Google Docs Hacks — 12 Tips For Collaborating Like A Pro

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Discover new Google Docs collaboration hacks to help you work smarter with your coworkers and teammates. These tips and tricks will help you collaborate more effectively. 

Are you a collaboration ninja on Google Docs?

We've all shared and edited documents on Google Docs before, but did you know you could collaborate on embedded charts in real-time or collaborate on the same document in different languages? 

Read on for 12 Google Docs collaboration hacks that will increase your productivity and impress your co-workers.

Hack #1: Collaborate in different languages using the Translate Tool

You shouldn’t let a language barrier get in the way of being able to collaborate with another person. There are numerous websites that can translate your documents online but those are time-consuming and an unnecessary step. Thanks to Google Doc’s translate tool, you don’t have to have to do that anymore. 

How to use Google Docs translate tool: 

On the top menu, click Tools > click Translate Document > enter the name you want to call your document > click Choose a language.

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro


google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

You can also change the language of the entire document while you type. Follow these simple steps below to do this:

 On the top menu, click File > hover over Language > select the language you want to type in.

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Mucho más fácil, ¿Verdad?

Hack #2: Find your collaborator in real-time 

Working with a lot of collaborators in real-time can be overwhelming, especially when you can’t locate where they are in your document. In order to fix this, Google Docs provides a simple way to find a teammate or collaborator: click on their avatar in the top right corner. 

Non-visually impaired users can take advantage of a feature originally designed for the visually impaired, called live edits, to collaborate in real-time more effectively. This feature, paired often with a screen reader, helps to hear and see edits live. If you don’t use a screen reader, it will still give you a summary of real-time edits in a panel on the right side. 

How to Use Live Edits:

Click on Tools on the top menu > click Accessibility settings > click Turn on screen reader support > click Accessibility on the top menu > click Show live edits and a panel should appear on the right side of your screen. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #3: Create a table of contents to make navigating easier 

Easy document navigation is crucial not only for yourself but also for collaborators. Editors, classmates, and/or co-workers need to be able to get in, make necessary changes and get out. Add a table of contents to make navigation easier for anyone using your Google Doc.

Sure, you can create a table of contents manually. But that would be a complete waste of time and quite a painful process, to say the least. Luckily, Google Docs can easily create a table of contents for you. 

How to Create a Table of Contents in Google Docs:

Start by getting your formatting ready and organized with the proper paragraph style. This might sound hard to do, but it’s really quite simple. Start by making your section titles or chapter titles a Heading 1 format. You want to think of Heading 1 as the top section of your document and then Heading 2 will be a subheader of Heading 1. You can keep going with Heading 3, 4, 5 and 6. This allows you to really break up your document if necessary. 

To properly format your headers: begin by highlighting your section titles > click Format on the top menu > hover over Paragraph styles  > hover over Heading 1 > click Apply ‘Heading 1’. You can also add subheadings to organize your sections even more. Leave everything else as ‘Normal text’ that you don’t want listed in the table of contents.

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro


Once you correctly format your headers, you can begin to build out your table of contents. 

Start out by finding where you want your table of contents to be (usually at the beginning of your document or some prefer in the end). On the top menu, click Insert > hover over Table of Contents > select either With page numbers or With blue links (the page number option is best suited for when you are printing out a document and the blue links work best for online collaboration).  

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

If you need to make any changes to headings, you can easily do it in your document and then go back to the table of contents and click Update table of contents. 

To make your document even more scannable, you can display the document outline on the left side of your work.   

To do this, click View on the top menu > click Show document outline. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Now you can easily scan your document and your collaborators will be thanking you. 

Hack #4: Comment to collaborators in real-time 

Let’s say you are editing a coworker’s document and you want to let them know their first paragraph needs restructuring. Google Docs allows you to alert a collaborator in real-time easily. I love making real-time comments and suggesting edits directly on a Google Doc so my collaborators can see them as we work together. 

How to comment to a collaborator: 

First, you will want to highlight the section you want to comment on — This could be a word, sentence, paragraph, chart, or graph. Once you’ve highlighted the part you want, you will see a “+” symbol appear on the right side of the document > click the “+” symbol > enter in your commentary > type the “+” button to select the person you want to receive this commentary > click comment. You can assign your comment to a collaborator and once they complete the task, they can resolve the comment. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

People love commenting in Google Docs, but they also hate getting too many notifications. Good news: you can minimize your notifications in the commenting settings.

How to minimize or turn off notifications in Google Docs:

Go to the top right corner of your document and click the comment symbol google docs hacks collaborate like a pro> click Notifications > click the notification preference you desire (all, only yours, or none). 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #5: Suggest links to the author

Google really does think of everything when it comes to collaborating efficiently. They created a linking feature that allows you to easily link to relevant documents, articles on the internet, and images.

How to suggest links to the author: 

Start by highlighting the word or phrase you want to hyperlink > click the Insert link symbol or hit the “⌘K” > click Find more > you can select from three options (drive, web, and images).

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

You can easily cite sources in different formats (APA, MLA, and Chicago) when you are looking at the Web results. Click the top right corner symbol with the three vertical dots > select the citation preference you want to use > find the web result you want to cite > hover over the link to the site > click the quotation mark symbol to cite as a footnote.

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #6: Create your own custom shortcuts

After collaborating in Google Docs for a while, you will start to notice a pattern of words that you’re changing over and over again. An example of this: Google Docs doesn’t capitalize a certain word, so you have to manually change it multiple times. When editing others' work, the last thing you want to do is change the same word or phrase numerous times. Additionally, if there’s a product name you don’t want to have to type out each time, you can create a symbol or a letter shortcut. With the ability to create your own custom text shortcuts, you no longer have to waste time like this anymore. 

How to create your own shortcuts: 

Click Tools on the top menu > click Preferences > click Substitutions > type in the word you want substituted under Replace and add in the new shortcut under With.   

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #7: Type with your voice 

When you are creating long Google documents, typing can definitely slow you down. (Especially if you make spelling mistakes) In a world of voice recognition assistants, like Siri and Google Assistant, it’s no surprise that some prefer to write or collaborate with their voice, instead of typing. 

How to type with your voice in Google Docs:  

The first step is to make sure you’ve got your microphone enabled and working. Next, click Tools on the top menu > click Voice typing > you will see a pop-up window on the left side with a microphone, select Click to speak and you can begin typing with your voice. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

This method is actually quite fast and allows you to see what you’re saying in real-time. You can easily add punctuation just by saying your desired outcome (comma, period, new line, new paragraph, question mark, exclamation point, etc,.) You can quickly correct mistakes by saying “delete” to erase the previous word. 

Voice typing doesn’t stop there. You can edit within your document, change up the formatting, and move around sentences or paragraphs. 

Pro tip: Use this handy Chrome extension to have Google Docs read through a collaborator’s document out loud. 

Hack #8: Utilize the word counter as you go

For some, producing content with a minimum number of words or a maximum number is very common. If you’re a writer or a student, you know what I’m talking about. Google Docs has now taken the guesswork out of this, by allowing you to see your word count in real-time. 

How to see your live word count: 

Start by clicking on Tools on the top menu > click Word count > check off the box that says “Display word count while typing”. At the bottom left corner, you will see the live word count displayed. If you want to see more document details, you can click on the word count box to see further information, such as page number and character count. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #9: Edit quicker with the find and replace tool 

As a collaborator, editing someone else's work can be time-consuming. It doesn’t make sense to change a misspelled word in a document multiple times. Luckily, Google Doc’s find and replace tool can solve this annoying problem. 

How to use the find and replace tool:

Click Edit on the top menu > Click Find and replace > Enter in the word you want the tool to find and then enter in the replacement word. To speed things up you can hit “Replace all” to change throughout the document. Now let’s see how fast you can edit. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #10: Embed real-time charts, tables, & slides

Sometimes you need a chart or two to enhance your document. Sure, you can link to a chart in a Google sheet. But wouldn’t it be more impressive to have a live chart, table or graph? With Google Doc’s ability to embed data from a Google spreadsheet, collaborators can now see your data in real-time. 

How to insert charts, tables, and slides:

Click on Insert on the top menu > hover over Chart > click From Sheets > click the file you want to embed. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

If you make changes to the data in your spreadsheet, you will need to update this in your document. Seeing the word “Update” in the top right corner of your chart or graph indicates a need for synching. Simply click Update and it will display the real-time data again.  

Hack #11: Enhance your collaboration with Add-ons

Occasionally, you will need some outside help. That’s where Google Doc add-ons come into play. Think of a Google Doc add-on similar to a Google extension. Depending on what you need help with, chances are developers have created an add-on to do it faster and more effectively.  Add-ons are a great way to receive extra help with writing, SEO, formatting, etc. 

A personal favorite, OneLook Thesaurus, helps me when I’m writing long content pieces and I need to find synonyms quickly. Highlight Tool is another useful add-on that allows you to highlight your document like you would a book. Lucidchart Diagrams is a very popular choice. It enables you to add flow charts into your document and decision trees. 

How to find helpful add-ons:

Click Add-ons on the top menu > click Get add-ons > scroll through or use the search bar to find a specific add-on > once you’ve selected the add-on you wish to have, click Instal > now go to the top menu and click Add-ons, you will be able to see your new add-on listed.

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Hack #12: Track changes with revision history 

Deleting someone else’s work in Google Docs is a collaborator's worst nightmare. There’s nothing worse than writing a couple of paragraphs and accidentally deleting your work five seconds later. Fortunately, Google Docs developed a revision history feature where you can easily go back to previous versions of your document. So the next time a collaborator unintentionally deletes your writing, you can quickly retrieve it. 

Even more helpful, you can track changes in your document to see which collaborator made certain changes. 

How to use revision history:

Click File on the top menu > hover over Version history > click See version history. A pop up on the right side will show you the date and time a change occurred, along with who made the revision. You can expand each version by hitting the top left arrow to see a detailed report of the changes. The revisions are highlighted in the doc, making them easy to find. If you would like to restore a previous version, you can simply click the ‘Restore this version’ button on the top left corner of the document. 

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

google docs hacks collaborate like a pro

Collaborate like an expert now 

After reading our Google Docs tips, you can work your collaboration magic and show off your new skills to your teammates. On its own, Google Docs is a powerful document collaboration tool with easy to use features. But with the huge increase of remote collaboration, stepping up your Google Doc game is imperative. And if you liked these Google Doc hacks, make sure to check out these other helpful G-suite tips and tricks to make your job just a little bit easier. Or better yet—transform the way you create, collaborate and share with Google Drive with this course!

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Sara Altschule
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