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Google Docs guide, tips, and tricks

Whether you’re a student or a member of the workforce, you probably have to use document creation software on at least a somewhat regular basis. Google Docs offers a large buffet of productivity apps and features, and you don’t even have to pay for them.

This guide will walk you through the basics of Google Docs.

Related: Google Drive tips and tricks

Sign up for a Google account

Using Google Docs requires a Google account. To make one, go to the Google homepage.

Click the blue Sign in button in the upper-right corner, and follow the steps to make an account. If you already have an account, log into it as you normally would.

Open Google Docs

Click the apps icon in the upper-right corner of the main Google homepage, which is represented by nine squares. You’ll also see this icon in your Gmail inbox. Then, click the Google Drive icon.

Choose the type of document you want to create

To make a new document, simply click the red Create button at the top left part of your screen. Then, pick what you want to make. For text documents, pick Document. Alternatively, you can click the button with the red arrow to upload an existing document from your computer.

Get to work

Once you create a document, you can start writing/editing immediately. Click on Untitled document in the top-left corner to add a title of your own. You can also adjust the font type, text size, and much more using the toolbar at the top of the page.

Check out the templates

Google’s robust selection of templates provide a terrific way to jazz up a document, and there are a ton to choose from. You can click the blue Preview link to the right of each offering to see what your document may look like if you select that template. Plus, the column on the left side of the page allows you to filter templates by popularity, type, and other categories.

How to share your stuff

To share your documents with other people, click the blue Share button in the upper-right corner of the doc you wish to share. Then, invite other users via the entry field that pops up. People you share with can either edit, view, or simply comment on a document depending on what permissions you grant them.

If you just want people to be able to view a document without giving them the ability to make any changes to it, click Get shareable link at the top of the Share window. A link will appear directly beneath that, which you can then send to people via Gmail, Google +, Facebook, or Twitter using icons which are accessible by clicking on a small Advanced button in the lower right corner of the Share window.

You can also share your document by making it public. Google Docs sets the privacy settings to Private by default, but you can always click the blue Change button in the middle of the Advanced window to adjust the privacy settings.

Use the comment and chat functions

With Google Docs, you can watch in real time as other people make changes to a document. By clicking the Comments button in the top right corner of the screen, you or anyone else who is in the document can start a discussion about your project.

Get to know the various editing modes

Located directly beneath the Share button are options for viewing, suggesting edits, and editing documents. While the Editing option lets you make edits,  Suggesting and Viewing allow you to suggest edits and view or print the document.

When making suggestions, collaborators can place a green line underneath the text that they want to highlight. You can always view a document’s revision history by going to File-See revision history.

Try out a different document type

Google Drive has more to offer than just text documents. Presentation, for instance, is Google Docs’ version of Microsoft PowerPoint, while Spreadsheets is the company’s take on Microsoft Excel.

Download the mobile app (iOS/Android)

Google may offer a dedicated Google Drive app for mobile devices, but the Google Docs app is your best bet for editing documents on the go. It offers multiple options for editing and document collaboration as well. You can also make and respond to comments as you would in the browser-based version of Google Docs. It also lets you protect your work with a four-digit password.

Related: How to get the most of Google Now

DT staff writer Brandon Widder contributed to this article.