Using Google Docs: The Basics Paul Jude Beauvais August 31, 2009 What Is Google Docs?
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Google Docs is a free online service that writers can use for composing and storing documents. The Google Docs site also allows writers to share their online documents with others so that several people may work on a single document without e-mailing it back and forth.
Students can continue using Google Docs after they leave our classes. (Some other platforms—e.g., BlackBoard and the proprietary sites that publishers provide—are not available to students after they leave college.)
Microsoft is making Office available online. It’s now available in a beta version for users of live.com. If you really like using Microsoft Word, you may want to wait a year and see whether Microsoft Online Office meets your needs better than Google Docs.
In the “Google Email Verification” message, click on the link that follows the sentence, “To activate your account and verify your email address, please click on the following link.” A window will pop up to confirm that you have verified your account.
Click the button that says “Click here to continue.” This will return you to the sign-in page for Google Docs. Sign in again.
Google Docs are formatted for viewing on a screen, not a page. For this reason, they display without margins, page breaks, or page numbers. However, you can add some of these features while you’re working on a document, and you can add other features if you format the document for printing.
The default settings for a Google Doc are ten-point Verdana type in a single-spaced document.
To change these settings, click on the “Edit” button (in the light blue menu below the document name) and select “Document Style.” This will open a window that provides options for changing type face, type size, line spacing, and other features.
If you want to make a Google Doc display in a page-like “portrait” format instead of a screen-like “landscape” format, click on “View” and select “Fixed width page view.” This will display the document as one continuous page that is 8.5 inches wide. (You can continue composing in this mode.)
To save a Google Doc in your Google Docs site, click on the “Save” button in the upper-right corner. This saves the document in the “Web Archive” (*.mht) format, designed for viewing within the Google Docs site.
You also can save by clicking the “File” button in the light blue menu below the file name, and then clicking “Save.”
A Google Doc can be shared with other people who have Google Docs accounts. When you share a document with someone, it appears on the list of documents in the person’s main Google Docs page. The person can open the document from that page.
When you share a Google Doc with someone, you can designate whether the recipient will be a collaborator (i.e., someone who can change the document) or just a viewer (i.e., someone who can see the document but can’t change it).
If you do allow recipients to change a document, you can track the changes and accept or reject them.
In the “Share with others” window, type (or paste) the e-mail addresses of the recipients with whom you want to share the document.
Click to select either the “To edit” button (if you want the recipients to be able to change the document) or the “To view” button (if you want the recipients to be able to read the document but not to change it).
To remove recipients or change their privileges, click on the “Share” button and then select the option “See who has access.” This will open a “Share with others” window, with recipients listed on the left.
A drop-down menu appears following each recipient’s name. Select the “None” option in this menu to remove a recipient.
The owner and recipients (viewers and collaborators) of a Google Doc can view the revision history of the document. The owner and collaborators also can choose whether to accept changes or revert back to earlier versions of the document.
To view the revision history of a document, click on the “File” button in the light blue menu below the document name. Then select “Revision history.” This will display a chronological list of all changes made to the document, along with the name of the person who made the changes.
To the right of the version number (e.g., “Showing revision #5”) are buttons labeled “Older” and “Newer.” These allow the viewer to switch to versions of the document that were produced before or after the one containing the changes in the displayed version.
To the right of the “Older” and “Newer” buttons is another button labeled “Revert to this one.” Clicking this button makes the displayed version the “most current” version of the document. (Reverting to an older version eliminates changes made after that version was produced.)
Click the “Compare Checked” button (in the light blue tool bar above the list of revisions).
A single document will open, and it will contain a merged display of the versions. Any differences between the versions will be color coded. (Content that is in Version 2 but not in Version 5 will be highlighted in one color; content that is in Version 5 but not in Version 2 will be highlighted in a different color.)
A key for interpreting the color coding appears at the right end of the light blue tool bar above the document.
The “Compare Checked” mode is useful for comparing versions, but it is not possible to edit in this mode. To resume editing, click “Back to revision history.” Then click “Back to editing.” This will return you to the current version of the document.
The default settings for a printed Google Doc are one-inch margins all around and no page numbers. To change these settings, click on “File” (in the light blue menu below the document name) and select “Print Settings.” This will open a window where you can change all four margins and add page numbers.
To print a document, begin by opening the document.
Click on the “File” button (in the light blue menu below the name of the document), and then select “Print.” This will open a Print window where you can make the usual choices (i.e., which pages to print, how many copies to print, and so on).