Google Docs is a free word processing program that does 99% of everything a writer will ever need to do–write, edit, rewrite, and re-edit. If you have a Gmail account, you have Google Docs. It is part of Google Drive which you access through the nine-dot array in the upper right corner. Or, through the link: http://drive.google.com.
Google Docs operates in the cloud so there are no download foibles, pesky maintenance, or expensive yearly upgrades. While it does have a moderate learning curve (no worse than MS Word), once traveled, writers quickly adopt it as their own and find many reasons why this becomes their favorite tool. The end result is a writing tool that is powerful, robust, scalable, and free.
Here are the top eleven reasons why you might agree, from the writers I talk to:
I’ve never had the experience of logging into Google Docs and having it not open. On the other hand, I have often experienced that heart-stopping occurrence with MS Word when a doc has become corrupted for no reason I can tell. Using Google Docs has probably added years to my life just in the lowered stress levels.
Because work is created and shared in the Cloud, users can access it from Internet-connected locations and devices by logging into their Google account. The latest version of their document is there, waiting. No worries about forgetting to save it to a flash drive or the email you sent to yourself didn’t arrive. This is great for writers who work on their manuscript at their job and home.
Google Docs automatically saves in the cloud as you work. There’s no need to Ctrl+S to save or scream when the power goes down and you haven’t saved for thirty minutes. Google takes care of that, auto-saving to their servers where you easily find all your work in one location.
Google makes it easy for groups to edit a document simultaneously. Up to fifty people can add comments, revise, and format at the same time. This is great for group writing projects and when you are making changes with your editor.
You can share the file to anyone (like your editor) with a Gmail address to be viewed only or edited. You can also share by embedding the document into a blog, wiki, or website where people can view or edit (depending upon the permissions you award). If you are a freelance journalist, this makes it easy to collaborate on a piece, share with others, and keep everyone up-to-date in a fluid environment.
Research options/reference tools
The Research functions activate in the right sidebar when you select ‘Research’ from the ‘Tools’ drop-down menu, click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I, or simply right-click on the word you want to research. From this one location, you can search online for articles, images, or quotes. When you insert directly from the sidebar, it will automatically add a citation as a footnote, referencing where you found your data.
These are added automatically when you find information through the Research tool. This makes it easy to credit sources for non-fiction and freelance articles.
Google Docs automatically keeps track of all revisions made to a document by anyone involved in the edit/write process. You can find this option under File>See Revision History (or click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H) and it comes up in the right sidebar. From there, you can review revisions and restore to a prior edition of your article or novel. To be fair, MS Word has this also, but I’ve found it glitchy at best. In fact, more often than not, I have no history to click back to. I think MS Word 2016 is much improved, but haven’t experienced it yet. Anyone know?
Great for writers workshops
There is no easier tool to use if you teach Writer’s Workshops. With Google Docs, participants write, peer edit, and work together seamlessly. They are productive, energized, and dynamic.
Lots of add-ons to personalize the experience
By partnering with third-parties, Google Docs is able to provide an impressive collection of enhancements, modifications, and extensions. You can find the entire list by clicking the Add-ons menu tab and selecting Get add-ons. To find what you’re looking for, you can search for a keyword, sort the add-ons into different categories, or simply browse. A few of my favorites are Thesaurus, EasyBib Bibliography Creator, Open Clipart, Flubaroo, Google Keep, and LucidCharts.
Works with MS Word
You can open MS Word documents in Google Docs to view (much as you view documents in cloud locations like Carbonite) or convert them to Google Docs to edit and share. Sure, there will be some changes, but not a lot (unless you’re an MS Word power user). You can also open Google Docs in MS Word.
If you have a Gmail account, you already have the Google Docs program. Simply click on the Omni box (the nine little dots in the upper right of your Gmail screen) and select ‘Google Drive’. Once you’re there, you’ll have the option for creating a New document, one of which is a Google Doc. Problems? Leave a comment below. I’ll see if I can help.
More on Google Drive Apps
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.