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6 Google Docs Features to Help You Create Better Documents


Google Docs logo on a white background

Sometimes we look for tips and features to do things faster. Then, there are other times when we just want to do them better. Here, we’ll look at several Google Docs features that can improve your documents.

1. Use Tables to Structure Text

Some text belongs in a paragraph, items usually go into a list, and then there are details that look better in a table. You can insert a table easily in Google Docs and even check out one of the helpful templates.

RELATED: How to Track Projects and Reviews in Google Docs With Table Templates

As an example, the information here is in a list form which is fine. But a table would make it look neat and clean.

Text in a bullet list in Google Docs

Select the Insert tab, move to Table, and pick the number of columns and rows. When the table appears, pop your data into it.

Table size options in the Insert menu

You can format the font in the table with bold or color, sort the table for easy viewing, and rearrange the rows and columns if you want to display the data differently. So not only does the table look nice, but makes manipulating the text simple.

Inserted table in Google Docs

Google Docs also provides a few table templates. You can use a Product Roadmap, Review Tracker, Project Assets, or Launch Content Tracker. Each template has headings and drop-down lists for easily including the data you need. But of course, you can edit the template to fit your needs.

If you’re interested in using a template, go to Insert and move to Table > Table Templates to view the options.

Table templates in Google Docs

Pick the one you want, and it pops into your document ready for you to use.

Tables from templates in Google Docs

2. Insert a Drop-Down List to Easily Pick Items

If you have a document where you have details that update over time, you can insert and customize a drop-down list. This lets you or your team choose the item rather than typing, formatting, or entering incorrect information.

RELATED: How to Create and Customize a Drop-Down List in Google Docs

Select the Insert tab and pick “Dropdown.”

Dropdown in the Insert menu

You’ll see a couple of preset dropdowns for Project Status and Review Status. These are the same drop-down lists used in the table templates discussed above. To view the list items, hover your cursor over that preset in the list. If you use a preset, you can edit it to fit your needs.

Dropdown list options

You can also create your own list by selecting “New Dropdown” in the Document Dropdowns box. Then, name the list, enter your list items, choose the colors, and hit “Save.”

Customization options for a dropdown list

3. Add a Summary and Outline for an Overview

To give your readers an overview of your document, you can use the built-in summary and outline features.

RELATED: How to Use the Document Outline in Google Docs

Select the Show Document Outline icon on the top left of your document. If you don’t see it, go to View  and pick “Show Outline.”

Show Outline in the View menu

If you want to include a Summary, click the plus sign and type your text.

Summary section in Google Docs

To use the Outline, format your document sections with headings. Select a heading, go to Format > Paragraph Styles and pick a heading level from the pop-out menu.

The outline automatically updates to include your headings. If you use different heading levels, you’ll see the hierarchy in the outline as well. Your readers can select an item in the outline to head right to that section of your document.

Summary and outline in Google Docs

4. Include a Table of Contents for Navigation

When you create a lengthy document or something like a manual, a table of contents can help you as well as your readers navigate the document.

RELATED: How to Create a Table of Contents in Google Docs

Google Docs offers a handy feature to insert a table of contents and keep it updated. Go to Insert, move to Table of Contents, and pick one of the styles in the pop-out menu.

Table of Contents styles in the Insert menu

Like the outline above, you’ll need to format your sections with headings. They’ll then display in the table of contents automatically.

Tables of contents in Google Docs

As you add or remove sections in your document, you can update the table of contents. Select the table and click the update icon.

5. Give Quick Access to Readers Using Links

Since Google Docs is a web-based application, using links to allow your readers to quickly visit sources, other files, or websites is a nice touch.

RELATED: How to Hyperlink in Google Docs

Select the text, image, or object you want to link and click the Insert Link button in the toolbar or go to Insert > Link in the menu.

Insert Link button in the toolbar

You can then add a URL, choose a document, or even link to a spot in your document. Click “Apply” and you’ll see your item linked.

Pop-up box to add the link

When you place your cursor on the link, you’ll see the preview chip appear. Select the link to open it in a new browser tab (unless it’s for a location in your document.)

Link preview in Google Docs

6. Use Bookmarks to Jump to Document Locations

As mentioned above, adding links to a document is helpful to your readers. And because you can link to spots in your document using that feature as well, consider adding a bookmark.

RELATED: How to Bookmark Specific Locations in a Google Docs File

You may have a table, name, or specific text that isn’t formatted as a heading for inclusion in the outline or table of contents. By using a bookmark, your readers can jump right to that location in the document. Plus, you can copy a bookmark’s link if you want to share it in an email or chat.

Select the text or item you want to bookmark. Go to the Insert tab and pick “Bookmark.”

Bookmark in the Insert menu

You’ll see the bookmark icon attached to the text or item. From there, you can use the copy icon to grab the link to share elsewhere if you like.

Text bookmarked in Google Docs

To add a link to the bookmark in your document, follow the steps above to insert a link. Then, pick “Headings and Bookmarks” at the bottom of the pop-up menu and pick the bookmark.

Link to the bookmark

You’ll see the linked item in your document. You and your readers simply select the link and click “Bookmark” to visit that spot.

Link for the bookmark in Google Docs

Whether you use a table for a clean appearance, a drop-down list to easily enter an item, or a summary and outline for an overview, these several Google Docs features can make your documents more appealing and useful to your readers.

RELATED: 7 Google Sheets Features to Boost Your Productivity





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