tech tips for writers / writers resources

Tech Tips for Writers #130: 7 Google Apps Tricks Writers Should Know

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

If you use Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Draw, and the rest), here are seven tricks that will make them even more useful:

  1. Revision History—this is a running list of all changes made to a document over time. It tracks collaboration and allows everyone to roll back a document to a previous version in case something unexpected happened. Great for writers editing a book, for that time you made a change, don’t like it, and wish you could bring back the original.
  2. Share/Collaborate–multiple people can create and use the same document and automatically save it to their Google Drive. This is great for note-taking, collaborative research, and plan/edit/rewrite. Great for writers in critique groups or working with an editor.
  3. Research–search topics on the internet but from within the document. That includes quotations, images, and a variety of other resources. Insert the result into a document complete with footnoted citations. Great for non-fic WIP where you want to keep track of information, to be included in a bibliography.
  4. Auto-save—documents are automatically saved to the cloud without any action on your part. I constantly hear from writers who lost their work. This doesn’t happen with Google Apps. If you can get to the internet, you can access your work.
  5. Download As—download any Google Apps file in another format—Office, Open Office, PDF, or RTF (rich text format). Great for submitting work to agents, queries, critique groups, and more.
  6. Embed—any Google Apps document into a blog, website, or any number of online locations. Called ‘publishing’, this is simple. I love this for writers. If you embed a preview to your document in your blog, and then update it a year later, it automatically updates the embed. No more out-of-date entries on old blog posts.
  7. Insert comments–to a collaborative document so stakeholders can see ideas from other members using the ‘Comments’ button. Perfect for online critique groups–or in-person–and working with editors.

If you’re not familiar with Google Apps, you find it under Google Drive (the nine dots in the upper right of your screen when you’re on Gmail or Google). Click the dots; select Google Drive; and go.

More on Google for Writers:

How to Embed Google Docs

An overview of Google Docs 

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 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 NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

46 thoughts on “Tech Tips for Writers #130: 7 Google Apps Tricks Writers Should Know

  1. We used Google docs when I wrote for a local news website. Sometimes my editor sent it to me with just a few questions, while other times it meant I needed to make several revisions on a story. Once I got over my initial fears, it turned out to be quite helpful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree. It’s not terribly user-friendly and your writing becomes much more transparent than ever-before. But, in certain settings, it is perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Schools use it more than businesses so lots of writers I know aren’t familiar with it. It is a free word processor with no download which is nice!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Jacqui – it’s great to have these resources listed for us – thank you … I keep note – whether I’ll use them or not is another matter …still I can, at times, pretend to be intelligent as I have some overview knowledge. I like the idea of keeping drafts in case of the need to prove ownership … thanks for these tips – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

    • And it connects you to friends with kids. Most schools here in the US use these in classrooms. A generation of kids are growing up with these as their default programs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I must say, this part: “Great for writers editing a book, for that time you made a change, don’t like it, and wish you could bring back the original.” I’ve dealt with many times. My mom advised me long ago not to delete prior drafts for just this reason. That’s why I have a folder called Old Book Stuff for when I want to go back and review previous versions. I often have to switch from my desktop to my laptop when I leave the house to work, so I save the newer version with a new name so I know which is which, and file the old one.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Everyone should be using revision history. Most software written uses some kind of SCM (source control management) to track changes to software and allow quick roll back to an older version. Writers should find this feature very useful during editing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Google Docs is pretty creative. But, it is in the cloud and KDP wants Word versions (of course you can save a Google Doc as a Word file but then you have to check for conversion errors) so I stick with MS Word.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t do my writing in Google Docs. My non-fic has too many tables and images that don’t convert well between Google and MS so I stick with Word (which is much easier for anything complicated).

      Liked by 1 person

    • You can work on Google Docs offline–on your local computer. It’ll auto-sync when the internet is again working. But, what if you didn’t save your doc locally and now it’s in the cloud, inaccessible? Yeah. That is a big reason why I stick with Word (locally-saved).

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t write in it either. I like saving to a local drive that’s more private. But, education is addicted to it so I’ve become pretty savvy with its ins and outs!

      Liked by 1 person

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