How Google Docs Improves Writing

Google Docs is a free word processing program that does 99% of everything writers will ever need. What isn’t included as part of the Google Docs program tool can be augmented with mostly-free, third-party add-ons, extensions, and apps. It operates in the cloud so there are no syncing issues between the many places we write, pesky maintenance, or expensive yearly upgrades. The end result is a writing tool that is powerful, robust, scalable, and because it’s free, is the equitable solution to so many concerns over the digital divide.

It’s no surprise that Google Docs and its sister programs — Google Spreadsheets, Google Slideshows, Google Draw, and Google Forms — have taken writers by storm. While it does have a moderate learning curve (no worse than MS Word), once traveled, users quickly adopt it as their own and find many reasons why this becomes their favorite tool. Here are the top eleven reasons from the writers I talk to:

Always up

I’ve never had the experience of logging into Google Drive (where Google Docs live) and having it not open. On the other hand, I have often experienced that heart-stopping occurrence with MS Word when it suddenly won’t work or a Word file 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.

Always on

Because work is created and shared in the Cloud, you can access it from any Internet-connected locations by logging into your Google account. The latest version of your 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 from a coffee shop, their backyard and even their place of employment.

Autosave

google docs

All of the Google Apps (like Docs, Spreadsheets, Slideshows, Forms, and Draw) automatically save 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 work in one location.

Collaborative

Google makes it easy for groups to edit a document simultaneously. Up to fifty people can add comments about your WIP at once.

Easily shared

You can share the file to anyone 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). This makes it easy to collaborate on work, share pieces with your critique group, or submit portions to editors and online ezines.

Revision history

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 all revisions or restore to a prior edition of the document. 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.

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-onsTo 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 favorite add-ons include: Thesaurus, EasyBib Bibliography Creator, Open Clipart, FlubarooGoogle 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).

***

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 to create 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

Embed Google Docs

Dear Otto: How do I teach Google Drive to K/1?

Google Apps Support Bloom’s Taxonomy–Take a Look

21 Google Apps for Education Resources

Google Apps lesson plan


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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13 thoughts on “How Google Docs Improves Writing

  1. I love my google docs. Makes sharing and working so much easier – especially when traveling or working with more that one computer.

  2. This is an entire course in how to use this feature – thank you. I’m going to come back and read it again and see if even someone like me can figure it out. Though I have to say, I haven’t had problems with Word as you described. My problems are more on the order of my entire computer going belly up for a day or three. Really useful info, Jacqui, thanks.

  3. At the risk of being overly negative… I, personally, can’t stand these tools. It’s probably ME more than it is the tools, but I have nothing but trouble when I try to use the Google office apps. I have virtually no problems with MS Office and have really almost never had trouble in the decades I’ve used MS Office.

    I suspect part of my “problem” is that I don’t allow Google Chrome on my devices because it is really just malware with lipstick on it (in my opinion)… and Google has restricted some functionality such that it only works in Chrome.

    I am, of course, required to suffer through using Google Docs/Sheets/etc. for various projects. My issues tend to be related to comments not working properly (in my view), as they seem to just disappear randomly. I’ve also had tons of issues when multiple people are editing at once. Sure, you can do it, but if you happen to edit the same line at the same time… well, in my experience at least, someone loses in that collision. It’s worse in the spreadsheet tool.

    But maybe I’ve just had bad luck or simply used it wrong. So many people who love this toolset can’t be as wrong as it feels to me, right?

    • Power users will never like Google Docs or any of the Google Apps. They are at best MS Word lite. But they’re free–Microsoft has no idea what that word means–which provides an awful lot of equity for users. For many users, they are the only option available and they do a great job of it, once you get used to the idiosyncrasies.

      One idio is that they don’t allow long documents. My 400-page book stalls out loading at about 190 pages. So I will forever continue with MS Word for my writing.

      • Oh, yes, I wasn’t meaning to imply that there is no value in the google apps. Just that for *me* they don’t do the job. But I totally get the value of free and the equity that brings. Hopefully I didn’t come across the wrong way with my statements the other day.

  4. I haven’t used it yet, Jacqui – but I will now! 🙂

  5. So are you saying that you write your books and articles exclusively using Google Docs? Is this the platform you prefer? The idea of my writing automatically being saved and accessible is really appealing. No more flash drives to buy and lose.

    • I don’t because I’m so darn used to Word. And, Google Docs won’t save really long pieces (like a 400-page book). But, I use them for lots of other things and I regularly get collaborative documents through Google because it’s much easier than doing the same through Word.

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