tech tips for writers / writers tips

An Affordable Writing Program

MS Word too Expensive? Try Google Docs

Google Docs is a free word processing program that does 99% of everything a writer will ever need to do–write, edit, rewrite, and re-edit. If you have a Gmail account, you have Google Docs. It is part of Google Drive which you access through the nine-dot array in the upper right corner. Or, through the link:

Google Docs operates in the cloud so there’re no download foibles, pesky maintenance, or expensive yearly upgrades. While it does have a moderate learning curve (no worse than MS Word), once traveled, writers quickly adopt it as their own and find many reasons why this becomes their favorite tool. The end result is a writing tool that is powerful, robust, scalable, and free.

Here are the top eleven reasons why you might agree, from the writers I talk to:

Always up

I’ve never had the experience of logging into Google Docs and having it not open. On the other hand, I have often experienced that heart-stopping occurrence with MS Word when a doc 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, users can access it from Internet-connected locations and devices by logging into their Google account. The latest version of their 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 on their manuscript at their job and home.


Google Docs automatically saves 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 your work in one location.

google docsCollaborative

Google makes it easy for groups to edit a document simultaneously. Up to fifty people can add comments, revise, and format at the same time. This is great for group writing projects and when you are making changes with your editor.

Easily shared

You can share the file to anyone (like your editor) 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). If you are a freelance journalist, this makes it easy to collaborate on a piece, share with others, and keep everyone up-to-date in a fluid environment.

Research options/reference tools


The Research functions activate in the right sidebar when you select ‘Research’ from the ‘Tools’ drop-down menu, click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I, or simply right-click on the word you want to research. From this one location, you can search online for articles, images, or quotes. When you insert directly from the sidebar, it will automatically add a citation as a footnote, referencing where you found your data. 


These are added automatically when you find information through the Research tool. This makes it easy to credit sources for non-fiction and freelance articles.

Reviwriting with google docssion 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>See Revision History (or click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H) and it comes up in the right sidebar. From there, you can review revisions and restore to a prior edition of your article or novel. 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. I think MS Word 2016 is much improved, but haven’t experienced it yet. Anyone know?

Great for writers workshops

There is no easier tool to use if you teach Writer’s Workshops. With Google Docs, participants write, peer edit, and work together seamlessly. They are productive, energized, and dynamic.

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 favorites are 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). You can also open Google Docs in MS Word.


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 for creating a New document, one of which is a Google Doc. Problems? Leave a comment below. I’ll see if I can help.

More on Google Apps

Embed Google Docs

What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Writing?

How Google Docs Improves Writing

How to Use Google Forms in Your Writing

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, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


94 thoughts on “An Affordable Writing Program

  1. Pingback: 10 Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done – Today's Author

  2. Microsoft now has the function to autosave, just need to activate it. I don’t google docs but must admit to mainly using Microsoft Office. I have the 2016 version, but I won’t pay for the 365. When the time comes, I’ll may switch over to google docs.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lani loved the book. Brought back slot of memories of the greater house remember exactly how it looked even the curtains I can see now. You being brought home when you were born where bassennet was good memories of growing up being brought up by mom an dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I found this interesting, Jacqui. I do use my Google account for some things, but still use Microsoft for most, such as Word and PowerPoint, and I save to a Dropbox account. I hadn’t thought of the possibility of replacing both those paid products with the free Google Docs. I guess it’s just habit from years of use. You’ve given me something to think about. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had read somewhere that Google had adjusted Google Docs so a person could work with a Word document in it. Yet, if anyone in the writing business knows Google, it’s you and you aren’t mentioning this so I can only assume what I read was false.

    I noticed Shari had commented about her misgivings of the laptop. I’m in the same boat. I have a laptop, yet still, prefer my desktop because everything is at the right height and I have good back support.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, you can open a Word doc and view it. You can upload a Word doc and convert it to Google Docs, edit, and then convert back to Word, but you can’t open Word in Google Docs and edit it that way. The View is nice!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t mind using Google Docs when collaborating with others (and my daughter uses it all the time at university), but I still prefer a program like Word that’s on my PC for actual writing.

    I’m also a freelance editor. Like all the editors I know, I work in Word. Some have been asked to work in Google Docs, have tried it, then insisted on Word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Something about Word does feel more secure and permanent. Interesting feedback on your freelancing. Most of my freelancing is loosely-organized. Sometimes, they have their own dedicated format but usually, Word is fine.


  7. Oh my gosh, Jacqui. This is great! I didn’t know all this. I’ve got to bookmark this post for when I have more time to play around in google docs. I truly appreciate it. I have gmail. All best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really like Google Docs too. I have a chromebook I use when traveling or working away from home. I also like the sharing function, which allows me to work with critique partners that live far away. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Jacqui – having read your article … it sounds so simple – so must give it a go – though only write for me (at the moment, I guess) and of course my (erratic) methodology will need a brain readjustment!! Still I must come back to read the comments and your answers … thanks though – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve never tried using google docs, but I’ll definitely give it a shot with my editor when we go over my current manuscript! Thanks so much for this excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. While I personally tend to favor working offline, I do like using my GoogleDrive as one of a few backup options. As you say, it’s a great way to ensure that you have your work available to you wherever you are, though as a free service I would be wary of making them my primary home for my files, lest something go wrong and (as a non-paying client), I wouldn’t have the same grounds to demand they recover and provide my files to me.
    Still, definitely a very useful tool in the creative process, particularly if you’re collaborating with others over long distance. Being able to simultaneously modify the same document is a real boon for any collaborative project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points, Adam. I actually don’t backup much to Google Drive because I fear the privacy issues. I use Carbonite (paid option), a flash drive, an external hard drive, and emails to myself. I’m pretty nutty about backups.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Even with all the nice things you’ve mention, I’m not convinced. I’ve heard some bad things about not owning your stuff anymore it you use a Google (blogger) app. They lay a claim to it all. One of the reasons I left Blogger.

    I just can’t make myself go there except for using their forms. The forms are great when looking for sign-ups. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m sure a Word user that I never considered Google Docs. I see it at the periphery every now and then but didn’t know what its capabilities were. I love the way it can be used collaboratively! I didn’t know that. It seems like a great feature for co-writing and sharing documents. Thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I personally love Google Docs, but one of my CPs has experienced some difficulties with it. She’s the only one who’s ever had any problems, though, and she thinks it happens when her wifi is spotty. Great post, Jacqui!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I liked Google docs, I use both Google and Word. Google Doc is wonderful if you need to make something accessible for someone else allowing you to chose view, comment or edit mode that is really cool about them.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have Microsoft Soft 365 subscription with cloud backup for Word, OneNote (LOVE THIS), PowerPoint and Excel and Outlook. I have had it ever since it became the only way to get the new Word functions and accessories.

        I have used Word from its inception buying the new every time they released it–then the subscription. Long time. I remember the big change when you had to know DOS commands to do things on your computer, and the ease that Windows brought to the PC as we know it now, and the Word suite first appeared. Okay telling my age.

        I also have Google Drive which rounds out the Google Docs and backup. I back up my whole PC to Google Drive too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Because I’ve said sooo many problems with shared docs, I haven’t really tried. I was a lawyer in a previous life and am very comfortable for Microsoft. So, we shell out the money for a family subscription each year. It’s not too bad – under 100 euros for the family on multiple devices.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. We’re using Google Docs for workshopping in my creative writing MA, and it’s really useful to be able to add comments and make changes this way. I still use Open Office for my main work though, with copious backups, because I’m not sure I trust how secure online storage is!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Excellent informative article, Jacqui! Google Docs has a lot going for it … at the moment I use iPages which saves via cloud but it’s not ideal when doing collaborations – I’ll definitely take a look at Google Docs.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The Barbarians use google docs for school (they have chromebooks) but they often share their assignments with me so I can use the functionality of MSWord to do things they can’t do on google docs. Guess I should look into it more in case they can do those things but aren’t aware how to.

    Liked by 1 person

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