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Simple Google Docs Tutorial

written by: Laura Jean Karr•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/30/2010

Learn more about what Google Docs is and how you can get started in using this free web based application from Google.

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    What is Google Docs?

    Google Docs is a free web based word processing application from Google Labs. As is the case with many of Google's applications, Docs is free with every Gmail account. Docs offers more than just the ability to create text documents but also offers the creations of spreadsheets, presentations, forms and drawings. One of the benefits to using the Google Docs applications is in the ability to collaborate with others using the application in real time. Other tasks that can be utilized through this application are file storage, sharing documents, uploading documents and creating documents.

    Since Google Docs is a free web based application system there is never any software to download. Everything that is created using the applications are available at any computer you use with the information being stored privately online in conjunction with your Gmail account information.

    The first step in getting started in using Google Docs is by having a Gmail account. If you already have a Gmail account then you already have access to Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms and Drawings. The applications are all located on the left hand menu bar once you are signed into your Gmail account. In order to sign up for a Gmail account, visit the Create a Gmail Account page. Once you are all singed up with an account, sign in and your ready to get started using Google Docs.

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    Creating, Renaming and Saving a New Document

    GDocsScreenShot Once you are all signed into your Gmail account, look to the upper left hand corner of the screen to find a menu bar. This menu bar will show the following options: Start Page, Mail, Calendar, Documents, Sites and more. Click on Documents and another window will open that looks like the screen shot to the left.

    To create a new document click on New in the menu bar to the left that sits just under the Google Docs logo. A new tabbed window will appear and this will be a new blank document. Underneath the Google Docs logo in this new window, you will notice in bold type the word Untitled followed by information as to when the open document was last edited. To give your file a name, click on File in the left hand side of the menu bar and a drop down box will appear. Next, click on the Rename option and then change the title of the document and then click on the OK button. The bold word at the top of the screen will no longer read as Untitled but will have the newly created file name showing.

    In the upper right hand coroner of the screen, you will notice two gray boxes. One box says Save now and the other box says Share. Click on the Save now button and all changes that you have just made, including the renaming of the document will be saved. Google Docs also has an automatic saving feature that will save any changes made to an open document after a few minuets.

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    Uploading an Existing Document

    In the upper right hand side menu bar next to New is the Upload button. To get started in uploading an existing document, click the Upload button and a new window will appear with a form field next to the Browse button to choose a file on your hard drive. If the document is not on hard drive, then type in the URL by using the second form field underneath the form field next to the Browse button.

    When you have chosen a file to upload, click on the Upload File button at the bottom of the screen and the file will be uploaded into your Google Docs folders. The new uploaded file will automatically open in a new window for immediately editing.

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    Creating Folders and Adding Documents

    DocsScreen Shot 2 Underneath the Google Docs logo on the left hand corner of the screen is where the New and Upload commands are of the menu bar. When you click on New a drop down menu appears that lists various commands such as Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentation and Folder. Click on the Folder command and a new screen will appear inside of the Google Docs area that is already open with the folder instructions.

    Next to the folder icon is a form field where you can type in the name of the new folder. Under the form filed where you type in the name there is a commend option called Add description/status, click on that command and you can include a description of the items that you want to add into the folder that was just created.

    Now that you have created a new folder, if there are documents that you want to add into that folder you can do so. Underneath the New command on the menu bar is the All Items, click on All Items to highlight it and then click on the Add to folder command next to the Upload command in the top menu bar. A drop down box will appear underneath the Add to folder command that shows the new folder that was just created. Click on the folder that you want to add the open document in and it will be moved into the folder that you have chosen.

    For more information on using Google Docs and utilizing the collaboration feature that this application offers, see How to Collaborate on Google Docs. Also, if you would like a guided video tour of Google Docs, you can visit the main Google Docs site and at Google Docs Tour.