Beginners guide to Google Docs

Google Docs is a free, web-based word processor. If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word, the interface is almost exactly the same.

To access Google Docs, all you need is an internet connection, a computer or device and a Google account (which you can obtain for free here).

Google Docs is just one of the free options in the Google office suite, called Google Drive. Google’s version of Excel is called Sheets and Powerpoint is called Slides.

Access Google Docs here.

Benefits of using Google Docs over Microsoft Word:

  • It’s free.
  • It is completely cloud based, so you can jump in and out of the document wherever there’s an internet connection, you don’t need to be in front of your computer.
  • Multiple people can edit the same document live, so you can collaborate online in real time and chat with other collaborators.
  • Revision history: you can view previous edits to the document.
  • Autosave: Google Docs automatically saves changes every couple of seconds.
  • Save in different formats easily: PDF, RFT, Text, Word, HTML and of course, DOCs.
  • Translate documents to different languages easily.

Basic start guide

Google account set up

Google Docs is free, but to access it you will need to set up a Google account.

You can create a free account here

You will need to provide your name, a username, and a password.

Turn on Docs screen reader support

The first time you use the Docs editors with a screen reader, you need to turn on Docs screen reader support. To do that:

  1. Go to Google Docs and open a document.
  2. In the Tools menu, select accessibility settings (Alt + a).
  3. Select Turn on screen reader support (Enter).

Creating documents and folders

The following keyboard shortcuts create new items in Google Docs:

  • Shift + T: New text document. A blank document, named Untitled document, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + F: New folder. The Name folder dialog opens, and your cursor is in the text box. If you decide you don't want to create a new folder, press Esc to dismiss the dialog. Otherwise, type a new name for your folder, then press Enter.
  • To rename a folder, select the folder and press ‘N’ to open the rename dialogue. Type the new name for the folder and press Enter.

Opening documents and folders

To open a document or folder:

  1. Use the up and down arrows to navigate through the most recently opened list. (If you've switched to grid view, you can also use the right and left arrows.)
  2. To open a document, press ‘O’ or Enter.
  3. To open a Microsoft Word document from your computer, click Ctrl + O, and use the arrow keys to navigate to the Upload area. Press Enter, and navigate to the location of the Word document and press Enter.

 

Basic document formatting

Bold, underline and italics

While writing or editing your text, you can use these keyboard shortcuts to add easy formatting. They are also the same in Microsoft Word.

Action

Keyboard shortcut

Bold Ctrl + B
Underline Ctrl + U
Italics Ctrl + I

 

Paragraph styles and headings

Action

Keyboard shortcut

Move to previous heading Ctrl + Alt + P, Ctrl + Alt + H
Level 1 heading Ctrl + Alt + 1
Level 2 (etc.) heading Ctrl + Alt + 2 (3 or 4 or 5 etc)
Normal text Ctrl + Alt + 0
Increase indent Ctrl + ] or Tab
Decrease indent Ctrl + [ or Backspace

 

Bulleted and numbered lists

Create numbered list Ctrl + Shift + 7
Create bulleted list Ctrl + Shift + 8

 

Keyboard shortcuts

Common shortcuts

Action

Keyboard shortcut

Copy Ctrl + C
Cut Ctrl + X
Paste Ctrl + V
Paste without formatting Ctrl + Shift + V
Undo Ctrl + Z
Redo Ctrl + Shift + Z
Insert or edit link Ctrl + K
Open link Alt + Enter
Show common keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + /
Save, Note: every change is automatically saved Ctrl + S
Print Ctrl + P
Open Ctrl + O
Find Ctrl + F
Find and replace Ctrl + H
Find again Ctrl + G
Find previous Ctrl + Shift + G
Hide the menus (compact mode) Ctrl + Shift + G
Insert page break Ctrl + Enter
Search the menus Alt + /
Alt + Shift + Z
Google Chrome: Alt + Z
Repeat last action Ctrl + Y
Spell-check a document Ctrl + apostrophe (find misspelled word)
Ctrl + Shift + X (replace misspelled word from list, Enter)
Select all Ctrl +A
File menu Alt + F

 

Screen reader support

Action

Keyboard shortcut

Enable screen reader support Ctrl + Alt + Z
Alt + Shift + ~
Enable braille support     Ctrl + Alt + H
Speak selection Ctrl + Alt + X
Speak from cursor location Ctrl + Alt + R
Announce cursor location     holding Ctrl + Alt, press A then l
Announce formatting at cursor location holding Ctrl + Alt, press A then F
Speak the table column and row header holding Ctrl + Alt + Shift, press Tt then H
Speak the table cell location holding Ctrl + Alt + Shift, press T then N
Speak the table row header holding Ctrl + Alt + Shift, press T then R
Speak the table column header holding Ctrl + Alt + Shift, press T then C
Show live edits Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R
Accessibility menu Alt + A

 

See the full list of Google Doc shortcuts on Google’s support page or press Ctrl + / in the document for a pop-up shortlist.

Looking for more advice or training?

The Vision Australia Access Technology (AT) team is here to support you and can organise personal training.

Our AT Helpdesk team are available Monday to Friday between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm EST to troubleshoot your accessible technology issues.

Give them a call on 1300 84 74 66 (and ask for the AT Helpdesk), or send an email to [email protected]