7 Time-Saving Google Docs Features You Need to Know

756440 7 Time-Saving Google Docs Features You Need to Know

Google Docs is a hugely popular word processing software that makes it simple to create, format, edit, and share documents online. As a free cloud-based app deeply integrated into Google Workspace, Docs removes much of the friction of traditional desktop word processors.

However, Docs stands out for more than just its convenience and collaboration abilities. It contains numerous features designed specifically to help users save time and work more efficiently. Whether you use Docs for business, school, creative writing, or personal projects, you can benefit from its time-saving capabilities.

In this tutorial, we will showcase seven Google Docs features that can streamline your workflows and help you get more done in less time. Read on to learn how to take advantage of these useful but sometimes overlooked capabilities.

1. Select and Format Multiple Sections of Text

When reviewing or editing documents, you often need to apply the same formatting changes to many different portions of text. For example, you may want to bold key terminology that appears in multiple places or change the font of supporting quotes spread throughout the document.

Rather than tediously highlighting and formatting one text section at a time, Google Docs lets you make multiple selections then format all highlighted passages simultaneously. This capability can greatly accelerate document revision.

How to Select Multiple Text Passages

  • On desktop: Hold the CTRL key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) then click and drag to highlight multiple portions of text.
  • On mobile: Long press on a word then tap “Select all” to highlight that word throughout the entire document.

Once text is selected, use the formatting toolbar or menu to alter text appearance (font, size, color, styling, etc.) or add features like hyperlinks for all highlighted passages.

This trick makes quick work of repetitive formatting tasks needed during review. Use it to ensure terminology consistency, emphasize key points, standardize supporting quotes, and more.

2. Create Text Replacements and Keyboard Shortcuts

Typing the same words or phrases repeatedly when writing wastes time and hurts productivity. Google Docs allows you to set up custom text replacements and keyboard shortcuts to insert commonly used verbiage with a few keystrokes.

For example, you can set your formal name to appear whenever you type @@name@@. Or insert your full mailing address by typing @@address@@. This saves you from typing frequently needed information manually.

Set Up Text Replacements

  1. Click Tools > Preferences in the Docs menu.
  2. Select the Substitutions tab.
  3. In the Replace field, type the shortcut text you want to use (like @@name@@).
  4. In the With field, type the text you want to appear whenever you type the shortcut.
  5. Click Add to create the substitution.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 to create other shortcuts as desired.

Once substitutions are configured, type the defined shortcut text within a document to insert the replacement phrase.

Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

You can also define custom keyboard shortcuts that act like text replacements:

  1. Click Tools > Preferences in the Docs menu.
  2. Select the Keyboard shortcuts tab
  3. In the Find or create shortcuts field, type a custom keyboard shortcut (like Ctrl+Alt+1)
  4. In the Apply this action field, type the text you want to insert when the shortcut keys are pressed. Or select an action from the dropdown menu.
  5. Click Add shortcut.

After defining a custom keyboard shortcut, press the key combination within any document to instantly insert the associated text or execute the chosen action.

Leverage text substitutions and keyboard shortcuts to insert boilerplate content rapidly so you can maintain focus on core document content.

3. Assign Sections for Simultaneous Team Editing

Collaborating on documents in real time allows teams to craft content faster. Google Docs simplifies simultaneous editing by letting you assign specific sections to certain collaborators. You can then track editing progress and protect parts still under development.

Assign Sections for Editing

  1. Highlight a section of document text to be assigned.
  2. From the Insert menu, click Comment.
  3. In the comment box that appears in the right margin, add collaborators and provide editing instructions.
  4. Collaborators will be notified via email.

Alternatively, within a blank comment box you can:

  • Start typing a collaborator’s email address then select their name from the suggestions that appear to assign them a section.
  • Use the @ symbol to notify them of the assignment.

As collaborators edit their assigned sections, their names and pictures appear in the comment box so you can monitor progress.

Protect Sections Under Development

To prevent editing conflicts, check the Restrict editing box within comment assignment boxes to lock sections until ready for broader team input.

Leverage section assignments and editing restrictions to divide labor, speed up simultaneous drafting, and streamline team collaboration.

4. Launch Google Meet Instantly for Video Conferencing

When collaborating on documents, it often helps to discuss revisions face-to-face. Thanks to deep integration with Google Workspace, Google Docs allows instantly launching Google Meet video conferencing with one click.

Simply click the colorful Join video call button at the top right of the editing window to immediately start an audio or video call with all document collaborators.

A separate Meet window opens where you can enable cameras and mics to discuss document contents verbally in real time. This avoids wasting time scheduling meetings separately.

Use the integrated Meet button to speed up collaboration cycles. Discuss changes live then instantly incorporate feedback right within the shared Doc.

5. Leverage Templates to Save Time Drafting Common Documents

Staring at a blank page can be daunting when drafting new documents like meeting agendas, project plans, and more. Google Docs offers numerous templates to help you quickly create common documents while ensuring you include all critical elements.

Google Docs templates

Simply click Template gallery in the Docs home screen to browse available templates, select one, the click Make a copy to populate a new file with the template structure and sample content. Customize the doc to suit your specific needs.

Leverage templates to skip manually structuring recurrent documents. Hit the ground running with pre-built formats for:

  • Meeting agendas
  • Project plans
  • Proposals
  • Form letters
  • Reports
  • Presentation outlines
  • More

This accelerates drafting and ensures you remember to include critical details that templates prompt you to provide.

6. Quickly Access Key Tools from the Menu

Google Docs houses a wealth of helpful writing, reviewing, and editing tools. But clicking through the interface to find specific functions can consume precious time.

The Tools menu provides quick access to frequently used capabilities so you can rapidly execute common tasks. Just click Tools in the Docs menu then select the desired function.

Google Docs Tools menu

Key time-saving tools in the menu include:

  • Voice typing – Dictate text instead of typing
  • Word count – Count words to hit goals or limits
  • Dictionary – Look up definitions and synonyms
  • Version history – Review or restore previous edits
  • Compare documents – View changes between drafts
  • Accessibility checker – Ensure content meets accessibility standards
  • Translate document – Convert text to other languages

The Tools menu puts these and other frequently used functions at your fingertips to avoid wasting time hunting through menus.

7. Expand Functionality via Add-Ons

While Google Docs supplies ample built-in capabilities, you may want additional enhancements for unique needs. Add-ons extend Docs functionality with new menus and buttons that activate 3rd party capabilities.

Access the add-on store by clicking the puzzle piece icon in the Docs toolbar then browsing or searching for plugins that supply useful additional features like:

  • Text expanders – Insert snippets of text via custom keyboard shortcuts.
  • Citation generators – Automatically create bibliographies and citations for sources.
  • Productivity tools – Perform functions like advanced find-and-replace.
  • Writing aids – Assist with grammar, spelling, diction, and more.
  • Formatting helpers – Easily insert tables, charts, math equations, and other elements.

Add the add-ons you need to introduce helpful new efficiencies tailored to your unique workflows.


Google Docs offers much more than basic word processing. It contains numerous helpful features designed specifically to help users maximize productivity by saving time.

Leverage the seven functions covered here – along with many others – to accelerate your document creation, formatting, editing, and sharing workflows.

Tap into capabilities like batch text formatting, text shortcuts, simultaneous editing, integrated video calls, templates, tool menu access, and add-ons to get more done in Google Docs faster.

Boosting efficiency by just a few minutes on each document translates into huge time savings over the hundreds of docs produced across a year. Help Google Docs shoulder more of the burden through built-in automation and aids so you can focus efforts on producing great content!

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