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.

google doc drawing
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.

google doc suggested edits
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.

google doc personal dictionary
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).

13 Father's Day Gifts for Geeky Dads

Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk
Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk

When in doubt, you play the hits. Watches, flasks, and ties are all tried-and-true Father’s Day gifts—useful items bought en masse every June as the paternal holiday draws near. Here’s a list of goodies that put a geeky spin on those can’t-fail gifts. We’re talking Zelda flasks, wizard-shaped party mugs, and a timepiece inspired by BBC’s greatest sci-fi series, Doctor Who. Light the “dad” signal ‘cause it’s about to get nerdy!

1. Lord of the Rings Geeki Tikis (Set of Three); $76

'Lord of The Rings' themed tiki cups.
Toynk

If your dad’s equally crazy about outdoor shindigs and Tolkien’s Middle-earth, help him throw his own Lothlórien luau with these Tiki-style ceramic mugs shaped like icons from the Lord of the Rings saga. Gollum and Frodo’s drinkware doppelgängers each hold 14 ounces of liquid, while Gandalf the Grey’s holds 18—but a wizard never brags, right? Star Wars editions are also available.

Buy it: Toynk

2. Space Invaders Cufflinks; $9

'Space Invaders' cufflinks on Amazon
Fifty 50/Amazon

Arcade games come and arcade games go, but Space Invaders has withstood the test of time. Now Pops can bring those pixelated aliens to the boardroom—and look darn stylish doing it.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Legend of Zelda Flask; $18

A 'Legend of Zelda' flask
Toynk

Saving princesses is thirsty work. Shaped like an NES cartridge, this Zelda-themed flask boasts an 8-ounce holding capacity and comes with a reusable straw. Plus, it makes a fun little display item for gamer dads with man caves.

Buy it: Toynk

4. AT-AT Family Vacation Bag Tag; $12

An At-At baggage tag
ShopDisney

Widely considered one of the greatest movie sequels ever made, The Empire Strikes Back throws a powerful new threat at Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion: the AT-AT a.k.a. Imperial Walkers. Now your dad can mark his luggage with a personalized tag bearing the war machine’s likeness.

Buy it: ShopDisney

5. Flash Skinny Tie; $17

A skinny Flash-themed tie
Uyoung/Amazon

We’ll let you know if the Justice League starts selling new memberships, but here’s the next best thing. Available in a rainbow of super-heroic colors, this skinny necktie bears the Flash’s lightning bolt logo. Race on over to Amazon and pick one up today.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Captain America Shield Apron; $20

A Captain America themed apron
Toynk

Why let DC fans have all the fun? Daddy-o can channel his inner Steve Rogers when he flips burgers at your family’s Fourth of July BBQ. Measuring 31.5 inches long by 27.5 inches wide, this apron’s guaranteed to keep the cookout Hydra-free.

Buy it: Toynk

7. Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator LCD Leather Wristwatch; $35

A Doctor Who-themed watch
Toynk

At once classy and geeky, this digital timepiece lovingly recreates one of Doctor Who’s signature props. Unlike some of the gadgets worn on the long-running sci-fi series, it won’t require any fancy chronoplasm fuel.

Buy it: Toynk

8. Wonder Woman 3-Piece Grill Set; $21

Wonder Woman three-piece gill set
Toynk

At one point in her decades-long comic book career, this Amazon Princess found herself working at a fast food restaurant called Taco Whiz. Now grill cooks can pay tribute to the heroine with these high-quality, stainless steel utensils. The set’s comprised of wide-tipped tongs, a BBQ fork, and a spatula, with the latter boasting Wonder Woman’s insignia.

Buy it: Toynk

9. Harry Potter Toon Tumbler; $10

Glassware that's Harry Potter themed
Entertainment Earth

You can never have too many pint glasses—and this Father’s Day, dad can knock one back for the boy who lived. This piece of Potter glassware from PopFun has whimsy to spare. Now who’s up for some butterbeer?

Buy it: EntertainmentEarth

10. House Stark Men’s Wallet; $16

A Game of Thrones themed watch
Toynk

Winter’s no longer coming, but the Stark family's propensity for bold fashion choices can never die. Manufactured with both inside and outside pockets, this direwolf-inspired wallet is the perfect place to store your cards, cash, and ID.

Buy it: Toynk

11. Mr. Incredible “Incredible Dad” Mug, $15

An Incredibles themed mug
ShopDisney

Cue the brass music. Grabbing some coffee with a Pixar superhero sounds like an awesome—or dare we say, incredible?—way for your dad to start his day. Mom can join in the fun, too: Disney also sells a Mrs. Incredible version of the mug.

Buy it: ShopDisney

12. Star Wars phone cases from Otterbox; $46-$56

Star Wars phone cases from OtterBox.
Otterbox

If your dad’s looking for a phone case to show off his love of all things Star Wars, head to Otterbox. Whether he’s into the Dark Side with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, the droids, Chewbacca, or Boba Fett, you’ll be able to find a phone case to fit his preference. The designs are available for both Samsung and Apple products, and you can check them all out here.

Buy it: Otterbox

13. 3D Puzzles; $50

3D Harry Potter puzzle from Amazon.
Wrebbit 3D

Help dad recreate some of his favorite fictional locations with these 3D puzzles from Wrebbit 3D. The real standouts are the 850-piece model of Hogwarts's Great Hall and the 910-piece version of Winterfell from Game of Thrones. If dad's tastes are more in line with public broadcasting, you could also pick him up an 890-piece Downton Abbey puzzle to bring a little upper-crust elegance to the homestead.

Buy it: Hogwarts (Amazon), Winterfell (Amazon), Downton Abbey (Amazon)

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

7 Online Tech Course Programs That Will Help You Build New Career Skills

dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus
dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It's always a good time to build new career skills, and with these tech-related courses, you can learn anything from the basics of Python to the ins and outs of G Suite. These courses will boost your knowledge of the digital world and help you put some valuable new bullet points on your resume. Many of these courses allow you to read through the materials for free, but if you want to take advantage of graded coursework and earn a certificate of completion to include on your LinkedIn profile or resume at the end, there will be a fee of anywhere from $39 to $49.

1. UI/UX Design Specialization

In this four-class specialization on UI/UX design, you’ll discover how to design digital experiences that users can navigate with ease. Over about four months, you’ll learn the basics of visual communication and you’ll be able to practice gathering user feedback to build intuitive, attractive websites and interfaces.

Sign up on Coursera to take all four courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

2. Python for Everybody

Python is quickly gaining ground as one of the most in-demand programming languages for employers. Plus, its fans say it’s highly readable and approachable for new programmers just starting to learn a coding language. If you want to understand the basics of Python, from 101 principles to more advanced database design, these courses will get you started.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

3. Data Science Professional Certificate

Data science is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this nine-course professional certificate program, you’ll start by learning basic data science methodology before moving into how to use Python and SQL to analyze and visualize data to forecast future trends. IBM estimates that you’ll complete the entire certificate in about 10 months if you commit four hours per week, but the timing is flexible enough to suit any schedule.

Sign up on Coursera to take all nine courses in this specialization for $39 a month.

4. Computer Architecture

This course, taught by an electrical engineering professor at Princeton, teaches students how to design computer hardware that supports powerful software. But be forewarned: This is an advanced class intended for students with extensive knowledge in computer science. If you’re looking for a beginner-level course, this class—also from Princeton—may be a better fit.

Sign up on Coursera for free.

5. AI for Everyone

If you’re worried that artificial intelligence will drive you out of the workforce, this course will help. Over the course of four weeks, you’ll learn the basics of what is and isn’t possible through AI—and you may even gain some ideas for how to use AI to augment your own career.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

6. G Suite Administration Specialization

Become a Google Cloud expert with this series of courses put together by Google itself. Over about two months, you’ll learn management tactics and security guidelines for using Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Calendar. This specialization prepares participants to become G Suite administrators at their respective companies and organizations.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

7. Introduction to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is near the top of the list of skills employers are looking for, according to LinkedIn. In this introductory course, you’ll gain a basic understanding of cloud-based networks and get some practice working with IBM Cloud.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.