Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I tried it! Upon posting my latest post about writing applications to use for writing, I decided to try Google Docs after reading that a reader was using it primarily for writing and I was surprised to realise that I have been blind to some awesome features that you might not have known about, either. 

I have been using both Word and Pages but decided to cancel my Word subscription because I thought it was not necessary to pay monthly for something that I can do just as well on another application. I wasn't entirely happy with Pages either, though, because I was missing a document map/outline to jump between the chapters I've been writing and also I wanted to venture for something more minimal, I guess. I had a hard time getting used to the sidebars so it was easier for me to warm up to Google Docs eventually. It's a great alternative to Microsoft Word and below you'll see why.

WHY USE GOOGLE DOCS? 

1. It's free! 

As I've said, I wanted a free alternative and I found it. No in-app purchases or hidden costs or trials or anything. 

2. It's mobile and cross-platform.

Docs works in most browsers (best in Chrome though) and on apps for your phone or tablet device so even people who work with you on the same document won't need to download anything to work on it. What I personally like a lot is that I can still write on the app with the same fonts. I can't do that with the Pages app which bugs me a little. Actually, a lot.

3. It is web-based, saves automatically, available offline.

Docs is web-based and your documents are all automatically saved and synched in the Google Drive cloud, saving everything as you type. No save buttons, no anxiety if your device crashes. Your documents can be made available to view and edit offline for whenever you don't have internet connection on the go.

4. It has a built-in document outliner. 

This is a feature crucial for me as I write my novels and one that I've been searching for. I'm not a fan of TOCs when writing novels but I still need to have an outline of my documents so I'm really content with this feature. When you open it from Tools > Document outline, it will pick up any heading styles, bold or upper case text (on single lines) and recognise them as new sections. You can also easily remove or add new sections to your outline.

5. It has a comment function.

So this is, of course, something all of the other applications also have but there's also a chat popping up in the bottom right-hand corner of the document if you want to have a dialogue with a collaborator whilst writing in the document at the same time.

6. You can automatically substitute words and punctuation.

Therefore you go to Tools > Preferences. If you have trouble spelling a word correctly or just really lazy to type it out, you can enable automatic corrections for your top 3 spellings.

7. You can export the document in several formats.

Such as Microsoft Word, OpenDocument, RichText, PlainText, HTML formats, epubs and PDF.

8. Extra: People can watch you write live. 

This could be interesting for writers who would like to share links to readers to watch the process.


All in all Google Docs is just a great alternative as it has the most important functions you need and quite the minimal interface that I like a lot. I didn't think I would start using Google Docs but at the moment it has actually become the main application for writing for me. Especially since I keep having to switch between my Macbook Air and the Windows computer at work.

Did I miss any awesome features? What do you use? 

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