Google Docs 101 Notes
Google Docs is a free, web-based application for creating documents, spreadsheets,
and more. It's a great tool for sharing and collaborating on documents.
In this lesson, you'll learn about Google Docs and how it works. You'll also learn about the
advantages and disadvantages of using Google Docs
What is Google Docs?
Google Docs is a free, web-based application that lets you create, share, and manage
documents, or docs. If you’ve ever used a productivity suite like Microsoft Office, some
things about Google Docs might seem familiar. For instance, the types of docs you can
work with resemble files that can be created with various Microsoft Office programs.
These are the types of docs you can create and share with Google Docs:
Documents: For composing letters, flyers, essays, and other text-based files
(similar to Microsoft Word documents).
Spreadsheets: For storing and organizing information (similar to Microsoft Excel
Presentations: For creating and presenting slides (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint
Forms: For collecting and organizing data.
Drawings: For creating simple vector graphics or diagrams.
Watch these videos made by the Google Docs team (June 2010) to learn more about the
different types of files you can create with Google Docs.
How does Google Docs work?
The biggest difference between Google Docs and a traditional productivity suite is that the
application and all of your files are stored online, rather than on your computer. Some
people refer to this type of storage as the Cloud.
The files you create with Google Docs are stored on Google’s servers and linked to your
Google Account. Since these docs are stored in the Cloud, you can access them from
any computer with an internet connection. You can even give other people permission
to view or edit them as well.
Watch this video made by Common Craft (March 2008) to learn more about how Google
Why use Google Docs?
There are several reasons many people find Google Docs useful. You can access it
anywhere, and it's easy to share and collaborate on docs. Google Docs lets you decide
exactly who you want to see your docs by offering three sharing settings. You can choose
Keep a doc private
Share it with a few people
Make it public on the web
You can also customize these settings to allow others to edit your doc. This can be
extremely useful if you're working on a doc with a group of people. Instead of sending
multiple versions of a document back and forth as you each make edits, you will all be
able to make comments and edit the same file.
Another benefit to using Google Docs is that it is connected to other Google tools. If you
already have a Google Account, you'll use the same account for your Docs. This makes
it easy to share and collaborate with the people you already email.
Watch this video from the Google Docs team (June 2010) to learn more about sharing
with Google Docs.
Drawbacks to Google Docs
As useful as Google Docs can be, there are reasons that you might not want to rely on it
for all of your document creation and management. For example:
You must be connected to the internet to use Google Docs. If you can't access
the internet, you won't be able to view current versions of your docs.
Google Docs has fewer features than Microsoft Office. When it comes time to
create a doc that you intend to print, you may find that Google Docs' tools aren't
powerful enough to make your doc look professional.
Google Docs is still being developed. While many of Google Docs' features are
useful and reliable, others don't work as well. However, you can expect many of
these problems to get better over time.
What to Expect From This Course
You'll learn the basics of Google Docs,
including how to navigate around the interface
Google Docs 101 is an introduction to using and understanding Google Docs. You'll
learn your way around the Google Docs interface and become more familiar with
using it to create, share, and organize docs.
This course won't cover the tools you'll use to modify and format specific types of
docs. If you're new to word processing and using a productivity suite, you may need
to learn more to get the most out of Google Docs.
It may be helpful to visit our Microsoft Office 2010 tutorials to learn more about the
basics of using an productivity suite.
You can also look for more information about Google Docs on the official Google
Docs Help site.
In order to use Google Docs, you must have a Google Account. Google Accounts
are free, and signing up for one is fairly simple. Once you create your account, you'll
be able to use not only Google Docs, but other Google services like Gmail,
Calendar, and more.
In this lesson, you'll learn how to create a new Google Account. You'll also learn
how to access Google Docs.
Creating a Google Account
To get started with Google Docs, you'll need a Google Account. To create a Google
Account, you'll need to have an existing email address that you will use to sign in to
your account. You'll also need to provide some basic information like your location and
However, if you have a Gmail (Google Mail) address, you already have a Google
Account, so you won't need to create a new account. Just log in with your Gmail
account, and follow the instructions on page 3 to navigate to Google Docs.
To learn more about Google Accounts, including privacy options and account settings,
visit our Google Accounts Tutorial.
To Create a Google Account:
1. Go to www.google.com.
2. In the top-right corner of the page, click Sign in.
The Sign in button
3. Click Create an account now.
The Create an account now link
4. You will now need to fill out a form with your information. First, type your email
5. Next, type the password you want for your Google Account. Just like with any online
service, it's important to choose a strong password - in other words, one that is
difficult for someone to guess. When you enter your desired password, Google will
tell you if it's not strong enough and give you a chance to come up with a new one.
For more information, check out Passwords - The First Step to Safety in our Internet
Typing an email address and password
1. Then, type your location and birthday. If you prefer not toto give out your
birthday, you can type a fake birthday. You will also need to type the word
verification that you see below the birthday.
Typing a location, birthday, and word verification
2. Finally, review the Terms of Service and click I accept when done.
Creating an account
3. Follow the instructions on the screen to verify that the email address you provided
is valid. This may vary depending on your email provider. For most email addresses,
you will receive an email with a link that you'll need to click. However, if you have a
Yahoo! email address, you'll be able to click a button to verify your information, and
you can ignore the verification email that Google sends you.
Verifying an email address
4. When you're done, you'll automatically be signed in to your Google Account. Your
email address will appear in the top-right corner of the page. You can click it to sign
out or view your settings.
Clicking the email address for more
Accessing Google Docs
Once you've set up your Google Account, you're ready to start using Google Docs.
To Access Google Docs:
1. Open your web browser and navigate to www.google.com. If you're not already
signed in, click Sign In in the top corner, and enter your log-in information on the
page that appears.
Signing in with a Google Account
2. Look to see if there is a link to Documents at the top of the page. If not, locate and
click the More drop-down button.
The More drop-down button
3. Select Documents.
Navigating to Google Docs
4. You will be taken to the Google Docs home page.
The Google Docs main page
You can also access Google Docs by navigating directly to www.docs.google.com.
Google Docs has a variety of options that make it easy to create the docs you want. You
can choose between doc types to create a doc suitable to your needs, and you can even
use a pre-made template if you don't want to do all the work of creating a doc on your
Once your doc is created you can use Google Docs' many sharing options to decide if
and how you want to share it.
In this lesson, you'll learn how to create a new doc, both on your own and from a
template. You'll also learn how to share and collaborate on docs.
Creating New Docs
There are five types of docs that you can create with Google Docs:
Documents (like documents in Microsoft Word)
Spreadsheets (like worksheets in Microsoft Excel
Presentations (like presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint)
Although the types of docs are very different from one another, the process for creating
and sharing docs is the same for all types.
To Create a New Doc:
1. Navigate to the Google Docs home page, then locate and click the Create button.
2. Select the type of doc you would like to create. The new doc will be opened.
Creating a new doc
3. At the top of the page, locate and click the title field. A dialog box will appear.
4. Type in a name for your document, then click OK.
Renaming the new
5. In the top right corner, locate and click the Save Now button.
Saving the new doc
6. Your doc will be saved. You can access it again from the Google Docs home page.
The new doc, listed on the Docs home page
When you try to save your doc, you may notice that it's already saved. This is because
Google Docs uses auto-save, which automatically saves your docs as you edit them.
However, if you make a small change and then close the doc, there may not be time for
auto-save to take effect. For that reason, it's always a good idea to make sure your docs
are saved before you close them.
Creating Docs with Templates
A template is a pre-designed doc that you can use to create docs quickly without
having to think about formatting. With a template, many of the big design decisions like
margin size, font style and size, and spacing are predetermined.
Most templates are designed to help users create specific kinds of docs. For instance,
you might use a template to create a resume, newsletter, or some other type of doc that
you wish to look a certain way.
A template for an
While there is a wide selection of templates you can use in Google Docs, few of them are
well made, and they aren't very well organized within the template selector. For this
reason, we recommend that you start by using templates made by Google, which tend to
be of higher quality than user-submitted templates.
To Create a New Doc from an Official Google Template:
1. Navigate to Templates Submitted by Google.
Templates submitted by Google
2. Using one or more of the following methods, find a template you wish to use:
o Enter a search term in the Search Templates bar.
The Search Templates bar
o Sort the templates.
o Narrow the templates down by type or category.
3. When you've found a template you wish to use, click Use this template. You can
also click Preview to view it first.
Selecting a template to use
4. A new doc will be created using the selected template.
A new doc
created with the selected template
5. Customize the doc with your own information.
customized to include the user's information
To browse all templates, click the Create drop-down button on the Google Docs home
page, then select From template....
Accessing all templates
When you share a doc, you can let others view or even collaborate on it. Google Docs
offers sharing settings that let you control exactly who is able to view and edit your doc.
This can be useful, as you might have some docs you want others to read but not modify,
and some you want to collaborate on.
Let's look at the example of Olenna, an art teacher who uses Google Docs to organize
letters, lesson plans, and more. Olenna's list of docs includes:
Docs she keeps private, like her spreadsheet with classroom expenses
Docs she lets others edit, like the lesson planning docs she creates with her co-
Docs she shares publicly and doesn't let others edit, like the newsletters and
announcements she shares with her students and their parents
Docs that others share with her, including ones she can edit, like her co-teacher's
supply inventory, and ones she can't, like a schedule sent to her by the principal
As you can tell, no single sharing setting would be right for all of Olenna's docs. The
settings you choose for each of your shared docs will probably depend on why you're
sharing it in the first place.
Choosing Sharing Settings for a Doc
You can choose to either share your doc with a limited group of people or a large one.
When you share a doc with a limited group of people, your collaborators must sign in to
their Google Account to view or edit the doc. However, when you share with a larger
group, or make the doc public, your collaborators will not have to sign in to access the
To Share a Doc with a Limited Group of People:
1. Open the doc you wish to share. Locate and click the Share drop-down button, then
Sharing an open doc
2. The Sharing Settings dialog box will be opened. In the Add people: box, type the
email addresses of the people you'd like to share with.
3. Click the drop-down arrow next to each person's name to decide whether they can
edit or just view the doc.
Adding people to
share the doc with
4. If you'd like, you can add a message that will be emailed to the people you share the
doc with. You might use this message to explain the doc, or let them know why
you're sharing it with them.
message about the shared doc
5. By default, editors are allowed to invite new people to access the doc. If you want,
you can prevent this by clicking [Change] and selecting Only the owner can
change the permissions. Then, click Save.
Changing the sharing settings to prevent other editors from re-sharing the doc
6. Click Share & save. Your doc will be shared.
To Share with a Larger Group of People:
1. Open the doc you wish to share. Locate and click the Share drop-down button, then
Sharing an open doc
2. The Sharing Settings dialog box will be opened. Click Change.
Settings dialog box
3. Select either Public on the web, to let anyone view your doc, or Anyone with the
link to let only people who you've given the exact link view your doc.
4. If you wish to allow viewers to edit your doc, check the Allow anyone to edit box.
5. Click Save.
settings for the doc
6. You will be given a link to your doc. To share the doc with others, simply send them
Use the link to
share your doc
Another way of sharing a doc with a large audience is to publish it to the web, which
converts it into a very simple web page. To publish a doc, click the Share drop-down
button and select Publish to the Web....
Publishing a doc
More Collaboration Tools
Google Docs offer several tools that enhance collaboration by making it easier to
communicate with your co-editors and to see which changes have been made and by
Review the interactive to learn about Google Docs features that help you collaborate.
After you've been using Google Docs for a while, you might find yourself having a hard
time keeping track of all your docs. Fortunately, Google offers a number of features to
help you manage and organize your docs.
In this lesson, you will learn how to find docs easily using the search, filter, and sort
tools. You'll also learn about Collections, which let you organize your docs into groups.
Finally, you'll learn about more actions you can take with your docs, including deleting
The Google Docs Home Page
If you’re used to organizing files within folders, the Google Docs home page may seem
overwhelming at first, since all of your docs appear in the same list. Fortunately, the home
page also includes features to help you find the docs you need.
Review the interactive to learn about the docs management tools on the Google Docs
home page. This is just an overview; the rest of the lesson will cover these tools in more
Sorting, Filtering, and Searching
Sorting, filtering, and searching are the three main tools Google offers to help you
Sorting your docs lets you put them in order.
By default, your docs are already sorted from newest to oldest. You can apply other
sorts to put your docs in alphabetical order, for instance, or order them from largest
file size to smallest.
Filtering your docs lets you hide unimportant docs and focus only on the ones
you're interested in.
For example, if you were looking for a presentation doc, you could use a filter to
narrow down your visible docs so that you would only see the presentations.
Searching lets you look for a specific doc using words contained within the doc.
Finding a Doc
What makes these tools so powerful is that you can combine them to find exactly what
you're looking for. For example, say that Olenna, an art teacher, wants to open a doc, but
doesn't remember the title. She knows it's a document, so she can apply a filter that
narrows her list down to only documents. She also knows that someone else created the
doc and shared it with her, so she applies the Shared with me filter, too.
Text documents filter
The doc is a worksheet, so she types "worksheet" into the docs search bar. This
narrows down her list further, so the only docs displayed are documents that were
shared with her that contain the word "worksheet."
Searching for docs containing the word "worksheet"
She still doesn't spot the doc she's looking for. Olenna knows she opened and edited the
doc fairly recently, so she changes the sort to Last modified.
Sorting the docs by most recently modified
With the sort applied, Olenna finds the doc near the top of her docs list. You won't usually
have to go through as many steps as Olenna did to find what you're looking for. However,
if you do have trouble finding a doc, these features can help.
Finding the desired doc
To Sort Your Docs:
On the home page, click the Sort drop-down button, then select the sort you wish to
Your docs will remain sorted in the selected order until you apply a new sort.
To Apply a Filter to Your Docs:
1. On the home page, click the Narrow by drop-down button and select the filter you
would like to use.
2. Your list of docs will be narrowed down to show only the docs that match the filter.
A filtered list of
3. If desired, add an additional filter to further narrow your list of docs. Repeat until
you are satisfied with the filtered list.
To clear a filter, simply locate the docs search bar and click the x on each of your filters
until they have all been removed. You can also click the docs search bar, then press the
backspace or delete key.
Removing a filter
To Search For a Doc:
Locate the docs search bar and type the word or words you wish to search for, then
press the Enter key.
Entering a search term
If your docs are currently filtered, the search will apply to only those docs that are visible.
To search all docs, clear the filter.
When you have related docs, you should consider organizing them into Collections.
Collections let you group and label your docs. Once docs are organized into a Collection,
you can view, share, and apply certain changes to them all at once. Docs can belong to
To Create a Collection:
1. On the home page, click the Create button.
2. From the drop-down list, select Collection.
Creating a Collection
3. A dialog box will appear. Type a name for your Collection, then click OK.
Naming the Collection
4. Your collection will appear in a list on the sidebar. Hover your mouse over it, and
click the arrow that appears.
5. A drop-down list will appear. Hover your mouse over Change color, then select a
color to use in the labels on the docs in your collection.
a color for the Collection
To further group your docs, you can also create a Collection within an existing Collection.
Simply click the Collection's arrow on the sidebar. On the drop-down list, hover over
Create and select Collection.
Creating a Collection within an existing Collection
To Add Docs to Existing Collections:
1. On the home page, locate the doc you wish to add to a collection.
2. Drag and drop the doc into the desired collection on the left sidebar.
Adding a doc to
3. The doc will become part of that collection. A label with the name of its collection will
appear to the right of the doc.
has been added to a Collection
To add multiple docs to the same collection, select the docs you wish to add by clicking
their checkboxes first. Once you've selected them all, click and drag any selected doc
to the desired collection. All of the selected docs will be added.
Adding multiple docs to a Collection
To Remove a Doc From a Collection:
1. On the home page, select the doc you wish to remove from a collection.
2. Click the Actions drop-down button, then select Organize.
3. In the dialog box that appears, you will see a list of your collections, with
checkmarks next to the ones your doc belongs to. To remove your doc from a
collection, simply uncheck it.
4. Click Apply Changes.
Removing a doc from a
Doc Actions are changes you can make to the way you manage your docs. The list of
Doc Actions can be accessed from the Actions drop-down button. It includes options
that let you:
Add a Star to docs to mark them as important
Hide docs by preventing them from appearing on the home page
Mark docs as unviewed
Move docs to the Trash, which is like your Windows Recycle Bin
To apply any Action to a doc, simply select the doc, then click the Actions drop-down
button and select the desired Action.
While you can use Doc Actions to move a doc to the trash, that doesn't actually delete
the doc-- it just hides it in the Trash folder. However, if you're sure you want to get rid of a
doc you created, you can delete it permanently.
To Delete a Doc:
1. On the home page, select the doc you wish to delete.
2. Click the Actions drop-down button, then select Move to trash. The doc will be
moved to the trash folder.
Moving a doc to the trash folder
3. On the left sidebar, click Trash to access the trash folder.
Navigating to the trash folder
4. Locate and select the doc you wish to delete, then click Actions and select Delete
forever. The doc will be deleted.
Deleting a doc
To delete all docs in the trash, simply click the Empty Trash button.
Deleting all docs in the trash
Removing a Doc Shared with You
You cannot delete a doc that someone else has created and shared with you. However,
you can remove it from your docs.
To remove a shared doc, select it, then select Remove from my Documents List
from the Actions list.
Removing a shared doc
In addition to creating docs, Google Docs also lets you upload and store files from your
computer. Since Google Docs stores files in the Cloud, you can access any of your
uploaded files from any computer with an internet connection. If you upload files from
compatible programs like Microsoft Word or Excel, you can even use Google Docs to edit
In this lesson, you'll learn how to upload files to Google Docs. You'll also learn how to
use Google Cloud Connect to configure your Microsoft Office programs so that files are
automatically uploaded to Google Docs when you save them.
Uploading to Google Docs
Google Docs gives you free storage space to upload files from your computer and store
them in the Cloud. You can fill this space with any files you want, as long as they're not
too large. There are two categories of files you can upload:
Files you can store and edit, like Microsoft Office files, PDFs, and other text-based
Files you can store but cannot edit, like music, videos, compressed archives (.zip
files), and most other files.
Once you upload a file, no matter what type of file it is, you'll be able to manage,
organize, and share it just like any other doc.
To see why you might upload files to Google Docs, let's look at the example of Olenna,
an art teacher who uses Google Docs at work and home. Olenna's Google Docs account
A folder of images she uploaded to share with her co-teacher
Microsoft Word files from her work computer that she uploaded so she could edit
them at home
A PDF form that she converted to a doc in order to fill it out
Some audio files that she uploaded so that she and others could download them later
As you can see, uploading can be a very useful tool in Google Docs, whether you share
your uploaded files or keep them to yourself.
Drawbacks to Uploading
While uploading is a powerful feature, it has a few drawbacks you should be aware of.
First of all, you can only store up to 1 gigabyte (GB) of information for free. This is
enough for normal use, but if you use Google Docs to store a large portion of your files,
you may run out of space eventually. (If you do run out of storage space, you may
purchase more from Google Docs on the Purchase Additional Storage page.)
A more significant problem is that uploading files doesn't always work very well. In
order for you to edit files such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, Google Docs
must first convert them into the corresponding docs type. Unfortunately, this conversion
isn't perfect. Depending on how much formatting you used in the original document, the
converted Google Doc could turn out looking quite different, as you can see in the
The original Word document vs. the Google doc
The changes aren't always just cosmetic; you may even lose information. You should
always review a doc that's been converted from another file before you print or share it.
Uploading Files and Folders
To Upload a File:
1. On the home page, click the Upload button.
The Upload button
2. Select Files... from the drop-down list that appears.
The Upload Files option
3. Locate and select the file or files you wish to upload, then click Open.
Selecting a file to upload
4. Review the settings that will apply to your uploaded file.
1. Check the first box if you wish to convert some types of files into docs. After
the files are converted, you will be able to edit them like any other doc.
Remember, some of the formatting from your original file may be left out of the
2. Check the second box if you want PDF and image files to be converted into
text documents. Again, note that the converted docs may contain errors.
3. Check the third box if you would like to review these settings each time you
upload a new file. We recommend that you do check this box, so that you can
always choose the best settings for the file you're uploading.
5. When you're satisfied with the upload settings, click Start upload. Your file will be
Depending on your browser and operating system, you may be able to upload files by
simply clicking and dragging them from a folder on your computer into your Docs list.
a file by clicking and dragging
Uploading a folder is an easy way of keeping related files grouped together as you
upload them. When you upload a folder, you're uploading all of the files within it. Those
files are then added to a new Collection with the same name as the original folder. You
can then modify and add to that Collection as you would any other Collection.
To Upload a Folder:
1. On the home page, click the Upload button, then select Folder... from the drop-
down list that appears.
The Upload Folder option
2. Locate and select the folder you wish to upload, then click Open.
Selecting a folder to upload
3. If desired, review and modify your upload settings, then click Start upload.
4. Your folder and all the files within it will be uploaded.
uploaded folder and its files
Using Google Cloud Connect
If you have the Microsoft Office suite installed on your computer, you can set up Google
Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office so that new files you create in Word, Excel, and
PowerPoint are automatically uploaded to your Google Docs account. In addition to
uploading your files, Cloud Connect syncs your docs, which means that when you edit a
document in Microsoft Office, those changes will be reflected in both the Docs and Office
To use Google Cloud Connect, you must install an add-on that will appear as an extra
toolbar in your Office suite programs. To download this add-on, you must have either the
Windows XP, the Windows Vista, or the Windows 7 operating system, and either the
2003, 2007, or 2010 version of Microsoft Office.
Like other Google Docs features, Cloud Connect doesn't always work exactly the way it's
supposed to. If you plan to rely on it heavily, you may want to occasionally double-check
your docs and Office files to make sure that the uploading and syncing is working
To Set Up Google Cloud Connect:
1. If you have any Microsoft Office programs open, close them.
2. Go to the Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office page, and click Download
Google Cloud Connect.
Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office
3. You will be taken to a page with the Terms of Service. Click Accept and Install.
The Cloud Connect terms of service
4. Open Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
5. In the top part of the screen, you should see the Google Cloud Connect toolbar.
The Cloud Connect toolbar in Word
6. Two dialog boxes will appear: the Global Settings dialog box, and the Approve
Access to your Google Account dialog box.
o If you are not logged in to your Google Account, enter your login information
in the Approve Access to your Google Account dialog box and click Sign
in. Then, in the Global Settings dialog box, click Login.
Logging into Google accounts
7. Once you're logged into your account, click Grant Access in the Approve Access
to Your Google Account dialog box.
Approve Access to your
8. If desired, review and modify the Google Cloud Connect settings.
1. Choose automatic or manual syncing. Setting this option to Manual means
that you will have to individually sync each new document that you want to
appear in Google Docs.
2. If you choose to sync your files automatically, all of your Office files will open
in Protected View. To prevent this, check Disable Protected View.
3. If you would like Microsoft Office to automatically save downloaded Google
docs in a set location, uncheck Ask where to save each file before opening.
Then, click Change... to select that location.
Connect Global Settings
When you're satisfied with your settings, click OK. Google Cloud Connect is now
set up, and will sync any new Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint
presentations you create with your Google Docs list.
A Word document, synced using Cloud Connect
Cloud Connect may occasionally log you out of your account, which makes automatic
uploading and syncing impossible. As you make changes to your docs in the Office
programs, check to make sure that you remain logged into your Google account.