Getting Started with Google Docs


Understand how to use Google Docs in the classroom to create, share, collaborate and publish works.

In this tutorial sheet you will learn how to:

  1. Create a Google Account
  2. Create a New Document
  3. Save a New Document
  4. Rename a New Document
  5. Upload an Existing Document
  6. Basic Editing
  7. Tagging a Document
  8. Collaborating and Sharing a Document
  9. Revise and Add Comments to a Document
  10. Publishing a Document
  11. Copying a Document

Software Needed

Firefox or Internet Explorer
Ability to access Google Docs on the Internet

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills

Before beginning this tutorial please make sure that you have completed the mouse and desktop tutorials.


Google Docs is a free online program that allows users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online and share them with others for collaboration. This allows educators and students to share their work with others, collaborate on assignments, and save documents online for access at school or at home. In this tutorial we will focus on using the document portion of Google Docs. These same instructions can apply to the spreadsheet and presentation files as well.


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Lesson 1: Creating a Google Account

In order to use Google Docs you will need to register for a Google account. If you already have one through Gmail then you can use the same login to access Google Docs. If you do not have a Gmail account you may want to consider signing up for one so you can also use the Gmail and Calendar feature within Google. Otherwise you can just sign up for a Google account with an email address of your choice and a password. (This type of account does not provide the use of Gmail.)

Note that while it's possible to view a document, spreadsheet or presentation without a Google Account (via an invitation), you'll need to create a Google Account to edit the document, spreadsheet or presentation, and to continue accessing Google Docs.


A Gmail account will get you access both to Gmail and Google Docs as well as the other free programs offered through Google.

Activity 1: Signing up with Google

1. Go to If you haven't already signed up for an account you should see the screen below.

Google Docs Sign in Page

2. If you already have a Google account type in your email and password to sign in. Otherwise click on the Get Started button to sign up with Google.

3. Fill in all of the required form fields to sign up for the account, read through the Terms of Service, and click on I Accept. Create My Account.

Create an Account ScreenCreate an Account Screen

4. You will need to verify your email address you used to create the account by signing into it and clicking on the link that Google Docs sends you. By doing so you will be taken to a page that looks similar to the one below. Now you are ready to start creating, sharing and collaborating on documents.

Google Docs Screen

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Lesson 2: Creating and Working with a New Document

Now that you have created a Google account and are able to access Google Docs you can begin creating or adding documents to your account. In this lesson you will learn how to create a new document, save it, and rename it. You will also learn how to upload an existing document. We will be working with word processing files but the same steps can be utilized to create and upload spreadsheets and presentations.


You may want to have your students change their display names so that you can quickly identify the author of each document. Click on Settings and then change the Display Name field.


Activity 1: Creating a New Document

1. Click on New on the Menu bar and select which type of file you would like to create. For the purposes of this tutorial we will be using the Document option.

New Document Screen

2. Google Docs will open a new window that will allow you to create a word processed document.

Blank Document Screen



Here's a shortcut...

1. Control + S will also save the document

Activity 2: Saving and Renaming a New Document

1. In order to save your document you just need to click on the Save button. (You can also use the Save and Close button if you are finished working with the document.)

Save Button

2. You can also chose File on the Menu bar and then Save. In either case it will save the file using the text at the top of the document as the file name.

File Save

3. If you would like to rename your file you can go to File on the Menu bar and choose Rename.

File Rename

4. Type in the new document name and click OK.

New Document Name




Types of files that you can upload: Documents (up to 500KB)

  • HTML files and plain text (.txt).
  • Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw)
Note: PDF and Office 2007 files are currently not able to be uploaded.

Presentations (up to 10MB)

  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps)

Spreadsheets (up to 1MB)

  • Comma Separated Value (.csv).
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls) files and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods).

Activity 3: Uploading a Document

1. In order to upload an existing document you just need to click on the Upload button on the Menu bar.

Upload Button

2. Then you will need to click on the Browse button and find the document that you would like to upload.

Upload Screen

3. The path to your document will appear in the form field next to the Browse button. If the file is not on your computer but can be accessed via the web you can also type in the URL in the second form field. The third form field allows you to change the name before uploading. When you have completed these steps you will click on the Upload File button.

Upload File

4. Your file should now appear in your main window.

Example of Uploaded File

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Lesson 3: Working with your Documents

Just like in Microsoft Word you can copy, paste, bold, underline, italicize, and many other editing options. Although your editing options are not as comprehensive as a paid for program such as MS Word, you should find most of what you will need to create and edit your documents. This lesson will take you through some of the features that are available.


Activity 1: Edit Menu

1. The Edit menu has many different options available. Most of the icons that are used should look familiar to you. For example the scissors icon represents the Cut feature and the clipboard icon represents the Paste feature. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the different options that are available.

Edit Menu



Keyboard Shortcuts within Google Docs can be accessed at the following link:

Activity 2: Insert Menu

1. The Insert menu also provides you with some options of inserting many types of objects such as images, links, comments, and tables. Take some time to familiarize yourself with these different options.

Insert Menu



Activity 3: Spell Check

1. Google Docs does have a Spell Check feature. It is located at the bottom right hand corner of your document. Click on the Check Spelling link and it will highlight the words it considers spelled incorrectly.

Check Spelling Link

Mispelled Words

2. If you click on the word a menu will pop up with suggestions on the correct spelling of the word. Choose which is correct to make the change or type in a change on your own.

Example of Mispelling



Teachers should create a folder for each class to help organize the documents they will have access to.

Activity 4: Creating Folders to Organize Documents

1. On your computer you probably have some sort of organization to storing your documents. This usually involves folders and sub folders. In Google Docs you have the same option for organizing your files. To create a new folder simply click on New on the Menu bar and choose Folder.

New Folder

2. Your screen will change to show you the new folder. You can change the name by clicking on the words New Folder in the middle window. It will highlight the words and make them editable. Type in the new name.

Naming the New Folder

3. You can also click on the Add Description/Status link just below the New Folder name and add a quick description of what is stored in that folder.

Add a Description to Folder

4. This is what it will look like after you have added a new name and description.

Example of a Folder

5. To place a document into a folder you will need to click on All Items in the left navigation menu to see all of your documents. Then choose the document you would like to move to a folder by checking the box next to it. Go to the Add to Folder button on the Menu bar and choose which folder you would like to add it to. You can do this for all your documents until you have them organized to your liking.

Add to a Folder

6. In the left navigation menu you will now see your folders listed and how many items are in each of the folders.

Item Added to Folder

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Please Note: In order to collaborate on a document the person you share the document with must have a Google Account. Otherwise they can only view the document.

Lesson 4: Sharing, Collaborating and Publishing a Document

A wonderful feature of Google Docs is the ability to share your work with others. You have many options to do this. You can give access to a document where the viewers are only able to read the document and not make any changes. You can also give access to a document where people can collaborate with you by making changes. You will be able to see the changes that each person has made to your document. In this lesson you will learn how to share your document with others and publish the final version.

Limits for documents and presentations: 200 combined viewers and collaborators. 10 people may edit and/or view at any given time.

There is currently no limit to the number of people with whom you can share a spreadsheet. However, only 50 people can edit a spreadsheet at the same time.

Activity 1: Sharing and Collaborating on a Document

1. Click on All Items in your left navigation menu to show all the items that you have in your Google Docs account. Select which one you would like to share with another person by clicking the checkbox in front of the document. Then click on the More Actions button on the Menu bar and select Share.

Share Menu

2. You have the option to invite others to be Collaborators or Viewers. Collaborators are able to view as well as edit any documents that you share using this option. Viewers are only able to view the document. They are not able to make any changes to the document. After selecting the Collaborator or Viewer option you will need to type in the email addresses of the people with whom you would like to share the document. Separate addresses with a comma. Then click on the Invite Collaborators/Viewers button.

Please note: If you'd like to allow Collaborators to add and delete other collaborators and/or viewers, select the checkbox next to Collaborators may invite others under Advanced permissions. Collaborators, once given this permission, can share the document by forwarding their invitation to others.To successfully add a mailing list, you must select the Invitations may be used by others checkbox (under Advanced permissions at the bottom of the screen). This allows all members of a group to access the document using this one invitation.

Sharing Options

3. A window will pop up that will ask you to type in a message that will be emailed along with the invitation to access the document. Type in your message and click on the Send button. You have the option to CC yourself on the message by making sure the checkbox is selected next to CC me.

Invitation to share

4. Anyone that receives the invitation can then click on the link within the message to begin viewing and/or editing the document. They will need to log in with their Google Account in order to edit if they are a collaborator.

Email Invite



Activity 2: Revising a Document

The chance to revise a document while working on it is very helpful to both teachers and students. Teachers no longer have to wait for their students to turn in the paper before they get a chance to offer suggestions. A teacher can check in with a student's work online and offer suggestions for revisions or provide ideas for further development while the student is in the writing process. Below are some ideas on how you can utilize the Revision feature in Google Docs.

1. Follow the above instructions on sharing a document. Be sure your students include you as a collaborator on their documents so you are able to view and provide feedback during the writing process.

2. If you would like to to see who made what additions or changes to the document you need to click on the Revisions tab.

Revisions tab

3. You should now see all of the revisions that have occurred to that document. You can also see who has collaborated on the document. By selecting a particular revision you can see what changes or additions that person made. Or by selecting two or more revisions you can compare them. You will get a screen similar to the one below with color highlighting who made what changes. In this case the changes that are highlighted in green were done by the author "Me". Any changes that were done by "cvanwassh" would be highlighted in blue.


Example of Revisions

4. If you would like to add comments to a student's work you can do so without making edits to the document. Select the area that you would like to comment on and then go to the Insert menu and click on the Comments link. Then type in the comment you would like to leave. By doing this a student can read your suggestion and determine whether or not to make a change. It will not directly change their document. When they publish their document as a web page, post it to their blog, or print it, the comments will disappear.

Comments link




If you would like the document to be republished every time a change is made, be sure to check the box that says

Activity 3: Publishing a Document

Publishing a document means that you will be making it available to anyone via the Internet. Google adds your document to the Google Index so that if someone does a search on the topic of your document it may be accessed.

1. To publish your document you need to click on the Publish tab on the upper right side of your screen after selecting which document you would like to publish. A screen like the one below will appear.

Publish Screen

2. The Publishing tab allows you to publish to the Internet and will provide you with a URL. Or you can publish to your blog. You will need to set up your blog by clicking on the set up your blog site settings link. Choose which option by clicking on the Publish Document button or Post to Blog button. When choosing Publish Document a screen like the one below should appear. You can use the URL provided to share the document with others.

Publish Screen with URL


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Lesson 5: Printing and Copying a Document

Once you have a final version of your document you may want to print it. Or perhaps you want to have a copy of the original document before others start collaborating on it. (Which you can also achieve through the revisions tab). This lesson will show you how to print your document and make a copy of it.


Please Note: Do not use the Print option in your browser's File menu. This will print the entire web page and not just your document.

Activity 1: Printing a Document

1. To print the document open it and choose the Print link on the right hand upper corner between Preview and Email.

Print Screen

2. Another option is to click on the File button on the Menu bar and choose Print.

File Print

3. If your document prints with the URL of the webpage and other unnecessary information follow the instructions below to fix this issue.

In Firefox for PC:
  1. Choose File > Page Setup.
  2. Select the Margins & Header/Footer tab.
  3. Set the headers and footers at the bottom of the window to Blank.
  4. Click OK.
In Firefox for Mac:
  1. Choose File > Print.
  2. In the window that appears, select the drop-down menu labeled Copies & Pages and choose Firefox.
  3. At the bottom of this new window, make sure the options for Page headers and Page Footers (Left, Center, and Right) are set to Blank.
  4. Click OK.

In Internet Explorer:

  1. Choose File > Page Setup.
  2. Delete the info that you see in the Header and Footer fields.
  3. Click OK.




Activity 2: Copying a Document

1. To copy a document you will need to open the document and then choose File on the Menu bar and Copy.

File Copy

2. A confirmation message will pop up. Click OK to continue.

File Copy Dialog Box

3. The file should now be saved as "Copy of <Filename>"

Example of a Copied Document


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Wrap Up:

As you can see Google Doc is easy to use and very useful when needing to share documents with others. The opportunities to use this program in your classroom are endless. From Buddy Book Shares to collaboration with another school on a particular topic, Google Docs opens the door to collaboration using technology. You may want to visit the Google Help Site for more information on how to use Google Docs.

Additional Resources:

Using Google Docs in the Classroom

Similar Programs to Google Docs