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How to Create & Organize Google Docs

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/30/2012

Google Documents is an excellent tool for creating and managing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online. Learn how to get an account to begin creating, organizing and sharing docs.

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    With so many office programs available today, it's hard to imagine that any single one is better than another. What usually sets one program apart from others is features and price. But Google adds a whole new dimension to office productivity to document creation and management. Google Docs is a full-featured word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation program, but it also has a great pricepoint -- FREE. Add to that the fact that Google Docs is Web-based, and you've got a great combination that will have you creating, collaborating on, and managing all kinds of documents in no time.

    There's one small catch. To use Google Docs, you must first have a Google Account. If you use any other Google program -- Google Analytics, Gmail, AdWords, AdSense, Picasa, or one of a dozen or so others -- you'll already have a Google account and can just enter that information and start using the prgram. If not, it's easy enough to create one in no time. Use these steps:

    1. Go to docs.google.com.
    2. At the top right click on the words that say Sign up for a new Google Account.
    3. You're taken to the Create Account page where you need to enter some basic information: email address, create a password, provide your location, enter a verification word, and read and agree to the Terms of Service. When you're finished, click the I accept. Create my account button.
    4. On the next page, a message appears explaining the account verification process. An email message will be sent to the email address you used to sign up for the account.
    5. When you receive the message, click the verification link provided in the message. If you can't click through the link, copy and paste it into the address bar of your Web browser.
    6. You should receive a verification message that you account has been created. Click the blue Click here to continue link to be taken to your new Google Docs account.

    That's it. You're ready to begin creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. But there's more to it than that. You can also share them, publish them, and even download them to your computer so you can work offline.

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    Creating a Doc

    In this section we’ll dive right in and create a new document, rename it, and get familiar with the workspace and navigation. Finally, we’ll find the Google Docs Help Center to look up any features we can’t find on our own. Follow the steps below to get started.

    1. In the Google Docs workspace, click the red Create button on the left side of the screen and select Document in the dropdown menu, as shown in the figure below.
    2. You may need to enter some additional information if you haven’t used any part of Google docs before. Enter the information requested and click Continue.
    3. A blank Google Docs document will open in a new window. You’re ready to create your first Google Doc.
    4. The Google Docs workspace is very similar to most word processors, so you should have no trouble navigating the interface to enter text, choose formatting options such as bold and underline, and create bulleted lists.
    5. Google saves your work as you write so there's no need to save your work.
    6. If you don’t like calling your document Untitled, you can rename it. Click on File and then select Rename from the drop-down. You can always rename it later. When in the main dashboard, click the checkbox next to the document. Then click More, and select Rename in the File menu. Type the name you want to use and click Ok.

    Google Docs is a full-featured word processor. You can use it to create everything from the school newsletter to the great American novel, without wading through a ton of features you can’t even begin to define, let alone use. Go ahead and play around with it. The most common tasks, like creating lists or bolding text, have buttons on the toolbar. You can find everything else in the menus located just above the toolbar. If you’re working on something and don’t see the feature you need, check out the Google Docs Help Center at http://docs.google.com/support/?hl=en_US. You can also get there via the Help menu in the Google Docs workspace.

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    Making a New Spreadsheet

    Now, learn how to create a new spreadsheet, rename it, and get familiar with the workspace and navigation. Finally, we’ll find the Google Docs Help Center to look up any features we can’t find on our own. Follow the steps below to get started.

    1. In the Google Docs workspace, click the Create button and select Spreadsheet in the drop-down menu.

    2. A blank Google Docs spreadsheet will open in a new window. You’re ready to create your first spreadsheet.

    3. The spreadsheet workspace is very similar to most spreadsheet programs, so you should have no trouble navigating the interface to enter formulas, format cells, and merge cells, as shown below.

    4. Give your title a name the same way you would a doc, click File and then select Rename from the drop-down. You can also rename it later.

    Google Spreadsheet is a full-featured spreadsheet application, similar to Microsoft Excel, with all the features you expect. The most common tasks, like formatting text, changing cell color, and adding borders, have buttons on the toolbar. You can find everything else in the file menu located just above the toolbar. Click on the Formulas tab (shown below) to create and edit formulas to calculate sum, average, product, and all the other powerful mathematical formulas you need from a spreadsheet. If you’re working on something and don’t see the feature you need, check out the Google Docs Help Center.

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    Creating a Presentation

    You can also create presentations with Google Docs. Learn how to create a new presentation, rename it, and get familiar with the workspace and navigation.

    1. In the Google Docs workspace, click the Create button and select Presentation in the drop-down menu.

    2. A blank Google Docs presentation will open in a new window. You’re ready to create your first Google presentation.

    3. The Google presentation workspace is very similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, so you should have no trouble navigating the interface to create a new slide, enter and format text, and insert shapes (shown below).

    4. Rename the same way you would a doc or a spreadsheet, click File and then Rename.

    Google Presentations is a full-featured presentation creation application, similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, with all the features you expect. The most common tasks, like creating or duplicating slides, inserting images or shapes, and even selecting a theme, have buttons on the toolbar. You can find everything else in the file menu located just above the toolbar. You can even save your presentation as a PDF or PowerPoint presentation, and run the presentation from within Google Docs. If you’re working on something and don’t see the feature you need, check out the Google Docs Help Center.

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    Organizing

    With only three documents, you’re not likely to lose anything, but after you’ve used Google Docs for a while you’re going to accumulate quite a few documents. In this article we’ll organize those documents into collections, which serve the same function as folders. Follow the steps below to get started.

    1. In the Google Docs workspace, click the red Create button on the left side of the screen. Select Collections in the dropdown menu.
    2. Type the name of your new folder in the text area. Click anywhere outside the text area to create the new folder.
    3. Check the box next to the collection to make further additions, like changing the color. To do this, check the box to select a collection, then click More. From the drop-down, select Change Color.
    4. Click My Collections in the left hand navigation bar to show a list of your folders. The new collection you created appears in the color you chose. Now you’re ready to keep your documents organized in Google Docs.
    5. If you need to, you can rename your folder. Click on the checkbox next to the folder you want to rename, then click More and select Rename from the drop-down. Type in the name you want and hit the Enter key, or click anywhere outside the text area.

    Google Docs’ collections let you store your documents online just as you would if they were located on your local PC – except that you can access and work on your documents from anywhere that has an Internet connection. You can even create subfolders inside existing folders to further organize your work. Go ahead and create as complex an organizational system as you need. Google’s powerful search feature ensures that you’ll never forget your documents just because they’re buried in sub-folders.