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7 Tips And Tricks To Help You Master Google Docs

When it comes to Microsoft Office alternatives, only two big names come to mind, one is LibreOffice and the other is Google Docs. And while we’ve already talked about LibreOffice in our earlier post, we haven’t really touched upon Google Docs much. The web-based word processor has been a lot in the spotlight lately, especially after the release of the Chromebooks, which are browser-based notebooks that rely solely on web tools like Google Docs. Though Google Docs isn’t as feature-laden as MS Office, or even LibreOffice for that matter, there are a lot of nifty tips, tricks, and shortcuts that will help you make your work in GDocs a lot easier.

1. Useful Google Docs Keyboard Shortcuts

Okay, as with every software, the first step of mastery involves learning the keyboard shortcuts. And, even though Google Docs doesn’t have shortcuts any different from MS Office or even LibreOffice, there are some unique shortcuts you need to know to save your valuable time.


Ctrl + , → Subscript ( That’s Ctrl key and Comma)

Ctrl + . → Superscript ( That’s Ctrl key and Period )

Alt+Shift+5 → Strikethrough

Ctrl + \ → Clear formatting

Ctrl + Alt + 0 → Normal text formatting

Spell Checking and Proofreading

Any spelling errors you make in the document will be underlined in red. To quickly jump between those errors, use the Ctrl+; shortcut. ( that’s Ctrl key and semicolon). This combo saves a lot of time while editing huge documents.

Ctrl+; → Move To Next Misspelling

If you come across a word that is difficult, or if a word comes to your mind, but you aren’t too sure about its meaning, then simply look it up in the dictionary using the Ctrl+Shift+Y shortcut. Also, if you select a word using the cursor and then press Ctrl+Shift+Y, Google Docs automatically finds the meaning of the word.


Ctrl+Shift+Y → Dictionary

Show Word Count

Unlike MS Word, Google Docs doesn’t show the word count at the bottom. If you want to quickly lookup the word count, simply use the Ctrl+Shift+C shortcut. A nice overlay will pop up showing you the number of pages, words, and characters.


Ctrl+Shift+C → Word Count

However, note that this shortcut can be a bit annoying, as it can sometimes open up Chrome’s Javascript console, which too, incidentally, has the same combination.

Full-Screen Mode

We’ve already talked about distraction-free tools in our Productivity section. To achieve a similar experience in Google Docs, all you have to do is use the Ctrl+Shift+F combo, which, basically, puts Google Docs into full-screen mode. This mode strips away all the unnecessary items at the top leaving you just with the menubar and the formatting bar.

Ctrl + Shift + F → Full-screen mode

If you want to make it more minimalistic, you can also get rid of the ruler by going to View from the menubar and unchecking the Show Ruler option.

Other than these, and a few others, most of the shortcuts are similar to what we have in MS Office. If you get stuck though, it’s important to remember the Ctrl + / shortcut, which opens up a nice transparent overlay list of all the combinations in Google Docs.

Ctrl + / —> Help

2. Translate A Document Without Leaving Google Docs

If, on the web, you come across a Gdoc written in a language you don’t speak, all you have to do is go to Tools and select the option that says ‘Translate the document’.

Tools> Translate the document

3. Send File in an Email Without Leaving Google Docs

If you just finished writing your project report and want to mail it to your colleagues without going through the trouble of opening Gmail, here’s a nifty little tip for you. Just go to File, then click on the option that says ‘Email as attachment”. This will open a small overlay box allowing you to enter the contact’s email address (don’t worry, there’s automatic completion ). Then, from the dropdown menu, choose the document format, and finally write a small message accompanying the attachment. The message you send will have the document attached in the email.


Also, if you prefer writing long emails in a word processor, again, Google Docs comes in really handy here. Simply write your email in a fresh Google Document, then go to File > Email as Attachment. Here, in the ‘Attach As’ dropdown menu, select the option that says “Paste the item itself into the email”. Select the recipient(s) and the subject of the mail. The recipient will now receive an email with the document’s text embedded in the body, however the mail will have no attachments.

4. Make the most out of Automatic Substitution Feature

Google Docs has an autocorrect-like automatic substitution which can be used to insert special characters. For example, if you write ( c ) in Google Docs, it will automatically change to the copyright symbol. You can view all the automatic substitutions by going to Tools>Preferences.


Now, one great thing about this feature is that it lets you add your own substitutions. So, if you frequently use slang words and short forms, then you can use this feature to correct your habit.

Let’s say, for example, you use the word “ain’t” a lot. To automatically correct yourself to “aren’t”, go to Tools > Preferences again, and in the ‘Replace’ column enter the term you want to correct, which, in this case is “ain’t”. In the “With” column, enter the correct term, that is “aren’t”, and hit the Ok button. Now whenever you type ain’t, Google Docs will automatically correct it to aren’t.

Note that even though ain’t is found in many dictionaries, it is still considered as a colloquialism, and therefore it is not used in many formal situations.

5. Insert Equations into Word Documents

For all the math junkies out there, Google Docs has a nice little feature that lets you insert mathematical equations into a word document.


To add an equation, simply go to Insert > Equation, and a new toolbar will show up letting you add any equation you want to.

6 Control The Noise When in Collaboration Mode

If you’re working on a shared document, or a public document that is being edited by too many people at the same time, the constant email notifications can get a bit overwhelming.

To control which notifications you receive, simply hit the ‘Comments’ button at the top right corner of the page (yes, the one besides the big blue share button). Then, from the dropdown menu, select the option that says “Notifications settings”. A new overlay window will popup allowing you to enable or disable specific notifications.

7. Use The Bookmarks feature for Better Editing

If you work with really long documents, then sometimes, editing and revising them seems a bit too tedious. To address that problem, you can use the bookmarks feature in Google Docs. What this does is that it lets you bookmark specific sections of the page. So, if there are some paragraphs or lines in your page you want to revisit later, you can bookmark that part for easier editing in the future.

To insert a bookmark, simply place your cursor on the part you want to bookmark; then, go to Insert and click on the option that says Bookmark. Once you’re done, you’ll see a bright blue flag which can be removed later after editing.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.