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Getting started with Google Docs

by Steve Krause on September 3rd, 2014

I’ve been using Google docs in my teaching (and my own writing!) for quite a while now, and as time goes on, I find out that an increasing number of my students are already familiar with it. It’s a great resource and if you aren’t using it yet, I bet you will be using it by the time the semester is over. So let’s get started!

There’s more after the jump, but just to be clear:

  • After you read through these instructions, create a Google doc (it can say anything and only needs to be a couple of lines long).
  • Be sure to set it up for sharing so anyone can edit!  For some reason, this is an easy step for people to forget– make sure you don’t!
  • Copy and paste a link to your document as a comment in this message.

More details:

This semester, we will be doing a lot of peer review and collaborative writing activities, and we’ll be using Google Docs for most of them.  This service has been recently renamed by Google as “Google Drive,” but the terms are basically interchangeable– and I always think of it as “Google Docs.” In brief, Google Drive/Docs is a suite of software (word processing, simple presentation software, spreadsheets, etc.) that is free from Google and which lives in “the cloud” or online. Even better is that now that EMU has shifted students to Google accounts for email and the like, you have an EMU account that uses Google stuff.

As a writing technology, I think there are two big pluses with Google Docs. First, it makes it really REALLY easy to collaborate. Multiple writers can all be working on the same document and at the same (or at a different) time. Second, Google docs does a great job of tracing revisions and changes you make to a document, which means its handy for me as a teacher (and for you too) to see how the document changes with revisions.

Google Docs is pretty to easy and we’ll be learning more about as we go along this semester. Here is a link to a handy Google Docs help page. Also EMU’s first year writing program has a nice collection of instructions and tutorials on Google docs here. And of course you can ask me and each other questions too.

Here is what you need to do to get started:

  • Go to If you have a Google account, log in. If you don’t have one, create an account.
  • Click the button that says “Create” and select “Document.”
  • Start typing, more or less. Google docs works pretty much like MS Word, so you should have a pretty good handle on most of the basic word processing skills.
  • Google docs automatically saves every few seconds, so you probably won’t have to worry about that.
  • You want to give your file a title, so click where it says “Untitled document” and enter a new title, probably something like “Krause starting Google Docs” or the like.
  • One of the key things you’ll need to do is “share” your file. To do that, click where it says “share.” Then click where it says “Change…” next to “Private.” Change your sharing settings here to “Anyone with the link.” But wait, you’re not done! Under where it says “Access,” change the “Can view” to “Can edit.” Once you do that, then save.
  • After you do this, you’ll get back to the main “Sharing settings” window and you’ll see under “Link to share (allows editing)” a long link is highlighted. Paste this link in as a comment on this post!
  • Oh, and in case you are wondering: yes, this does mean that anyone with a link to your essay could edit it to make changes, but because you can always revert to the previous version (look under file for “See Revision History”), this really shouldn’t worry you too much.

Give it a try!

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  1. Natasha Wickenheiser permalink

    Here is my true story about why Google Docs is amazing, and far superior to USB flash drives.

  2. Melanie Waller permalink

    I am new to this and so I hope you have some patience with me. Once I figure it out, I should be ok. I have done most of the reading and this class sounds like I may learn a lot about about writing. Something I haven’t really thought about, but maybe I can improve not only my writing but also my speaking skills when dealing with others.
    I am trying my hardest to get going in this class. It might take me a few extra minutes, but I will get there.
    I do the best I can with what I got and eventually I will get there.

    • Steve Krause permalink

      Where are you getting stuck, Melanie? The only way we can help you is if you tell us what’s going on here.

  3. Melanie Waller permalink

    trying to figure out (and reading every step of the instructions) on how to get the account going

  4. Melanie Waller permalink

    Is there a number I can call or an email address I can write to. I can get into the document part, but I can not type anything on the page. That is where I’m stuck as of right now

    • Steve Krause permalink

      Melanie, you need to create your own Google Document, so I’m not sure what you mean by “I can not type anything on the page.” That’s all you need to do; so I guess I’m kind of confused at your question.

      Did you follow these instructions I gave here?

  5. Melanie Waller permalink

    Guess what !! I finally figured this out
    Melanie Waller

    It took me awhile, but I think I’m getting the hang of it
    I am from Illinois and a senior. I am a dietetic major and hopefully if I can pass this semester, I will graduate in December

    Did I do this right?

  6. I posted this twice without it showing up on Wednesday, now this looks very late, but here is my link!

  7. Hello,

    My name is leah. (:

  8. Leah permalink


    My name is Leah. I just joined this course, due to someone dropping it. My link is below.×0-zkG8TuHzcnTdtibRADiDSYFEB0BihH30csZEWn2c/edit?usp=sharing

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