Google Docs – A First-Visit Guide

googledocstutorialGoogle Docs is one of the free office suite programs Google offers with its cloud based storage service drive. Google Docs offer standard word processing functionality, but the free cloud storage gives users access from anywhere and any device. Combined with its sharing capabilities, Google Docs is perfect for collaboration.

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Getting Started

GoogleDocs-1When first arriving at Google Docs, the options presented are two big red buttons to create a new document or to upload a document.

Uploading a file is simply a case of clicking on the upload button, then dragging and dropping the file into Google Documents or selecting files to upload from the browse box.This is when the document owner sets the privacy setting. The document can be tagged as private, share with anyone with a link, or make it public on the web.

There is a choice to convert documents to Google format. This conversion, which is optional, enables all the collaboration and sharing features. It will also convert PDFs to Google format making them available online and editable documents. There is a document size restriction of 1024MB and that seems to be the Google storage limit per user, though that can be extended.

To get started with Google Documents and to create a new document select ‘new’ à ‘document’ from the toolbar at the top of the home page. Select “Document” from the dropdown list and the new document will open with a title of “Untitled.” The author changes the title by clicking on the word ‘Untitled’ in the top left hand corner. An edit box will appear prompting the author to edit and enter a new title.  The document’s title may also be edited on the ‘list view’ by selecting the document by checking the box next to its title and then directly editing the title. Once the editing of the title is complete, uncheck the box to its left and Google saves the document.

The document itself is prepared, formatted and edited very similarly to most word processing packages with choices for find and replace, edit, and undo all through the edit option on the toolbar at the top of the page. The ‘view’ option controls how the document is displayed on the screen by using formatting rulers to set margins and page layout. There is also an equations toolbar and a spell-checker that can be activated by checking the boxes.

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The document toolbar runs at the top of the window, which is where the author sets the font, size and layout and all the other features.

Working with Images

When importing images into Google documents via the Insert menu and using the Tools dropdown menu, Google provides a method for importing images direct from the local computer. The image dropdown box will also let the author adjust the size and position of the image. All of this is standard and intuitive to users who have worked with word processors. Where Google documents differ is that Google will go and look for images on the web using its search engine. By typing in a keyword and then selecting Tools à ‘search the web for word’ images, it will return a selection of relevant images.

Working with Tables

A table can be entered into a document using Insert à Table or directly from the menu bar. The table is created by selecting the rows and columns, customizing the borders, and selecting a background. Tables can later be edited using actions under “Table” in the menu bar. Using the options, a table’s properties can be easily manipulated such as rows moved up or down, columns left or right, and tables added or deleted all from one menu.

Work with Collaboration Features

So far, Google Docs has just been a typical word processor type application albeit with a cloud auto-save option. However, what makes Google Documents so attractive is the potential to collaborate from anywhere with team workers on a document and always have everyone working on the same revision.

To use insert comments, select Insert à Comments.

Then, type the comments into the fields provided and they will appear highlighted within the document. This is valuable for editing documents or collaboration with others, though the author has to give prior explicit permission to edit their documents.

Sharing & Collaboration

When creating or editing a document the author or owner can allow it to be shared with viewers and collaborators. Viewers cannot edit the document; they can only read it. Collaborators are people that the author invites to share in writing, editing and revising the document.

The author invites collaborators by choosing Share à Invite people

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A box appears prompting you for recipient email addresses and a text box for a personal message. The email addresses must be a Google address, whether that be a personal address or that of a Google group.

If the author selects a collaborator that does not have a Google email, the recipient will be prompted to open an account.

Another feature of collaboration is managing a document. The author or owner can list all those with share rights, and then see and edit their individual permissions, such as take ownership, edit or view. Group or individual alerts and messages can be issued as reminders, alerts or arrangements for meetings.

It is not just single documents that can be shared under collaboration; entire folders can also be shared as well. Therefore, a project team can collate all project related documents in one folder and then share that folder with all team members.

There are limits to the scale of collaboration. A maximum of 200 people can be invited and participate as collaborators, and a max of 10 can collaborate concurrently on one document.

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Tracking Document Revisions

This feature is found under Tools à revision history, or Files à revision history

When involved in collaboration, keeping track of revision history is very important. It allows the document owner or author to monitor changes, who made changes and when. By maintaining a complete revision history, it allows documents to be compared and changes rolled back if necessary.

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