21 Google Doc Features You Didn‘t Know Existed (But Totally Should)

10 Google Docs Features That Will Make You More Productive in 2023

Google Docs is my go-to word processor for both personal and professional writing. Over the years, I‘ve discovered tons of helpful features that save me time and energy. Some of the tips I‘ll share below were total game-changers for me, while others are smaller tricks that streamline common tasks.

Whether you‘re new to Google Docs or a longtime user, I bet you‘ll find at least a couple helpful nuggets in this list. Let‘s dive in and explore 10 powerful features you may not be using yet!

1. Type with your voice

Did you know Google Docs can transcribe your speech? If you‘re tired of typing or want to capture ideas quickly, give Voice Typing a try. It‘s surprisingly accurate and supports many languages.

To activate Voice Typing:

  1. Open a document
  2. Go to Tools > Voice typing
  3. When the microphone box appears, click the mic icon and start speaking

Voice Typing will insert the punctuation you say out loud, like "comma", "period", and "exclamation point". To move to a new line or paragraph, simply say "new line" or "new paragraph".

I use Voice Typing to draft blog posts, brainstorm ideas, and write scripts for my videos. It helps me get words on the page faster. Even if I go back and edit later, I find it‘s an effective way to overcome writer‘s block and build momentum.

2. Create a table of contents automatically

If you‘re writing a longer document with multiple sections, adding a table of contents (TOC) makes it much easier for readers to find the info they need. You can insert a TOC in Google Docs with a couple clicks.

First, make sure you‘ve applied heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc) to the section titles in your doc. Then:

  1. Click in your doc where you want to insert the TOC
  2. Go to Insert > Table of contents
  3. Select a TOC style – either with page numbers, or with blue links

Voila! Your table of contents will appear. The best part is, it will automatically update if you add or delete sections later. Simply click the refresh button on the TOC to sync any changes.

3. Compare document versions with Revision History

Ever wish you could turn back time and see old versions of a Google Doc? Or get a list of all the changes you and others have made? With Google Docs‘ Revision History, you can!

To see a doc‘s Revision History:

  1. Open the document
  2. Go to File > Version history > See version history

A sidebar will open on the right showing a timeline of the doc‘s saved versions. Click on a timestamp to see what the document looked like at that point in time.

I rely on the Revision History constantly when collaborating with others. If someone makes an edit I disagree with, it‘s easy to revert back to an earlier version. The feature also gives you peace of mind that your work won‘t be lost if you accidentally delete something.

4. Tag people in comments to get their attention

When you‘re collaborating in a Google Doc, comments are crucial for giving feedback and asking questions. To make sure your comment doesn‘t get overlooked, tag the person you want to see it by adding an @ or + sign before their email address. They‘ll get a notification email drawing their attention to your comment.

You can also assign a comment to someone, which is handy for delegating tasks and keeping everyone accountable. Just click the Assign button under your comment and choose the person from the list. They‘ll get an email assignment with a link to the doc.

I use comments and assignments all the time when I‘m editing blog posts by our freelance writers. I can ask for clarification on certain points or get their sign-off before publishing. It saves a ton of back-and-forth over email.

5. Find and replace formatting, not just text

You probably know you can find and replace words in Google Docs by going to Edit > Find and replace. But did you know you can also find and replace formatting?

For example, let‘s say you‘ve bolded some words throughout your doc for emphasis, but now you want those bolds to be italics instead. You don‘t have to go through and change each one individually. Instead:

  1. Go to Edit > Find and replace
  2. Click the formatting icon (it looks like an underlined capital A)
  3. Choose Format > Bold to search for bolded text
  4. In the "Replace with" field, click the formatting icon again
  5. This time, choose Format > Italic
  6. Click Replace all

All your bolded words will now be italicized in one fell swoop! You can use this trick to quickly change the font, text color, highlight color, and more.

6. Suggest edits instead of making permanent changes

If you want to propose changes to a doc without altering the original text, try switching from Editing mode to Suggesting mode. It‘s great for giving feedback on someone else‘s writing.

To turn on Suggesting mode, click the pencil icon in the upper right and choose Suggesting from the dropdown menu. Now, any changes you make will show up as colored marks in the margin, which the doc‘s owner can accept or reject.

I prefer to use Suggesting mode when I‘m reviewing blog post drafts. That way, writers can decide whether to incorporate my edits or not. It eliminates the fear of overwriting someone else‘s work.

7. Add a text box to make words stand out

Want to highlight an important quote or statistic in your doc? A text box is an eye-catching way to make text pop on the page. I like to use them for pull quotes to break up long blog posts.

To add a text box:

  1. Go to Insert > Drawing > New
  2. In the drawing window, go to Insert > Text box
  3. Type or paste your desired text
  4. Use the options at the top to change the font, font size, color, etc.
  5. Click Save and Close to insert the text box into your doc

Once the text box is in your doc, you can drag it to any position you want. To edit the text later, just double click inside the box.

8. Explore the Template Gallery for a head start

Starting a new doc from scratch can be daunting. Why not give yourself a head start by browsing Google‘s pre-made templates? You‘ll find professional layouts for resumes, project proposals, lesson plans, meeting notes, and more.

To browse templates, go to docs.google.com, click Template gallery, and peruse your options. Click on a template to preview it, and select Use template to create a new copy you can edit.

Templates are such a time-saver. Personally, I use the Meeting notes template every week for my team‘s staff meetings. All the headings are already there – I just fill in the agenda topics. The Brochure template also came in handy recently when I needed to make a quick product handout.

9. Organize documents with folders

It‘s easy to create new Google Docs, but figuring out where to put them is another matter. Without an organizational system, your Docs list can become an overwhelming sea of files.

That‘s where folders come in. I have folders for each of my main projects, clients, and topics. Whenever I create a new doc, I immediately put it in the appropriate folder, so I can find it again later. It‘s satisfying to sort documents where they belong!
To create a folder:

  1. Go to docs.google.com
  2. On the left, click New > Folder
  3. Name your folder
  4. Drag docs into the folder to organize them

Pro tip: Color-code your folders to find them faster. For example, I make all my client folders yellow and all my personal writing folders blue. To change a folder‘s color, right-click it and choose Change color.

10. Create custom shortcuts to save time

Google Docs has built-in keyboard shortcuts for common actions like copy, paste, and undo. To view the full list while working in a doc, click Help > Keyboard shortcuts.

But did you know you can also create your own shortcuts? I use custom shortcuts to insert phrases and symbols I type often. For instance, when I type "/em", Google Docs automatically replaces it with my email address.

To create your own shortcuts:

  1. Open a document
  2. Go to Tools > Preferences
  3. Scroll down to "Automatic substitution"
  4. Enter your desired shortcut where it says "Replace"
  5. Enter the full phrase (up to 30 characters) next to "With"
  6. Click OK

Note that custom shortcuts only work in the document you create them in, not across all your docs. So I keep one "master shortcuts" doc and copy it whenever I want to use the shortcuts in a new place.

Bonus: Make Google Docs work for you

I hope these tips gave you some fresh ideas for getting the most out of Google Docs. But remember, everyone‘s workflow is different. Don‘t be afraid to explore the menus and try new things. Over time, you‘ll discover your own favorite features and shortcuts.

For even more Google Docs tricks, check out the Google Docs Help Center or join a Google Docs forum to swap tips with other users. You can also find in-depth tutorials on YouTube or in online productivity courses.

At the end of the day, Google Docs is a tool. It‘s there to serve you and make your work easier. So dive in and start experimenting! With a little practice, you‘ll be flying through your documents faster than ever.