Fourteen Amazing Google Docs Hacks to Make Writing Your Next Novel Easier
Google Docs is a popular word-processing tool that lets you access your documents and files from any internet-connected device. I for one have found it to be immensely useful as an editing tool; I like to review a Doc on my iPad, and then make changes on my laptop before sending the updated Doc to my collaborators.
Google Docs makes it easy to work with people both near and far, but do you know how to use it to its full capacity?
Go beyond just editing a doc and leaving comments with these 14 Google Doc hacks and add-ons.
Translate a Doc
Google Translate is one of the more useful features in Chrome, but few people know that Google Docs has the same integration.
If you frequently work with documents in another language, you can translate the docs into English or another language by selecting the Translate Document option in the Tools menu.
The translation is handled by GTranslate, so it’s going to be far from perfect, but if you need to translate a multi-page PDF this is still a better option than opening the PDF in Chrome and translating it there.
Insert a Table of Contents
If your doc gets long enough you will need a tablet of contents. Google Docs can make one for you almost automatically. Simply choose where you want it to go and Google Docs will automatically create the TOC based on the headings in the doc.
You can find the table of contents option at the bottom of the Insert menu.
Add words to your Dictionary
Is there a word that you use all the time that isn’t found in the standard dictionaries?
Why not add it to your own. like many word processing apps, Google Docs lets you assemble a custom dictionary. simply right-click on the word and then choose the relevant option from the pop-up menu.
You can also tell Google Docs to automatically fix the words you frequently get wrong. I, for example, misspell "believe" all the time.
Go to next/previous Typo
Google Docs makes it easy for you to quickly correct your errors. There are a couple keyboard shortcuts which let you jump from one typo to the next.
To find the next typo in your doc, press Ctrl + ‘ (apostrophe). And if you want to find typos earlier in the doc, press Ctrl + ;.
Google Docs also has a spellcheck feature that allows you to quickly skim through the spelling errors in a current document. Just select the Spell Check option in the Tools menu to use it.
Export as Epub
Not only can you edit a doc in Google Docs, you can even export it as an Epub ebook. You won’t be able to edit it after you export the file, but that’s okay because you can always export another copy of the doc after you’re done editing it.
You can find the export option under the File menu. Check out the Help Center for more information.
List Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are a productivity hack that is guaranteed to boost your typing speed. Almost all word processing apps have them, but who can keep track of them all?
I know I can’t, and that’s why I made sure to memorize the shortcut which brings up a list of all the keyboard shortcuts in Google Docs: Ctrl+/.
Create custom Shortcuts
If you have some special symbol you use all the time, Google Docs has a way for you to enter the symbol without cutting-pasting it and without entering the HTML/ASCII code every time.
The Preferences menu gives you the option to set your own shortcuts. These aren’t shortcuts that let you execute actions or change settings but are instead shortcuts that swap out one piece of text with another.
For example, if you type (c), Google Docs will replace it with ©.
Recover an older version of a Doc
We all make mistakes sometimes, and Google Docs has us covered. It keeps a record of the changes you make to a doc, and you can use this revision history and even restore an older version of the doc.
To access revision history, open a Doc and then select the "See revision history" option under the File menu. Google has more info in this support doc.
I’m sure you know that copying text from a web page or from one app to another can introduce all sorts of funky formatting problems. This can make for an ugly doc, and the problem only gets worse if you combine multiple sources.
Luckily for us, Google Docs has an option to strip the formatting from a piece of text. Simply highlight the text in question and then press Ctrl+I. (FYI: Gmail has a similar feature.)
Type with your Voice
One of the lesser known features in Google Docs is voice typing. You can use this feature to capture ideas, compose a letter, or even write the next great novel – all without touching your keyboard.
You can find voice typing under the Tools menu. Once enabled, a pop-up with a microphone icon will appear. You’ll need to click on it to speak, and once you do you can add punctuation and line breaks, and even correct typos – hands-free.
Read this support doc to find out more about voice typing.
All of the tricks mentioned so far are core features of Google Docs, but they’re really just the beginning of what you can do with Google Docs.
You can expand the core abilities of Google Docs by install add-ons that add features, tools, and export options. My current favorite add-on is a consistency checker, but that is just one of the possibilities.
Publish to the Web
Google Docs is part of an office suite, but did you know that in a pinch it can create a website? No, really!
There’s an option in the File menu for "Publish to the Web" which lets you make a doc publicly accessible with a URL and everything. It won’t look much like a website, but if all you want is to share the info then this is a viable option for a poor man’s website.
You can even unpublish the doc when it is no longer needed.
Publish to WordPress
But why settle for simply publishing a doc as a pseudo webpage when with a little more work you can have the real thing?
There are several Google Docs add-ons which will let you export a doc as either a post or page on a WordPress site. You’ll need to install the add-on and you may also need to install Jetpack on your WordPress.org site, but once you do you should be able to export a doc as a draft page or post.
I have had the best luck with WordPress for Google Docs, but that add-on doesn’t work for everyone. Luckily there are several other options.
You might think that Google Docs only works online, but you would be wrong. There’s an offline editing mode which lets you access and edit your documents even when you have no internet connection, and then sync the changes when you’re next online.
There’s a catch, though. You have to set this up before you lose internet access.
Syn May 5, 2017 um 12:23 pm
Great info. I had no idea you could do most of this stuff with Docs. I especially didn’t know about the add-ons. Good article Nate.
Chris Meadows May 5, 2017 um 12:56 pm
If only it could export to Wikicode, I could skip a step in my workflow for stuff I publish on a fiction wiki.
Nate Hoffelder May 5, 2017 um 1:13 pm
This would make for an interesting add-on.
Fourteen Amazing Google Docs Hacks to Make Writing Your Next Novel Easier – B2B Sales Acceleration HUB June 6, 2017 um 8:38 am
[…] Google Docs is a popular word-processing tool that lets you access your documents and files from any internet-connected device. It makes it easy to work with people both near and far, but do you know how to use it to its full capacity?… continue reading […]
just_naya555 September 9, 2017 um 4:01 pm
i was kind of wondering if you can actually find a hack that you can use to make docs read the writing to you.
Nate Hoffelder September 9, 2017 um 4:38 pm
Menachem Pritzker November 4, 2018 um 3:39 am
Ctrl+I is italics. Clearing formatting is Ctrl+\ (backslash)