How to Create Google Docs

By James T. Cains

You may have heard of Google Docs before; that’s what Google Drive used to be called way back when Google first launched it. Now, Google Docs is part of the suite of Google apps that is built into Google Drive. Google Docs is a word processor that you can use to create and edit documents right on your Google Drive, with the basic word-processing functions you expect to find in Microsoft Word, such as formatting text and paragraphs, inserting images and tables, using lists and styles, and so on. But the best part is that Google Docs comes free with your Google Drive account.

The main benefit of using Google Docs is that it’s a web-based application, which means you don’t have to install the software on your computer. You can use it on different computers, so for example, if you start writing a report at work in Google Docs, you can finish it up later at home because the application and the document are stored on Google Drive. No files to transfer.

Start new or open existing Google Docs on your computer

In a new browser window on your computer, log in to your Google Drive account and follow these steps:

  1. To start a new document, click the red New button in the upper left.

  2. Choose Google Docs. A new browser window or tab appears with a blank Google doc in it (see Figure 1).

  3. To open an existing document, just navigate to the document you wish to open on your Google Drive and double-click. The document appears in a new browser window or tab.

    Figure 1: A blank Google Docs document.
    Figure 1: A blank Google Docs document.

You don’t have to manually save your document. Google Drive automatically saves it for you.

Google Docs can also read Microsoft Word documents. Just upload a Word document to your Google Drive and double-click it. You can view, print, or share the document. However, if you want to edit the document, you have to open it in Google Docs. The Word document is converted and saved as a separate Google doc that you can edit.

Start new or open existing Google Docs on your mobile device

First, you need to download the Google Docs app from either the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store for Android. Open the app and follow these steps:

  1. To create a new document, tap the blue circle with the plus sign at the bottom right. A new document appears on your screen.

  2. To open an existing document, navigate to the document you want to open on your Google Drive and tap it. The document opens for you to edit.

At this time, the Google Docs app doesn’t have all the functionality that the web-based application does. You can still format text and paragraphs or insert pictures and tables into your document, but you can’t use spellcheck, styles, or some of the other more advanced functions of the web-based application. But the app is still a handy tool for jotting down quick notes and having them saved automatically to your Google Drive.

Google Docs is a basic word-processing program. Though Google adds new functionality quite often, you may still find it lacking if you need very advanced functionality, such as mail merge, charts, tracking and reviewing changes, and so on. You’ll likely need to invest in an application like Microsoft Word to do those types of things.