How to Insert Variable Smart Chips (Placeholders) in Google Docs.If you’ve ever created a document where you’ve used text placeholders, you’ll appreciate this Google Docs feature. Using a variable smart chip, you can insert a placeholder, give it a value, and automatically update it throughout the document.Instead of fiddling with add-ons or third-party apps, you can improve your workflow when creating different types of documents with the Variable Smart Chip feature.Note. As of this writing, the variable smart chip is available to Google Workspace Business Standard and Plus, Enterprise Standard and Plus, Education Plus, and nonprofit customers. Hopefully, at some point, Google will add this feature to personal Google accounts.
About Variable Smart Chips
As mentioned, the Variable Smart Chip is a text placeholder that you can insert into your document. This is ideal for text that you want someone else to add, such as a first or last name, an address, or a phone number. You can also use variables for things you need to add but expect, such as a product name, date, or website address.Whether you use variables for yourself or for others you share with, they allow you to create a document and add those elements later.Once you add a variable, you can assign a value, text, to it at any time. Then every place you use the variable in the document is updated with that value.Let’s see how to insert and use variables in Google Docs with a few examples.
How to Insert a Variable Smart Chip
To add a variable smart chip to a document, follow these simple steps.
- Place the cursor where you want it and do one of the following:
- Select Insert > Smarts and select Variables from the pop-up menu.
- Enter the symbol @ (At) and select Variable from the drop-down menu.
- In the small window that appears, select Insert New Variable.
- Name your variable in the next popup. You can also use the default naming convention, Variable 1, Variable 2, etc. Select New.
- You will then see the variable with its name in the document and in the Variables sidebar that opens on the right.
In the same way, you can add additional variables to other elements of the document. Just keep in mind that additional variables must be used for different elements. For example, you can create one variable for the name and a second variable for the address.
Reuse a Variable Smart Chip
The purpose of a variable is to place it in the document where you need it, and then update it with a value when you’re ready.To paste the same variable elsewhere, do one of the following:
- Select Insert > Smarts, select Variables and select a variable name from the pop-up list.
- Enter the character @ (At), select Variable and select a variable name from the pop-up list.
- Open the Variables sidebar, hover over the variable you want to use and select Insert.
Assign a Value to a Variable
Once you add a variable to a document, you can assign a value to it at any time. The value is the text you want to use. You can do this in the variable itself or in the sidebar.
Add text using variable
To assign a value to a variable in place, select variable and enter the text you want to use. This automatically saves the value into this variable.
Add text using sidebar
To assign a value in the Variables sidebar, either select the variable and use the Open in Sidebar icon on the toolbar that appears, or go to Tools > Variables in the menu. Select No Value below the variable name. You will see that the variable in your document is empty and ready for text input. After that use Enter or Return to save it. Once you assign a value to your variable, you will see this update every time you place a variable in your document, which is the purpose of the smart chip.
Rename a Variable
Since the default names for variables are not obvious, you can give them more meaningful names. This is especially useful if you are creating multiple variables for your document.Open the Variables sidebar, hover over the variable you want to rename, and select the Change Name (pencil) icon. When the rename popup appears, give it a new name and select Save. You will then see the updated name in the sidebar, the list of variables to insert, and within the variable itself until you assign a value to it.
Remove a Variable
If you decide you no longer want to use a variable, you can delete it. Be aware that this will remove the variable and its value, if assigned, from every place in your document.Open the Variables sidebar, hover over the variable you want to delete, and select the Delete Variable Definition (trash can) icon. In the confirmation popup, select Delete to delete the variable.
Example Uses for Variables in Google Docs
If you’re wondering how to use variables for your own purposes, we have a couple of examples.
Here we are creating a document for our client’s new product. We don’t have a product name or website address yet, so instead we insert variables for these two elements. When the Variables sidebar is open, you can see them with blue borders all over the text. Once our client provides us with this data, we simply assign values to the variables and our document is automatically updated. These variables then render text and gray borders. When you close the Variables sidebar, you will notice that these variables look just like the rest of the text, without any borders.
In the following example, we have a document that we want someone else to fill in with their data. We set up variables for first name, last name, address, phone number, and date. When we share a document, the recipient simply selects each variable and enters their information. Variables that are used more than once are updated automatically. We then have a finished document in which the variables are rendered like any other text. Note. If you share a document using variables with multiple people, the assigned values will be updated with each change. To avoid this, you can ask each of your recipients to make a copy of their changes.
Save Time, Minimize Errors, and Organize
Google has introduced several new smart chips over the past year since the introduction of the Smart Canvas feature. You can add a calendar event with a date chip, associate a file name with a file chip, and include contact information with a people chip.Now you can save time by typing the same text over and over, reduce the risk of typos, and organize your document with the Variable Smart Chip in Google Docs. Keep this handy feature in mind for your next document.To learn more about ways to save time in Google apps, see How to use the dropdown list in Google Sheets.
How to Insert Variable Smart Chips (Placeholders) in Google Docs
How to Insert Variable Smart Chips (Placeholders) in Google Docs