Seven time-saving Google Docs tips

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Seven time-saving Google Docs tips

Do you use Google Docs? Here are some tips and tricks that can help you and your business become more productive.

Recently, BIT took a look at five ways business owners can get more out of Office 365. But what if you’re one of the growing number of businesses that has made the switch to Google Docs?

As with its rival, Google has hidden away a number of handy productivity-boosting features that can give your business an edge.

These tools are in addition to Google’s surprisingly powerful service for creating forms and surveys, known as Google Forms.

If you use Google Docs in Chrome on your desktop PC or Mac, here are seven handy tips you should try:

1. Use shortcuts

One of the big drawbacks of many online services compared to running a full desktop program is that many of them lack keyboard shortcuts.

This can be a pain if you’re the kind of person who likes to Alt Tab your way through a range of applications.

Thankfully, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides do support keyboard shortcuts. There’s also a really simple way to pull up a list of all the possible options.

Just type Ctrl and / (type instead of Ctrl if you use a Mac) from within Google Docs, Sheets or Slides and a list of most of the popular shortcuts should appear.

Google has also posted comprehensive lists of all keyboard shortcuts for Docs, Sheets and Slides.

2. Go back in time

Have you ever made a change to a document – perhaps you deleted some text or changed some wording – only to change your mind later?

You could hit undo a bunch of times to roll back to an earlier version, but not only is this a cumbersome way of working, you also lose all the changes you’ve subsequently made.

Google Docs there’s a simple way to go back in time to an earlier version of your document, allowing you to copy text.

Go to the ‘File’ menu and ‘See revision history’ (or hold down Ctrl Alt Shift H) and you’ll be taken to the Revision history screen.

In the column at the right-hand-side of the screen is a list of all the edits that have been made on the document. Click on one of the versions and it will show you in the right hand column what the document looked like.

To copy some text from an old version of your document, select a past revision of the document in the right-hand column, scroll to the text you want, and then type Ctrl C to copy it. Then click the back arrow at the top-left corner of the screen and paste the text where you want it.

Alternatively, if you want to roll back to an earlier version, select the revision you want in the right-hand column and click then click the words ‘Restore this revision’ in blue (it should be immediately below the date and time of your most recent edit).

3. Transcribe a letter with your voice

There are a variety of reasons why it might not always be practical to type up a long document using a keyboard.

It might be that have a medical condition or injury that makes typing difficult. Maybe you – or one of your employees – is a slow two-finger typist. Or perhaps you’re trying to do more than one job at a time.

If for whatever reason you can’t type at full speed with your keyboard speed, Google Docs has a built-in voice typing feature that allows you to verbally dictate a document.

Before you start, you first need to plug in a working microphone or headset into your computer.

Open a document using Google Docs in Chrome (please note this trick might not work if you use another web browser, such as Firefox).

Type Ctrl Shift S, or alternatively open the ‘Tools’ menu and select ‘Voice Typing’.

A small window with a microphone icon in it should open on the left hand side of your screen.

Immediately above the microphone is a pull-down menu that has the words “English (US)” in it. Click on the small arrow and a pull-down menu will appear. Make sure you select English (Australia) if you don’t want to end up with US spelling.

When you’re ready to start dictating, click the microphone icon. The microphone should turn orange, with a circle around it – this means Google Docs is listening.

Start speaking at a normal volume and pace, and Google Docs will transcribe you.

If you need to correct any mistakes, you can still edit the document normally using your keyboard and mouse.

Likewise, if Google Docs doesn’t quite understand something you say, it will underline the word in grey. Right click on these words to pull up a list of suggestions.

When you’re done, just click the orange microphone again to stop voice typing.

4. Format a document without pressing a button

Using voice typing would be a pain if you had to go back to using your keyboard or mouse each time you wanted to format some text or insert some punctuation.

Fortunately, when you’re voice typing, Google Docs has a number of voice commands that allow you to format your document.

For instance, if you say the word ‘comma’, it will insert a comma where the cursor is.

You can also say ‘period’ for a full stop, ‘exclamation point’ for an exclamation mark, as well as ‘new line’ and ‘new paragraph’ for a line or paragraph break.

Not only are there voice commands to add punctuation, but there are also a range of voice commands you can use to format a document.

First, to select some text, say the word ‘select’ followed by how much text you want selected. For example, ‘select all’ selects all the text in your document, while ‘select none’ deselects it.

Other commands you can give with ‘select’ include: paragraph, word, next word, last word, line, next line, last character, next character, last line, next paragraph, last paragraph, next [number] words, last [number] words and next [number] characters.

Now you’ve selected some text, you can format it – again using only your voice.

Just say ‘bold’ after highlighting some text to make it bold. Other formatting commands include ‘italics’, ‘underline’, ‘strikethrough’, ‘subscript’, ‘superscript’, ‘apply heading [1–6]’, ‘apply normal text’, ‘apply subtitle’ and ‘apply title’.

On the other hand, if you want to remove a piece of formatting, just say the word ‘remove’ first. So if there’s a word that’s currently in italics and you want the italics removed, just select the text (by saying ‘select word’) and then say ‘remove italics’.

You can also edit your document using voice commands by selecting some text and saying copy, cut, paste, copy link, delete, delete last word or delete link.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of editing documents with your voice, you can check out a full list of commands here.

5. Templates

When you first log in to Google Docs, Sheets or Slides, you should see a screen that has a dark grey box over the top half of the screen, with the documents you’ve previously edited below.

In the dark grey box near the top, click the word ‘More’. You will be taken to a screen full of pre-designed templates.

In Docs, the templates include layouts for brochures, newsletters, business letters, meeting notes and project proposals.

In Sheets, there are to-do lists, calendars, schedule planners, invoices, time sheets, financial statements, budgets, team rosters and expense reports.

And in Slides, there are pitches, consulting proposals, status reports, case studies and employee certificates.

These templates can take a lot of the work out of creating professional-looking layouts for your work documents.

6. Create links to important text within a document

A lot of word processing documents contain links to websites. But did you know you can also create links within your documents as well?

First place your cursor at the point in your document you want a link to go to. Then click on the ‘Insert’ menu and select ‘Bookmark’.

The next step is to create the link. First, highlight the text where you want the link to go, click the ‘Insert’ menu and select ‘Link...’, or click the link icon in the toolbar.

Instead of entering a URL, click on ‘Bookmarks’ in the menu underneath the link field. A list of the bookmarks in your document will appear. Click on the one you want to use, and then click apply.

This feature is especially useful in long documents, when you mention something on one page, and explain it in greater detail on a different page, as well as for creating a table of contents.

7. Add-ons

While there are a lot of features built into Google Docs out of the box, you can further extend these capabilities through the use of add-ons.

Some of the add-ons include tools to create a table of contents, add thesaurus capabilities, make it easy to automatically create a bibliography, add letters with accents in just a click, or key in complex maths equations.

Just click ‘Add-ons’ and then select ‘Get add ons’.

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