7 Tasks You Need to Learn When Switching From Word to Google Docs

357665 7 Tasks You Need to Learn When Switching From Word to Google Docs

Making the switch from Microsoft Word to Google Docs can seem daunting at first. You may be used to Word’s extensive features and find Google Docs too basic. However, Google Docs offers some great benefits in collaboration, compatibility, and accessibility that are worth learning.

In this article, we will walk through 7 key tasks to help you make the transition smoothly. Mastering these will allow you to take advantage of Google Docs’ strengths while still being able to leverage your existing Word knowledge.

1. Understand the Similarities and Differences

The first step is getting a solid understanding of how Google Docs compares to Word. At their core, both are word processors that allow you to write, format, store and share documents. However, there are some notable differences:

Interface – Word has a desktop app interface with tabs and ribbons. Docs runs in the browser with a simpler layout.

Features – Word offers more advanced features for complex documents, while Docs focuses on real-time collaboration.

File Formats – Docs uses Google formats but can export to Word formats. Word offers more compatibility overall.

Accessibility – Docs is web-based so you can access files from anywhere. Word requires the app or desktop software.

Cost – Docs is free with a Google account. Word costs money unless you use the basic web version.

2. Set Up Google Drive Folder Structure

Since Google Docs saves all files to Google Drive, it helps to set up a logical folder structure before creating documents.

Think about projects or shared drives for collaboration. Create a hierarchy of folders that makes sense for your organizational needs. Setting this up early will save you headaches down the road.

3. Enable Offline Access

One key difference with Docs is that it requires an internet connection to access files. However, you can enable offline support to keep working when not connected:

On your computer, install the Google Docs Offline Chrome extension. Then right-click any file in Drive and select “Available offline.” This will sync the file for offline access.

4. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Mastering keyboard shortcuts is essential for efficiency in any word processor. Take the time to learn Docs’ shortcuts, which have some similarities and differences vs Word:

Common shortcuts: copy (Ctrl+C), paste (Ctrl+V), undo (Ctrl+Z), print (Ctrl+P)

Text formatting: bold (Ctrl+B), italics (Ctrl+I), underline (Ctrl+U)

Navigation: start/end of doc (Ctrl+Home/End)

See all shortcuts: Help menu > Keyboard shortcuts

5. Enable Word Count and Other Tools

Dive into Google Docs’ menus to enable useful writing tools:

Word count – Tools > Word count

Voice typing – Tools > Voice typing

Dictionary – Tools > Dictionary

Citation suggestions – Add-ons > Get add-ons

These can help boost your productivity just like in Word.

6. Use Templates and Custom Styles

Leverage templates and styles in Google Docs to quickly format documents:

Templates – File > Templates gallery, then select a template to start new doc

Styles – Format > Styles, then apply style sets or create custom ones

This can help your docs look clean and professional with minimal effort.

7. Convert Files and Learn Compatibility Tricks

When collaborating with Word users, take advantage of Docs’ compatibility features:

Convert Word files – Upload .doc/docx files directly to Drive to convert

Save as Word formats – File > Download > Microsoft Word (.docx)

Export PDFs – File > Download > PDF document (.pdf)

Share files – Share from Drive and set permissions

With a few tweaks, you can make the transition seamless even when working across platforms.


Switching from Microsoft Word to Google Docs does not need to be an intimidating change. Focus on these 7 key tasks to quickly master Docs’ capabilities while leveraging your existing Word skills. In the end, you may even find you prefer Docs for its collaboration and accessibility advantages!

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