Detailed guide to Google Docs.

Author- | Posted- | Updated: August 31, 2020 |
  1. CONTENTS
  2. Create a new document
  3. set document margins
  4. editing google docs
  5. Inserting elements into google docs
    1. Inserting images
    2. Insert tables
    3. Insert drawings
    4. Insert charts
    5. Insert special characters and equations
    6. Insert table of contents
    7. Insert header & footer
  6. Playing with fonts
  7. Check word limit in google docs
  8. Check the outline in google docs
  9. Format the document
    1. alignment and indentation
    2. Line spacing
    3. Setting text columns
    4. Adding Bulleted lists
    5. adding comments
  10. Checking revision history
  11. More tools
  12. Features on the side panel
  13. sharing google docs
    1. advanced sharing options

Using Google docs for creating attractive documents

If you regularly edit documents online, you must have used Google Docs. It is a great online tool to create, save, and share documents. Many use Microsoft Office for preparing documents. However, Google Docs is a great option with many smarter features. It offers a lot of flexibility and features that will make formatting your documents and giving them an attractive look easier. You can create wonderful looking documents and share or save them in several formats including Docx, RTF, ODT, pdf, txt, Html, and ePub. Save in any format you need. Email, upload, share, or publish your ready document to the web.

Google docs toolbar)
Google docs toolbar (notesmatic.com)

Create a New document

You can create documents, presentations, forms, spreadsheets, drawings, and much more using Google docs. To start, Go to the ‘File’ tab at the top left and click on New -> document. Select a blank document to start with or choose from one of the several templates available in the library. There are many beautiful templates for various kinds of documents, including a resume, product brochure, letters, newsletters, personal, sales, and other templates. If you have previously worked with Google docs, your previous documents will show under the template gallery. If you want to create a one, start with a blank document.

Set the orientation of the document:

Click again on the File button. At the bottom, click on ‘Page set up’ in the drop-down menu. It will open a popup with several options for setting orientations, colors, and margins. The default orientation of the docs is Portrait. You can change to landscape if you need it.

Set Margins:

In the same menu [ File -> page setup], you will find the default margins set at 1 inch on each side – top, bottom, left, and right. Change the margins as you need. Under the orientation, you can choose the proper size from several options including letter, legal, folio, and executive as well as A3 to B5.

Set the background colour of a document

The option to set background colour is at the bottom of the same menu.

[ File -> page setup –>..]

Select the page color of your choice from the palette or choose a custom color. If you want to set your selection as default from orientation to margins and color, you can do it from there.

Editing documents

The toolbar has several features to help you with editing documents. Before you start typing, learn how to create a beautiful title.

Zoom the page for your convenience to 125% or fit. You can resize the document using the zoom button in the toolbar on the top left.

When you are creating a new document, you will start it with a beautiful title. Type the title of your paper and highlight it using a touchpad or mouse.

From the drop-down menu in the toolbar select ‘Title’ .

screenshot below :

Applying title and headings in Google docs

There are multiple options for selecting text type in the menu. When you are typing a normal paragraph, select ‘normal text’. For the title, just select and apply ‘Title’.

After having typed out your title, you can type out a subtitle and then choose ‘subtitle’ from the same menu and apply.

Title and subtitle

Another way of selecting the title or heading is to go through format and paragraph styles. Go to the Format button and click on paragraph styles from where you can select normal text, title, subtitle or any heading from heading 1 to 6.

Check out the use of title and subtitle in the screenshot below.

headings in google dcos
Headings in google docs

As you go on typing, there are more options to create headings. You can select from h1 to h6 based upon your need. In the toolbar, the default selection is normal text. Access this menu and open it. You will find the headings useful if you are creating a large document like a research paper, legal document or even if you are preparing a page for online publication. To set a default style and save, go to the bottom of the same menu in the toolbar and select ‘Options’. You can later change your default style through the same.

Inserting Elements into your document:

Inserting elements into Google docs is easy because of the large number of easily accessible features. You need to click on the insert button at the top. From there, you can insert images, tables, drawings, charts, and other elements.

Insert Images in Google docs:-

Inserting images into your document is very easy. Just go to the insert menu and click. Images are at the top in the drop-down menu. Click on images for the next menu and you have several options to add images from. Upload from your computer directly or from Google Drive. You can also insert images from a link or search the web to download images to your document directly or take pictures from your camera and add them to the document. Or insert images directly from the toolbar without using the insert button. There is a separate drop-down menu to insert images on the toolbar near the center.

 Another method of adding images to your document is to use the explore button.

You can reach the explore button at the bottom left or in the Tools menu. Click the explore button to open the search box. You can search for images on the web or add them from your drive. The explore option also makes it easy to search for information directly from the document. You do not need to open a new page. Just use the search option in the explore button and enter what you are looking for. However, it shows a few results only and for more, you can just click at the link under search results and more results will open up on a new page.

Insert tables in Google Docs:

Google has provided a great option to insert tables into Google documents. One can easily insert and edit tables using the insert table feature. The best thing is that one can insert up to twenty rows and twenty columns.

Just select as many rows and columns as you have to insert using mouse or the touchpad.

Editing these tables and adjusting their height and width is also easy which can be done by dragging the borders. Each box has borders which can be adjusted using a dropdown arrow in the upper right corner.

Insert drawings in Google Docs:

You would need to insert drawings into your document. Sometimes you have to draw models or frameworks in your document. It is incomplete without these drawings. Clicking on the drawing button inside the insert menu opens a new panel/drawing board. This board has several features that you can use to draw various shapes including circles, rectangles, arrows, cubes as well as several types of call outs and various mathematical shapes.

drawings and shapes in google docs
insert drawings and shapes

Insert charts: into Google Docs

You can easily insert a chart from one of your Google spreadsheets.

Just click on the insert menu, go to charts, and click on spreadsheets at the bottom. Insert a graph from your spreadsheet.

Google spreadsheets have several options for creating graphs including line and bar graphs as well as pie charts.

Insert special characters and equations into your document:

Sometimes, you may need to insert special characters into your document. You can do that easily using Google Docs. You can insert symbols and emojis as per your need into your document. There is also an extensive collection of unique characters and equations (you will need them if you are publishing quantitative or scientific research).

Go to the ‘Insert tab’ and select special characters. It will open a new menu. Select from the several categories of characters and equations.

To insert a mathematical equation select equation from the Insert tab. The secondary toolbar will show ‘New Equation’.

You can select mathematical signs and operations from the secondary toolbar and insert what you need.

Take a look at the screenshot below:  

Insert mathematical signs into Google docs
special mathematical characters in google docs

Insert table of contents into Google Docs

Many documents require a table of contents, whether it is a research paper or legal form or a business document. Inserting one is comfortable with Google docs. Go to the Insert button and the bottom of the menu. There you will find the ‘Table of contents.’ Suppose you are writing a research paper or another business document that needs a table of contents, adding it manually is a tedious task. Google Docs is my text editor of choice because I can add a table of content by a click.

There are two styles you can use to insert a table of contents. Either select numbered table of contents or table of contents with blue links and click on it to apply. Table of contents with blue links makes your document more comfortable to navigate for your readers. They can click on the link and reach the desired section directly.

Google docs will automatically produce a table of contents based on the document outline. Do not forget to apply headings to your document as you type. It makes the task easier at the end when your paper is ready, and you have to insert a table of contents.

Insert header & footer in Google Docs:

To insert the header and footer, go to the Insert tab. Click on insert and from the drop-down menu, select header and the page number. From there, you can select either header, footer, or page number.

You can also use keyboard shortcuts (given below).

  • For header on windows PC hold  (ctrl + alt) and press ‘o’ and then ‘h’.
  • For footer on windows PC hold  (ctrl + alt) and press ‘o’ and then ‘f’.
  • For header on Mac hold  (ctrl + command) and press ‘o’ and then ‘h’.
  • For header on Mac hold  (ctrl + command) and press ‘o’ and then ‘f’.

For setting header and footer margins (inches from top and bottom – Go to the ‘format’ tab and select headers and footers from the drop-down menu.

Playing with Fonts in google docs

There are several font options (center of the toolbar) for you to give your document the right look. Many times when you are writing an important document like a memo or a proposal, you would want to give your document the right look to make it appealing in the eyes of your readers. There are around twenty or more options including Google fonts like ‘Lato’ or normal fonts like ‘Times New Roman’, ‘Georgia’, and ‘Verdana’. Select your font of choice.

You will find there are several font-weight options from extra light to light, normal and bold. If you want to give your document a minimal look, choose light or extra light. However, when creating an official or business document, select normal.

If you want extra fonts, styles, or icons, then try add-ons like ‘Extensis fonts’ which you can use to select your perfect font and styles. If you are creating a promotional document, this add-on will help you make your content look more attractive. There are several font options and those who want their brochure to look the most attractive must use an add-on. Otherwise, the general options available in google docs are sufficient and can be used to decorate a promotional document. There are multiple such add ons (free and paid) available for users which can be accessed from the ‘add on’ tab.

Check the screenshot below:-

gmail verification for a new add on in Google docs
Gmail verification for a new add on

How to check word limit in Google docs

The word limit does not show at the bottom in Google docs (it does in Microsoft Word at the bottom, but in Google docs, you must check manually). Go to the ‘Tools’ button at the top. Click on it and then on ‘word count’ or use these shortcuts

  • (Mac) –  Command + shift + C
  • (Windows) Control + Shift + C.

This will show you the word count, page count, character count, and the number of characters without spaces. Check the screenshot below:


how to check word count in Google docs

Checking the outline of your document:

In Google docs, there is a feature you can use to check the outline of your document side by side. To check out the outline, go to the ‘View’ tab at the top and click on it. From the dropdown menu, select show document outline. You will see the outline appear on the left with the title, subtitle, and headings.

checking the outline in google docs
outline on the left of the document
  • Mac shortcut: Hold control and command; press A and then H.
  • PC shortcut:  Hold control and alt; press A and H.

Formatting your Google document:

Text formatting:

Google docs offer some great text formatting options for documents. You can bold and italicize or underline text as you need. Bold, italicize, underline, and change font colors directly from the toolbar. There is also an option to highlight text in the toolbar. The same features can be accessed in the format tab on the top. Go to format and from the menu click text.

Under the same tab, you can access the superscript (X2) and subscript (X2) options. The keyboard shortcuts for superscript and subscript are :

  • Mac superscript – command and full stop (⌘ + .)
  • Mac subscript – command and comma (⌘ +,)
  • Windows Superscript – Ctrl and full stop (Ctrl + .)
  • Windows PC subscript – Ctrl and comma (Ctrl + ,)

Paragraph styles and headings

You can select paragraph styles and headings from the ‘Format tab.’ There are options to choose paragraph styles and headings. It is the second option in the menu from where you can select Title, subtitle, and headings. The ‘Options’ button at the bottom allows you to choose and save your default styles.

Alignment and Indentation:

You can also change the alignment and indentation of text in the documentation from the format tab. Select ‘Align and Indent’. There are four options, including left, right, center, and justified. From the same drop-down menu, you can also select to increase or decrease indent. To set indentation in inches on both sides, set the indent options at the bottom.

Line spacing:

The option to set line spacing is also on the format tab.  Go to ‘Format’ and click on line spacing. You can select single or double spacing or 1.15 and 1.5. The same menu allows you to add space before and after paragraphs. To set your own options for line spacing, set custom spacing on the bottom in the same menu.

Setting columns:

‘Google docs’ allows you to give your text the form of columns. You can select to use more than one columns and up to three. Go to Format menu and click on columns. Choose the kind of format you want. If you want a different format, go to more options (check screenshot) and set the number of columns and spacing.

adding columns in google docs
add columns in google docs

Using bulleted lists:

Google docs introduced a very attractive format for creating bulleted lists. Go to ‘Format’ and click on bullets and numbering. There you will find options to create bulleted and numbered lists. In both types of lists, you have great options for including sub-items.

Creating Numbered lists in google docs
Numbered lists in google docs
Creating Bulleted lists in google docs
Bulleted lists in google docs
  1. One  
    1. two
    2. three
  2. four
    1. five
    2. Six

Just create your list and highlight all the items. To insert sub-items in a bullet list, highlight the secondary items using your mouse under the main item and hit ‘Tab’ on your Keyboard. This will create a list with main items and sub-items like 1 (a) and 1 (b).

All the above formatting options are available on the toolbar. The alignment, indentation, listing and line spacing options are available on the right side of the toolbar.

Adding comments to your document

To add comments to specific sections of a document keep your cursor there. Then go to the middle of the toolbar where you can see a plus sign (screenshot below). Click on it and a box will open on the side. Add your comment and hit enter.

the comments button from google docs toolbar
comments button from toolbar in google docs

Shortcuts for adding comments inside google docs:

  • Mac: Command + Option + M
  • PC: Ctrl + Option + M

Checking revision history :-

If you need to go back and check revision history, go to the ‘File’ tab at top left and click. Select version history from the drop-down menu and click on ‘See Version History’.

how to check revision history in google docs
checking revision history in google docs

You can also use shortcuts –

  • Mac – Command + Option + Shift + H.
  • PC – Ctrl + alt + shift + H.

More Tools for editing and formatting:

There are several more tools to edit and format documents in Google docs. Just go to the ‘Tools button’ and explore the many options. After you have completed your document, you can check for spelling errors. The toolbar has the spell-check option on the far left after the print option. Highlight the area you want to spell check and click. The same options can also be reached through – ‘Tools tab –> spell check’. You can also select to underline the errors inside the document.

Shortcut for spell check.

  • Mac – Command + Option + X.
  • Windows :- Ctrl + Option + X.

You can access the dictionary from the Tools Tab. The shortcut to the dictionary is  

  • Command + shift + Y for mac and
  • Ctrl + shift + Y for Windows.

You can also translate portions of your document into other languages. Translate option is on the Tools tab.

If you want to try voice typing, hit

  • ( command + shift + s) for mac and
  • (ctrl +shift + s) for windows.

Using features on the side panel:

Google has added some more useful features to google docs. These features are present on the side panel on the right. You can access the ‘calendar,’ ‘Keep Notes’ and ‘add and manage tasks’ from there.

Sharing your Google Document:

To share your saved document, name it first. After that, go to the upper right corner and click on the large blue button titled share. A popup will appear in which you can enter names or emails of the persons you want to share the document with. You can also limit permissions to editing, commenting, or viewing only for participants. This makes it easy for two or more people to work on the same document. Once finished sharing, click on done.

Advanced sharing options:

There are some advanced sharing options too for you through which you can use to set more limits for collaborators. Just click on the small advanced button in the pop up to open sharing settings. It will offer you a link to share that is accessible only to collaborators and the options to share the link through mail or social media. At the bottom, in the advanced section, there are options to invite people and to prevent editors from changing access settings or adding new people. If you need, you can disallow commentators and viewers from downloading, printing, or copying the document.

Check these fantastic ‘Keyboard Shortcuts for Google docs‘.


Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.