce spending for Micrasoft student and, it have a great sign substitute over echo-sign. This helped eliminate the Adobe X reader app i had installed on my Transformer tablet. So, i would give it a 4 out of 5.

    • Dann A
      March 31, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      Yeah, I find that it's not quite up to snuff for professional-level use yet either. But you're right—if you can use something for free instead of Microsoft Office, it's worth a shot!

  5. Warren B
    March 28, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    The one time I've used it, the only thing that was really handy was the fact I had a group of 5 people working on a presentation we were supposed to put up. The Auto-tracking changes was very good for that. Also, if the creating sources had been available at the time, it would've saved some time simply because we would not have needed to go to another website to create to create them. However, having a business law major on our team made life easy, so it wasn't that big of a deal.

    As far as heavy duty document creation though, it is lagging. When a single account for the group was made and all of us signed in, why would permissions for each member have to be given to edit the document? We still had to run the finished document through PowerPoint simply to ensure that all of the slides were properly aligned (they weren't originally, though they seemed to be beforehand) and to allow us the chance to use MS Office spell and grammar check to catch any stupid mistakes. Just from those two actions alone, it's quite obvious Google may be getting up there, but it is still no where near up to par.

    • Dann A
      March 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      I've had a number of similar experiences, and I definitely understand your frustration. Google Docs, as it stands, seems to be best used as a pre-Microsoft Office tool. I'm really hopeful that Docs improves a lot in the near future, though, and I think it might be on its way. We'll see.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Bryan
    March 28, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I was going to add the "charts" add-in, but the required user permissions are ridiculous. They "need" permission to add to, delete, share, etc docs in my Google Drive? They don't need most of the permissions I'd have to grant them to use the widget. Please consider reviewing this type of information in the future.

    • Dann A
      March 28, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks for pointing this out, Bryan. I sent an e-mail to the group that created the Charts add-on to see if they'd be willing to comment on why they need those permissions. I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything!

  7. Phid
    March 28, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Even with these add-ons, Google Docs is still lacking. I use it for typing basic outlines of notes, and the spell checker needs improvement. I wish they made autocorrect more streamlined into the program.

    • Dann A
      March 28, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      I agree, Phid. Google Docs has a long way to go before it will be considered a worthy document editor. However, I think add-ons are big step in the right direction. It shows that Google is taking it seriously and I think the fact that they're opening it up to outside developers will help drive it forward. Whether or not it gets a lot better remains to be seen.

      Thanks for reading!