8 Google Docs Features You Should Be Using

I recently introduced you to Google Spreadsheets, one of the many Google Docs offerings available for free. Today I’m going to share with you some of the features in Google Documents that you should be using. This will be particularly helpful if you’re still not sure that you’re ready to make the switch from a software-based word processing program like Microsoft Office to cloud-based documents.

1. Real Time Collaboration
In 2010, Google added true real time collaboration features to the Google Documents application. Although real time collaboration was a mainstay in the Spreadsheets program for years, it had yet found its way to Documents. Now you can watch along as your colleague types in a document and provide instant feedback.

2. Priority Sorting
Google just redesigned the documents view list, which comes with several new features include a preview pane and even a priority sort for your documents. Priority sorting works similarly to Gmail’s Priority Inbox and allows you to keep your most important or most-used documents at the top of the list. It is a big change for some but worth taking the time to figure out so you can get the most out of the new document listing.

3. Real Time Chat
Boost your real time collaboration efforts with real time chat.

4. Organization via Folders and Groups
With Google Documents you can use folders and groups to help you manage file sharing. You don’t want to cloud up an easy to use interface with a messy folder layout so make sure you put some thought into your folder setup and use groups for easy sharing. Before you start, read Tips & Tricks: Moving my files to the cloud to help you prepare for a smooth transition to cloud-based file sharing.

5. OCR
Save time by using the optical character recognition feature in Google Docs when you upload new files. When you upload a file, select the “Convert text from PDF or image files to Google Docs documents”, which will force Google Docs to translate the text. Of course the process isn’t perfect but editing a converted document is certainly less time consuming than retyping an entire document from scratch.

6. Keyboard Shortcuts
Like Google Spreadsheets, there are several keyboard shortcuts that can help speed up your Google Docs usage. Learn the most common ones now and vow to add new shortcuts to your repertoire each week and you’ll quickly become an aficionado at navigating around Google Docs without needing a mouse.

7. Google Cloud Connect
If you’re a faithful Microsoft Office user but want to start taking advantage of all that Google Docs has to offer, check out Google Cloud Connect. Google opened up a testing phase for this new technology in late 2010 that allows users of Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 to sync their documents to the Google cloud. There are a few limitations to the program: first it is only open to Windows-based Microsoft Office users and second the response was so great that Google has temporarily stopped accepting new users. However, if this feature interests you, sign up to be notified of new openings via the Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office Notification Form.

8. Mobile Editing
If you’re like me you have an iPhone and an iPad and want to have easy access to edit your documents no matter what device you’re on. In November 2010, Google made it possible to edit documents on several popular mobile phones, including the iPhone. Of course there are some limitations to mobile editing that you won’t have in the full browser version. Check out this post on the official Google Docs blog for more information: Editing your Google Docs on the go and watch the video below for tips.

If you’re a seasoned Google Docs user, what feature would you add to this list?

About Melissa Hincha-Ownby

Melissa is a tech geek that loves writing, loves her kids and loves a little controversy. She's raising two next-gen bloggers to take her place one day.