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 can be augmented with mostly free third-party add-ons, extensions, and apps. It operates in the cloud so there’re 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:
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.
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.
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.
Google makes it easy for groups to edit a document simultaneously. Up to fifty people can add comments about your WIP at once. Now that’s frightening.
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.
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>Version 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-ons. To 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, Flubaroo, Google 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). One downside to Google Docs: It won’t open my long novels. It usually gets stuck at about 190 pages. Anyone have thoughts on that?
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.
–first appeared on Today’s Author
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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 Days. She 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.