Detailed guide to Google Docs.

  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 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 side panel
  13. sharing google docs
    1. advanced sharing options

‘Using Google docs to make attractive documents’

If you edit documents online, you must have used Google docs. It is a great online tool to create, save and share documents. Many of us use Microsoft Office for preparing documents. However, Google docs is also a great option. It offers a lot of flexibility and comes loaded with features that make your documents attractive. You can create wonderful looking documents and share or save them in different formats including docx, rtf, odt, pdf, txt, html and ePub. Save in any format you need and mail or upload.

Google docs toolbar

Create a New document :-

Create documents, presentations, forms, spreadsheets, drawings and more from Google docs. Go to the File tab at top left and click on New -> document. Select a blank document to start with or choose from one of the several templates. There are several beautiful templates for resume, product brochure, letters, Newsletters, personal, sales and other templates. If you have previously worked with Google docs, your previous documents will show below the template gallery. Suppose you want to start with a blank document.

Set orientation of the document :-

Click again on 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, color and margins. Default orientation of the docs is Portrait. You can change to landscape if you need.

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 to legal, folio and executive as well as A3 to B5.

Set background color of the document

The option to set background color is at the bottom in the same menu. [ File -> page setup].

Select the page color of your choice. 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 top left.

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

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

screenshot below:

There are multiple options for selecting text type in the menu. If you are typing a paragraph select normal text. For the title, select and apply title.

After having typed out your title you can type out a subtitle. Choose subtitle from the same menu and hit 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.

As you go on typing, there are more options to create headings 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 or a legal document. To set a default style and save, go to the bottom of the same menu in 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 just need to click on the insert button at the top. From there you can insert images, tables, drawings, charts and other elements.

Insert Images :-

Inserting images is the easiest. 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 or from Google photos. You can also insert images from a link or search the web to download images to your document directly. You can also take pictures from your camera and add them to the document. This task can also can be accomplished 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 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 in a new page.

Insert tables :-

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

Just select how many rows and columns you have to insert using the cursor and click. The tables are inserted automatically.

Editing these tables and adjusting their height and width is also easy which can be done just by dragging the lines using the cursor. Borders of each box can be adjusted by using a dropdown menu given inside each (downward arrow inside each box).

Insert drawings :-

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 which 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 :-

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 :-

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. Google docs has a large collection of special characters and equations.

Go to the Insert tab and select special characters. It will open a popup. 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 table of contents :-

Many documents require a table of contents. Inserting one is easy with google docs. You just need to go to the Insert button and to the bottom of the menu. There you will find the Table of contents.

There are two styles you can use to insert a table of contents. Either select numbered table of contents or table of contents with links in Blue and apply.

Google docs will automatically produce  a table of contents based on the outline. Do not forget to apply headings to your document as you go. This will make the task easier at last when you are trying to insert a table of contents.

Insert header & footer:

To insert header and footer go to the Inert tab. Click on insert and from the drop down menu select header and page number. From there you can select either header, footer or page number. You can also use keyboard shortcuts.

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 format tab and select headers and footers from the drop down menu.

Playing with Fonts

There are several font options 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. There are around twenty or more options including Google fonts like Lato. Select your font of choice.

In several cases, you will find there are several 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, if you are creating an official document, select normal since it will make the document more readable.

If you want extra fonts, styles or icons, then you have the option to add extra add ons like extensis fonts which you can use to select your perfect font and styles.

Extensis fonts is a free add-on that allows you to select from thousands of different google fonts. For using this add-on or any, go to the add ons button at the top. It is there besides the tools button. Click on add-ons and from the list select your add-on of choice. You will have to allow the add-on application before you start using it.

Check the screenshot below:-

However, you already have too many great options in the font menu which you can access in the toolbar.

How to check word limit in Google docs

The word limit does not show at the bottom in Google docs. You should go to the tools button at the top. Click on it and then on ‘word count’ or use the Short-Cut –

(Mac) –  Command + shift + C

(Windows) Control + Shift + C.

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


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 button 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 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 documents 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. 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. The format tab has options to select 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 select 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, you can set 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 also allows you to give your text the form of columns. You can select to use more than one columns and upto three. Go to format menu and under line spacing click on columns. Choose the kind of format you want. If you want a different format, go to more options (screenshot) and set the number of columns and spacing.

adding columns in google docs
add columns in google docs

Using bulleted lists :-

Google docs has introduced a very attractive format for creating bulleted lists. Go to the Format and click on bullets and numbering. There you will find the 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 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

Shortcut to adding comments:

Mac: command + Option + M

PC: Ctrl + Option + M

Checking revision history :-

Sometimes you may need to go back and check revision history. To do so 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 for editing and formatting documents in Google docs. Just go to the Tools button at explore the many options. After you have completed your document you will need to check for spelling errors. The toolbar has the spell-check option on the far left beside the print option. Highlight the area you want to spell check and click on spell check. The same options can also be reached through the Tools tab and click on spell check. You can also select to underline the errors.

Shortcut for spell check.

Mac – Command + Option + X.

Windows :- Ctrl + Option + X.

You can also access the dictionary from the Tools Tab. The shortcut to dictionary is  Command + shift + Y for mac and Ctrl + shift + Y for Windows.

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

If you want to try voice typing hit ( command + shift + s) for mac and (ctrl +shift + s).

Using features on the side panel:

Google had added some more useful features to google docs. These features can be found 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, you should 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 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, Facebook, twitter and Google plus. At the bottom in the advanced section, there are options to invite people and to prevent editors from changing access settings as well as adding new people. If you need, you can disallow commentators and viewers from downloading, printing or copying the document.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Google docs


Abhijeet Pratap

I have studied Marketing and English Literature and like to write on topics in Business management, Marketing, literature, latest technologies and other areas. I also like to spend my time learning coding.