writers resources / writing

How Google Docs Improves Writing

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:

Always up

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.

Always on

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.

Easily shared

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.

Version history

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-onsTo 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, FlubarooGoogle 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

More on Google Apps

How to Use Google Forms in Your Writing

How to Embed Google Docs

How to use Google Street View

Why do I get so few sales through Google Play?

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 DaysShe 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.


91 thoughts on “How Google Docs Improves Writing

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  5. I just finished my second book using Google Docs. It’s so simple to use and it’s always there, no matter where I am. I enabled the feature that lets me work offline, so I can sit on the dock and write if I want, or even write in the car to take my mind off my husband’s driving.

    When I’m ready to publish, I just transfer the manuscript to Word. I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing this info Jacqui. I’m a diehard Word person but I’ve noticed many docs author friends send me are in Google Docs so I know it’s quite popular. One day I’ll give it a go. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, John but I don’t think there’s any way to stay safe. I’ve had every one of my accounts with secure companies hacked. I give up and am signing up for a Life Hack sort of protection. I haven’t heard of cloud accounts being hacked but you know it’s coming.

      I think the worst scourge right now is the Ransomware. In that case, if your stuff is in the cloud you can tell the thieves to f*** o**, toss your computer and get a new one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I used Open Office until I discovered Google Docs. I liked it a lot. I haven’t tried Lib re Office but have heard of it. So many of MS Office’s features I never use and most people I know never use them. Don’t you think?


  7. It does seem to slow down when the doc or sheet gets too large, but I don’t know where the source of the problem lies. It might be my computer, internet speed or something else. However, it still works. Thanks for the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad to know this. I work on a board and I continually have to get input on what I write. I’m used to sharing it on Google, but I didn’t realize I could use it to start a document. I’m wondering now if I can use it on my IPad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that’s a great example. I’m glad you pointed that out. I was struggling over why a writer would need to be collaborative. Did it take more than 190 pages? I’ve been stalled uploading a long book but wondered if I started in Google Docs, if it would work better.


  9. I had no idea Google Docs were that versatile. Wow, certainly takes the stress out of back-ups. My kids use them all the time for their school work. But the part about not opening up long novels would make it impractical for me. I wonder if this is something they’ll improve on?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jacqui, this sounds very interesting…at the moment I’m using pages on mac which syncs across devices on icloud. For my books, I’m using Scrivener which does sync but not easily. So many options but I’ll definitely take a look – I can do with taking some of this tech stress off!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Word is robustly-featured but Google Docs has most of what most of us want. I think as kids who have used it throughout school grow up and as cloud-based tech becomes more standard, it’ll be much more popular.


  11. I realise that the younger lot are a lot more comfortable sharing and working from the “cloud”. I have been comfortable working from PC-based applications but am discovering the benefits of Google docs. As Internet and Cloud access improve I guess they will become more popular.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Jacqui – as I don’t share = mean me!!! I have used Google docs – but rarely need it – and get surprised when suddenly I do … on occasions need it. I’m sure I’d switch onto a lot of these things if I was around people using them, and needed to myself – I can see the value .. just don’t get there — yet. Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  13. After reading this article, I want to try Google Docs. I’ve been using Evernote for awhile for writing poems or articles for a newsletter to an organization i used to belong to. Evernote, as far as i know, doesn’t save to cloud, like Google Docs. Your article enlightened me on a lot of things. The local library in town uses Libreoffice and i thought it had a lot of options. Thanks for informing me about something better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to use Evernote but at one point, everything I loved about it became part of the fee-based package so I left. OneNote (part of MS Office) does what I need and more but it requires a fee also. My favorite free note-taker is Keep. I have drafted articles on it but it’s really not a word processor so a bit clumsy.

      I forgot about Libreoffice. Interesting. Another free Office look-alike is Open Office. It’s kind of what Word was before it replaced the toolbar with the ribbon.


      • Do you know if Evernote and Onenote at one time didn’t require any fee to access a pro or premium version but over time probably did because demand became high? If that happened, do you think it may with Google Docs? Or if you know Google pretty well, does Google try to keep things affordable if they attach price tags?

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s definitely true of Evernote. It started as a free OneNote alternative which garnered it lots of users and then it started on the freemium approach. OneNote has always been fee-based, as part of Office. I pay for Office 365 now (about $5 a month I think) and get OneNote as part of that package.

          I’m not sure if the Google Apps will follow that model. There are good reasons for and against and just not sure which will prevail.


    • I gave up on Word doing Table of Contents. I just do it manually and that works fine. And it crashes on me way too much. I’ve taken to saving multiple times under multiple names so I can find a version that will open. Yikes!


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