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How To Use Google Docs: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve never used Google Docs before, you’re missing out on one of the most feature-rich and easy-to-use cloud word processors you’ll ever need.

Google Docs allows you to edit documents in the same way as in Microsoft Word, using a browser both online and offline, and on mobile devices using the Google Docs mobile app.

There are many useful features worth learning about. So if you want to learn how to use Google Docs, we’ll cover both basic tips and some more advanced features that you might not have known about.

Sign in to Google Docs

When you first visit the Google Docs page, if you are not already signed in to your Google account, you will need to select the Google account to use.

If you don’t see the account you want, select Use a different account. If you don’t have a Google account yet, register.

After logging in, you will see a blank icon on the left side of the top ribbon. Select this to start creating a new document from scratch.

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Note that the top ribbon also has some helpful Google Docs templates you can use so you don’t have to start from scratch. To view the entire template gallery, select Template Gallery in the upper right corner of this feed.

This will take you to the entire library of Google Docs templates that are available to you to use. This includes resumes, letters, meeting notes, newsletters, legal documents, and more.

If you choose any of these templates, a new document using that template will open for you. This can save you a lot of time if you know what you want to create but don’t know where to start.

Format text in Google Docs

Formatting text in Google Docs is as easy as formatting in Microsoft Word. Unlike Word, the ribbon icon at the top does not change based on the menu you choose.

On the ribbon, you will see options for performing all of the following formatting options:

There are some very useful formatting options that are not visible even when looking at the ribbon.

How to strike out in Google Docs

There are times when you want to draw a line through text. This could be for any number of reasons. However, you will notice that you cannot cross out on the ribbon.

To strikethrough in Google Docs, select the text you want to strikeout. Then choose the Format menu, choose Text, and choose Strikethrough.

Now you will notice that the selected text goes across the line.

How to use superscript and subscript in Google Docs

You may have noticed that in the same menu above, there is an option to format text as superscript or subscript

Using these two functions requires one extra step. For example, if you want to write an exponent such as X to the power of 2 in a document, you need to enter X2 and then select 2 first so that you can format it.

Now select the “Format” menu, select “Text” and then “Superscript”.

You will see that the “2” is now formatted as an exponent (superscript).

If you want the number 2 to be formatted at the bottom (subscript), you will need to choose Subscript from the Format> Text menu.

It’s easy to use, but it requires an extra tap on the menu.

Format documents in Google Docs

In addition to the ribbon bar options for indenting or aligning blocks of text to the left / right and adjusting line spacing, there are a few other useful features to help you format your documents in Google Docs.

How to Change Fields in Google Docs

First, what if you don’t like the fields in your chosen template? It is very easy to change fields in a document using Google Docs.

To access the page margin settings, select File and Page Setup.

In the Page Setup window, you can change any of the following document formatting options.

When you’re done, click OK and the page formatting will take effect immediately.

Set up indentation in Google Docs

One of the paragraph formatting options that people often come across in Google Docs is the first line or protruding indentation. The first line indent is where only the first line of a paragraph is intended. A hanging indent is where the first line is the only without indentation.

This is difficult because if you select either the first line or the entire paragraph and use the indent icon on the ribbon, the entire paragraph will be indented.

To get the first line or indentation in Google Docs:

  1. Select the paragraph where you want to indent.
  2. Choose the Format menu, choose Align & Indent, and choose Indent Options.
  3. In the Indent Options window, change Extra Indent to Hang.

The default will be 0.5 inches. Change this if desired and select Apply. This will apply your settings to the selected paragraph.

The example below is a protrusion.

How to number pages in Google Docs

A final formatting feature that isn’t always easy to understand or use is pagination. This is another Google Docs feature hidden in the menu system.

To number the pages of Google Docs (and the numbering format), choose the Insert menu and choose Page Numbers. A small pop-up window will open with simple page number formatting options.

There are four options here:

If you don’t like any of these options, select Advanced Options.

The next window will allow you to place exactly where you want the pagination to be.

When you’re done, click Apply to apply the selected pagination options.

Other useful features of Google Docs

There are a few more important Google Docs features that you should be aware of if you’re just getting started. This will help you use Google Docs more effectively.

Word Count in Google Docs

I wonder how many words have you written so far? Just select Tools and select Word Count. This will show you the total number of pages, the number of words, the number of characters, and the number of characters without spaces.

If you turn on Display word count as I type and select OK, you will see the total word count for your document updated in real time in the lower left corner of the screen.

Download Google Docs

You can download your document in various formats. Select “File” and “Download” to view all formats.

You can select any of them to get a copy of the document as Word document, PDF document, plain text, HTML, etc.

Find and Replace in Google Docs

Quickly find and replace any words or phrases in your document with new words or phrases using Google Docs Search and Replace.

To use Find and Replace in Google Docs, select the Edit menu and choose Find and Replace. The Find and Replace window opens.

You can make your search case sensitive by enabling Match case. Click Next to find the next occurrence of the search word, and select Replace to enable the replacement.

If you are confident you will not make any mistakes, you can select Replace All With to perform all replacements at once.

Content of Google Docs

If you’ve created a large document with many pages and sections, it can be helpful to include a table of contents at the top of the document.

To do this, simply place your cursor at the top of the document. Select the Insert menu and select Table of Contents.

You can choose from two formats: a standard numbered table of contents or a series of links to each of the headings in your document.

Some other features in Google Docs that you might want to check out include:

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