Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Using Google Docs for Word Processing

Why Use Google Docs?

Microsoft Word has typically been the word processor of choice for most people, but there are many advantages to switching to Google Docs. Google Docs may not be as sophisticated as Word, but it is constantly improving. Just of the few advantages of using Google Docs:
  • Cloud storage. Your ISU gmail account gives you access to a Google Drive which is a place to store your Google documents with the ability to access them from anywhere. This eliminates the need to save your files to a USB drive in order to access them from home or from the road. Just log in to your gmail account, access the Drive and there are your documents.
  • Collaboration. You can share an entire folder or just a file with other people so that they can view and/or edit the documents. Google automatically saves documents whenever changes are made and gives you a list of the revisions that were made. See below for more information about Viewing Revision History. This sharing features makes it a great resource to use in the classroom as a collaboration tool for students. For more information on Google Docs Tips for Teachers check out this article: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-google-docs-tips-for-teachers-go-back-to-school/.
  • Sharing files. Instead of attaching a document in your email or Moodle course, you can attach a url to the document. When the url is clicked on, it opens your document as a web page which eliminates the viewer from having to install the software such as Word to view it.

A Few Tips for Using Google Docs:

  • Shortcut for Opening a new Google Doc: One big bother with using Google Docs is the steps it takes to start using it. You open a browser, log into your gmail account, click on Google Drive and then click on the Create button to open a new Google Doc. There is a trick that you can use that automatically opens up your browser to a fresh new Google Docs document...and you can run it straight from your desktop. Here's how to set it up:
    • Right click on your desktop, select New, then Shortcut.
    • For the location of the link, input this: https://docs.google.com/document/create
    • When it asks for a shortcut name, type Create Google Doc or whatever else you want to call it.
    • You can even change the icon for the new shortcut:
      • Right click on the shortcut and select Properties
      • Click the Web Document tab.
      • Click Change icon.
      • Select your desired icon.
    •  Before you click on the shortcut, open your default browser so that it will open the new Google doc in a separate tab.
  • File Revision History: Google Docs tracks every single change you make to your files and allows you to revert your file back to any past state instantly. Viewing revisions is easy to do. Just click File and the drop-down menu will give you the option to See Revision History. Click that and a pane with all past revisions will appear on the right of your screen. Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + G to open the revision history.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Google Docs has many keyboard shortcuts that will make your word processing easier. A few of the favorites are:
    • Ctrl + Alt + C: Copies the formatting on the currently selected text. Easy to remember because it’s the same shortcut as copying except with Alt.
    • Ctrl + Alt + V: Pastes the latest formatting that you copied. Easy to remember because it’s the same shortcut as pasting except with Alt.
    • Ctrl + \: Clears the formatting on the currently selected text.  Great for removing bolds, underlines, italics, messed up headings and paragraph settings, etc.
    • Tab and Shift + Tab: Obviously, Tab inserts indents. Shift + Tab removes indents. If you have text selected, these apply to the entire selection.
    • Ctrl + Shift + C: Displays the word count stats for the current document. If you have text selected, it will also show stats for the selection only.
    • For more short keyboard shortcuts, check out the full list of Google Docs shortcut commands for PC's and Mac's.


Google Docs has some catching up to do if it wants to be a complete alternative solution to Microsoft Word, but there are a number of great features that really shows its potential.