How to Use Google Docs

By Andrew Tennyson

Learn how to use the Google Docs word-processing platform on both your mobile device and desktop computer.

Things You'll Need

  • A free Google account

Create and collaborate on text documents online from your smartphone, tablet and computer using Google Docs. The method varies somewhat depending on whether you're using the mobile app or Web version of the platform.

Using the Google Docs Mobile App

Step 1

Click the + sign in the bottom corner of the app to create a new document.

Step 2

Google Docs (Android 5.0)

Enter text using the onscreen keyboard just as you would an email or other text-based document. All the standard keyboard formatting options are available for use in Google Docs.

Tip

The appearance of the keyboard varies depending on whether you're using the Android or iOS version of Google Docs and on whether you're using your device's stock keyboard or a third-party keyboard.

Step 3

Google Docs (Android 5.0)

Apply text and paragraph formatting. Select the individual text or paragraph you want to edit and then tap the Formatting icon on the menu at the top of the screen. When you tap the Formatting icon, options are presented at the bottom of the screen including font face, size, color and style.

Google Docs (Android 5.0)

Swipe down to reveal additional formatting tools. Tap Paragraph to reveal paragraph-specific formatting tools.

Step 4

Google Docs (Android 5.0)

Tap the + sign at the top of the screen to reveal the Insert menu. Use this menu to insert items such as links, comments, images and tables.

Step 5

Google Docs (Android 5.0)

Tap the Menu icon in the top-right corner to use the search tool and to share and export the document you're editing.

Tip

The mobile version of Google Docs saves your documents automatically. When you're finished editing, return to the app's home page to see thumbnails for all your documents. Tap a thumbnail to open that document. Press and hold down the thumbnail to rename, share or delete that document.

Using Google Docs on Your Computer

Step 1

Google Docs (Chrome)

Log in to the Google Docs website using your Google username and password and click the + sign in the bottom-right corner of the screen to create a new document.

Step 2

Google Docs (Chrome)

Enter text in the body of the document and use the Text and Paragraph formatting toolbar to format your content just as you would in a desktop word-processing program. Here you can format such options as font size, type face, color and alignment. You can also insert links and comments, add bulleted lists and numbering and change line spacing.

Step 3

Google Docs (Chrome)

Enter a name for the document at the top of the screen. Use the main menu below the name to access Google Docs tools. Tools are grouped into categories with separate menus. Click the Insert menu, for example, to add images, links, drawings, tables, page numbers and comments.

Google Docs (Chrome)

Click the Tools menu to access such features as spell check and word count and to edit document preferences.

Tip

Click each menu category to explore available options. Google Docs includes most of the same functionality as commercial word-processing software.

Step 4

Google Docs (Chrome)

Click the Editing button in the top-right corner of Google Docs to switch between editing modes. This feature can be particularly handy when you're collaborating on a document with others. If you're editing someone else's work, it's useful to switch to Suggesting mode so that changes you make are easy for the original author to track, accept and discard.

Step 5

Click the Share button in the top-right corner of Google Docs to launch the Share With Others dialog. This step is only necessary if you want to collaborate or to let others view your document.

Google Docs (Chrome)

Enter the name of a person in the People field and click the Can Edit drop-down menu to select the level of editing access you want another user to have. Add an optional note and then click the Send button to share your Google Docs document with the selected recipients.

Tip

Like the mobile app, the Web version of Google Docs automatically saves your document at regular intervals. You don't need to save the document manually.

Google Docs vs. Google Drive

Google Drive is an online cloud-based file storage and collaboration platform you can use to store files online. It also provides access to some of Google's standalone business apps, one of which is Google Docs.

Google Docs used to be the name used for all of Google's collaborative online business apps. These apps have since been separated into distinct products — including the Google Docs word-processing app, Google Sheets spreadsheet software and the Google Slides presentation app — all of which can be used independently or as part of the Google Drive platform.