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 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14


Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140


Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48


Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30


The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19


Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25


This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70


Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120


What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24


Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14


Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Warby Parker Created a Spray to Prevent Your Glasses From Fogging Up When You Wear a Face Mask

They're smiling under the masks (because their glasses aren't foggy).
They're smiling under the masks (because their glasses aren't foggy).
Julian Wan, Unsplash

A face mask won’t keep you from getting enough oxygen, but it might keep you from seeing clearly through your glasses. When you exhale, your warm breath usually dissipates into the air in front of you. When you’re wearing a face mask, on the other hand, it gets funneled through the gaps around your nose and turns into tiny water droplets after colliding with your much colder lenses. In other words, it fogs up your glasses.

To prevent this from happening, Warby Parker has created an anti-fog spray that absorbs those droplets as soon as they form on your lenses, before they can cloud your view. It’s not the only product like it on the market—Amazon alone has dozens—but Warby Parker’s version has the added benefit of cleaning your lenses, too.

The perfect solution.Warby Parker

As Prevention.com reports, the spray is part of the company’s “Clean My Lenses Kit,” which comes with a bottle of anti-fog spray, a microfiber cloth, and a pouch for your glasses (or for storing the other two products in the kit). All you do is spritz both sides of your lenses, wipe them down with the cloth, and venture out for your fog-free day.

The spray works with any type of lens, which makes it a useful innovation even for people who just wear regular sunglasses. It can also come in handy during plenty of other fog-inducing situations, like sipping a hot beverage or cooking over a hot stove.

You can order a kit online for $15, or look for one in your local Warby Parker store. In the meantime, here are a few DIY ways to keep your glasses from getting foggy.

[h/t Prevention.com]

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