13 Handy Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Using Google Docs

This man is so good at using Google Docs that he doesn't even need both hands.
This man is so good at using Google Docs that he doesn't even need both hands.
Urilux/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’re already well-acquainted with the multi-user capabilities, keyboard shortcuts, and other merits of Google Docs, there might be a few handy tricks you haven’t heard of yet. From its built-in web browser to its transcription feature, here are 13 useful tips that will transform you into a certifiable Google Docs wizard.

1. Open a new Google Doc in one step.

Opening a new Google Doc isn’t too labor-intensive, but there’s a way to make it a one-step process. Instead of navigating to a blank page through your Google Drive, just type “docs.new” or “doc.new” into your web browser’s search bar, and it’ll take you to a fresh document. (You can also open a new Google Sheet with “sheet.new” or a new Slide with “slide.new”).

2. Include a handwritten signature or edited image.

You can add a funky pink shape to a map showing the location of Manhattan's only Dairy Queen, if you're so inclined.Ellen Gutoskey

Under “Insert,” scroll down to “Drawing” and hit “New.” Hover over the “Line” menu and choose “Scribble,” which gives you a blank box to write your signature. It might not be your very best handwriting—especially if you’re using a mouse or trackpad, rather than a touchscreen—but it’s definitely more efficient than printing your document out, signing your name with a pen, and having to scan the whole page.

The drawing function can also come in handy if you’d like to modify an image. Say, for example, you’d like to circle a certain location on a map—you can drag and drop an image (or import one from your files) into your new drawing, and insert a shape or an arrow from the options in the toolbar.

3. Keep the word count on display right in your document.

For those of you who find yourselves checking the word count after virtually every sentence you type—whether you’re writing something with a strict word limit or just nursing a slightly neurotic habit—save yourself the trouble of multiple visits to the “Tools” section and check the box to “Display word count while typing,” which is at the bottom of the word count pop-up box. You’ll see the word count in the bottom left corner of the screen, and you can expand it to see the character count and other stats. If you’re not quite ready to commit to an omnipresent word count, you can still avoid the toolbar by hitting “Control+Shift+C” (or “Command+Shift+C” on a Mac) and the word count box will automatically appear.

4. Use a keyboard shortcut to paste text without formatting.

Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, you can paste text that matches your existing text by pressing “Control+Shift+V” (“Command+Shift+V” on a Mac). That way, for example, a quote that you’ve copied from an article written in 14-point Comic Sans will appear in 11-point Arial (or whatever you’ve set your font as). For similar time-saving magic, check out “Keyboard shortcuts” in the “Help” menu.

5. Assign edits to specific people.

Is this a disappointment to more than one person?Ellen Gutoskey

In the upper right corner of your screen, there’s a little pencil icon that gives you the option to work in “Suggesting” mode, where everything you type renders as a suggested edit. Each edit gets its own comment box along the right side of the document, with the option to accept, reject, or reply to the change. If you’re collaborating with multiple people on a project, you can assign an edit to a specific user by typing “+” in the reply box and entering an email address—Google will then send an email notifying the person that there’s a suggestion waiting for them.

6. Revert to an earlier version of your Google Doc.

Not only does Google automatically save your document changes as you make them, but it also keeps a record of all those changes. You can access previous versions of your Google Doc by going to “File,” “Version history,” and “See version history.” There, you can expand any earlier draft to see the specific edits highlighted in the Doc—as well as when they were made and who made them, which is especially useful if more than one person is editing.

7. Search the internet or look up a word without opening a new window.

You can cut down on the number of tabs you’re juggling with two Google Doc hacks: the built-in internet browser and the built-in dictionary. The internet browser is under “Tools” and “Explore” (or “Control+Alt+Shift+I,” or “Command+Option+Shift+I” on a Mac), and it also searches through your Google Drive. You can access the dictionary under “Tools” and “Dictionary,” or use the shortcut “Control+Shift+Y” (“Command+Shift+Y” on a Mac). You can also get to either feature by right-clicking on any word or phrase in your Doc and choosing “Explore” or “Define.”

8. Create your own shorthand by customizing autocorrect features.

So you never forget the accent in Beyoncé.Ellen Gutoskey

Select “Preferences” under “Tools” and you’ll be able to check or uncheck general preferences like “Automatically capitalize words,” “Automatically correct spelling,” and more. For a more personalized autocorrect experience, switch to the “Substitutions” tab—there, you can direct Google to automatically replace any given word, letter, or symbol with one of your choice. If, for example, you’d like Google to always add an accent to the e in Beyoncé, type Beyonce in the “Replace” column and Beyoncé in the “With” column.

9. Cut down on spell-check errors by adding words to your personal dictionary.

To stop Google from continually registering certain unique words or names as spelling errors, add them to your “Personal Dictionary,” which is listed under “Tools” and then “Spelling and grammar.” If a word is already marked as an error in your Google Doc, you can also add it to your dictionary by right-clicking and choosing the “Add [word] to Dictionary.”

10. Convert your Google Doc to a different type of file.

Prefer to work in Google Docs, but your manager always asks for Microsoft Word files? You can download your Google Doc as a Word document by going to “File” and “Download.” There are also options to convert it into a PDF, a web page, a plain text file, and more. Before you send it to anyone, we recommend giving it a read-through to make sure the formatting translated properly.

11. Transcribe audio files with Google’s voice typing feature.

While Google’s voice typing capabilities don’t extend to deciphering an audio file played aloud on a speaker, the process is definitely easier than pausing the audio every few seconds so you can manually type each word. In your navigation bar, go to “Tools” and then “Voice typing,” and make sure your microphone is enabled. Plug in your headphones, play your audio file, and clearly dictate whatever’s said—Google will transcribe it all for you. The feature can also be helpful for people with arthritis or other impairments that make it difficult to use a keyboard.

12. Enable offline editing.

Even if you’re not planning on being somewhere without internet access in the near future, Wi-Fi or power outages can happen unexpectedly—so it’s a good idea to enable offline editing just in case. To do it, install the Google Docs Offline extension, go to your Google Docs homepage, hit the main menu icon (three horizontal lines in the upper left corner), and choose “Settings.” Then, hit the gray “Offline” button so it slides to the right and turns blue.

13. Take advantage of other handy add-ons.

If you choose “Get add-ons” under “Add-ons” in your Google Doc toolbar, you’ll be able to search for add-ons or browse through Google’s most popular ones. A few of the highest-rated offerings include: Lucidchart, which helps you build flowcharts, diagrams, and more within your Doc; EasyBib, which automatically generates bibliography citations in APA, Chicago, or MLA format; and Doc to Form, which lets you easily convert information from a Google Doc into a Google Form (Google’s platform for online surveys).

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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Want to Fall Asleep Faster? Try This Breathing Technique

Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Struggling to fall asleep can feel like a hopeless battle. It often seems like the harder you try turning your brain off, the less likely it is to happen. One way to trick yourself into falling asleep fast is finding something to concentrate on other than how long you've been awake. For nights when your thoughts just won't stay quiet, try the 4-7-8 technique.

According to Simplemost, the 4-7-8 breathing method is meant to combat anxiety, restlessness, and other enemies of a good night's sleep. The actual technique is simple: Just inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Like counting sheep, measuring out your breaths gives your brain something to do that isn't obsessing about your hectic day or the day ahead.

Taking slow, deliberate breaths has also been proven to reduce stress. Neurons that influence calmness have been found in the breathing control centers of mouse brains. In humans, deep breathing has long been central to mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. The 4-7-8 breathing technique functions as both a distraction from your thoughts and a way to combat any anxious sensations that may be keeping you awake.

The next time you find yourself tossing and turning at night, try anywhere between three and eight rounds of this breathing technique to calm your body and mind. And to get the best rest possible, make sure you're settling into the best sleep position for your health.

[h/t Simplemost]