If you’re just using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to write and share documents, you’re doing it wrong. The online office suite is packed with hidden features that go way beyond tracking changes. To see how you can make the most of these products, I spoke to Ritcha Ranjan, product manager for Google Docs. about their favorite under-the-hood features, tricks, and hacks.
Give your document a mirror image:
Google Docs contains a somewhat hidden tool for creating a mirror image of a file. “Hit the following sequence of keys in a new Google Doc: up arrow, up arrow, down arrow, down arrow, left arrow, right arrow, left arrow, right arrow, b, a, enter. You’ll get the mirror image of whatever you type,” Ranjan says. “Perfect for if you want to create your own iron-on slogan for those T-shirts you’re making for your intramural softball team. Or, you know, just have fun confusing people.”
Talk instead of type:
If you’re better at saying your ideas than writing them down, Google lets you dictate text directly into new Docs—or even edit and format existing documents. To do this, go to the Tools menu and enable “Voice Typing”. It can even recognize punctuation commands such as “comma” or “period”.
Or do everything with the keyboard:
Of course some people will want to do literally everything in their keyboard, and do away with mice and trackpads. To see a full list of keyboard shortcuts, simply type Ctrl + /.
“Plus” someone into a comment:
If you’re making a comment or change to a document that involves a specific team member, you can “plus” them into the comment, and automatically alert them that their attention is needed. To do this, type “+” and the person’s email address (something like: “+email@example.com”) into the comment. They’ll then get an email letting them know that a comment has been directed at them—effectively eliminating ignorance as an excuse for inaction.
Use bookmarks instead of scrolling:
Huge documents can involve endless amounts of scrolling between relevant passages. Google Docs contains an easy bookmarking feature that lets you zoom back and forth between relevant passages. To use it, place the cursor where you want to add the bookmark, go to the “Insert” menu, and then select “Bookmark”.
Keep things in Microsoft Office formats:
If somebody sends you a Microsoft Office document as an attachment, you can edit it without fully converting it to a Google Doc file—great if you have to send it back as an Office file at some point after editing. To do this, activate Office Compatibility Mode in Google Docs by opening Chrome (yes, it has to be in Chrome) and installing the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides Chrome extension.
Turn back time:
“Loved something you wrote in a previous version of your document, but can’t remember exactly what it was? Go to ‘File’ and ‘See revision history’ to see previous changes made to the document and by whom. You can even restore a previous version of the file with one click.” Ranjan says.
Share documents, sans attachments
Email attachments are inefficient and, quite frankly, annoying. Google Doc, Sheet, and Slide feels can be embedded in emails as instant-open links, negating the need for inbox-stuffing attachments. Press the blue “Share” button at the top of a Doc, Sheet, or Slide file, and you are given the option of sharing the file with a short list of specific individuals, anybody who you send the link to, or making it public on the Web. You can also specify if others can edit, comment, or only view the files.
Keep working, even offline:
Google’s online office suite is known for being, well, online. Ranjan points out that, you can view, create, or edit files without an Internet connection. When you get back online, these changes are automatically synced.
Follow along as others edit:
“Here’s a fun fact for all the collaborators out there — if you click on someone’s profile picture at the top of the document you’ll immediately be taken to where their cursor is in the document. No scrolling required!” Ranja says.
“Docs, Sheets, and Slides have tons of great tools built in, but did you know you can also add even more with Add-Ons? Just click the “Add-ons” menu at the top of a Doc or Sheet to check out what’s available. My favorite is the EasyBib Bibliography Creator. I sure wish I’d had that in school!” Ranjan says.