10 Google Docs Tips Every Teacher Should Know : Educational Technology

Since Google Docs is more popular than ever in education, I thought I should share some of my favorite tips.

10 Google Docs Tips Every Teacher Should Know

I have 10 Google Docs tips every teacher should know

I’ve shared a lot of Google tips over the years.

In this post, I summarize ten Google knowledge posts that every teacher should know.

From learning the basics, making a copy of files shared online, creating template links, using voice input, citing sources, inserting GIFs, editing images, using Docs offline, and much more!

Listen to this article:


1. File> Make a copy

Making a copy of Google files is a must for Google skills!

How to make a copy of Google files

How to make a copy of Google files

STEP 1: Open the file (Google Doc, slide, drawing or sheet) in your browser (Chrome is recommended).

STEP 2: Go to FILE Menu and choose MAKE A COPY.

STEP 3: A small pop-up will ask you to name your new copy and organize it in one of your Google Drive folders. Click the folder to select another folder or create a new folder.

How to make a copy of Google files

Note: If you copy your own document, two check boxes are also displayed. (1) Share it with the same people, which will automatically share the new copy with the same people, and (2) Copy comments, which will automatically copy all comments from the original document to the new file.

click OK.

2. Force a copy

Here’s an easy way to force users to make a copy of Google Docs, Slides, Slides, or Drawings.

By hacking the URL, you can ask users to make a copy!

Have you ever shared a file with a student or colleague and told him to go to the file> make a copy and instead start typing the document as if it were your own?

There are many ways to make a copy and distribute it to students. B. with Google Classroom or Doctopus, but this little trick is super easy!

Since Google Classroom solves this problem with students, this is usually a trick that is useful when sharing with adults or on your website or blog.

How to force a copy of a Google document, slide, sheet or drawing

This is how it works!


Be sure you have shared your document either as “someone with the link” or “public”. This must be activated before you can force a copy trick.

Force users to copy a Google document!

You can share it with the person one at a time, but this usually results in a notification that they see in Drive and can still ignore your instructions.

(Need help sharing? Share my FREE Google Drive sharing guide!)


  • Open the document, slide cover, sheet, or drawing that you want to use.
  • Click in the search field and look at the end of the link.
  • Replace the word EDIT with the word COPY in the link.
  • Click Back / Enter.


Copy and paste this new copy link wherever you need it – in an email, on your website, in your presentation, in your newsletter, etc.

Do not forget STEP 1! If you haven’t shared it, the link won’t work!

When the user clicks the copy link, they are prompted to make a copy of the file.

Once you click the “Make a Copy” button, a copy of the file will be created and added to your Google Drive. INGENIOUS!

This blog post provides more tips on how to force a copy of Google files.

3. Template links

Yes! With this G Suite trick, you can change a few words in the URL of your file and magically create a template link!

This is a game changer! Templates make life easier, especially as a teacher. I keep making copies of interesting G Suite files and templates. Sharing is taking care!

To change a document, sheet, slide or drawing to a template link, replace the word “edit” with the words “template / preview”. Press Enter / Back and you will see a preview window with the magical “Use Template” button.

** Note that the sharing rules still apply, so they must at least be visible to anyone using the template. For more information on all sharing options in G Suite, see my Google Drive sharing guide.

How to create a template link

The magic button “Use template”

Once you click the “Use Template” button, the file is added to your drive and named exactly like the template. Oh, and it doesn’t have the annoying phrase “copy of …”!

Create G Suite templates with this stunning hack

* NOTE: This option does not work well on mobile devices. I would only recommend this for desktop / laptop.

This blog post gives you more ideas for template links!

4. Voice input

A tiny little feature that does an amazing breakthrough is voice input into Google Docs. This is a voice-to-text feature built into the world’s most popular word processor and available to you and your students if you have a microphone in your devices.

You can dictate all kinds of words, lists and writing in Google Docs. You can also specify formatting, punctuation and editing. But wait … there’s more! YOU CAN DICTATE IN OTHER LANGUAGES !!!!! WHOA !!!!

How to enable voice input in Google Docs (desktop version)

Step 1: Turn on your microphone

To use voice input or commands, your computer microphone must be turned on and working.

Step 2: Start voice input into a document

7 reasons why you have to try voice input in Google Docs

  1. Check if your microphone is working.
  2. Open a document in Google Docs using a Chrome browser.
  3. click Tools and then Voice input. A microphone box is displayed.
  4. When you’re ready to speak, click the microphone.
  5. Speak clearly and at normal volume and speed (see below for more information on using punctuation).
  6. When you’re done, click the microphone again.

In this blog post you will find 7 reasons why you need to try voice typing in Google Docs.

5. Quoting sources

Did you know that you can EASY cite sources without ever leaving Google Docs? Yes! It is so easy!

Insert footnote quote in Google Docs

You can easily add footnote quotes using the Google Docs Browse tool. Even these footnote quotes do not meet all requirements. It’s so nice that this is built into Google Docs. These are light years above what I could expect from my sixth graders when it came to citing sources.

Like sources in Google Docs

1. Go to Tools> Browse (or click the explore icon at the bottom right).

2. Enter your search query to find the source

3. Move the mouse pointer over the result and then click on the quotes in the top right corner of the result

4. A footnote will be added to the end of your document

How to cite sources in Google Docs

But wait … there is more! Change the citation format:

Yes! You can quote the source in MLA, APA or Chicago !!!!!

Go to the three dots (snowman) to switch from MLA, APA or Chicago.

Like sources in Google Docs

Yes! As simple as that! Students will never have to quote as hard today as some of us have. They don’t count spaces. You don’t have to suffer from quotes like some of us.

I have a Google Doc with these instructions that you can copy and share. CLICK HERE to make a copy of the instructions.

You can find more citation tips in the full blog post.

6. How to insert GIFs

If you haven’t noticed, animated GIFs, these moving images that are almost like videos, rule the world. It is no longer enough just to have a cool picture in your presentation. You need to keep them busy with a little animation. Better still, GIFs are a great way to show steps to help teachers and students learn new skills!

Find a GIF

You can use the advanced search filter in Google Pictures Find GIFs. The following animation shows an example.

  1. Go to and enter your search terms
  2. Click the “Search Tools” button
  3. Under Type, choose Animated.

Copy the picture address of the GIF

Find the URL (or image address, as it’s called in Chrome) of the GIF you want to use. Simple Right-click to copy the image address as shown in the animation below. (Note: this varies in other browsers, but you should still use Chrome!)

Presentation without title

Paste by URL in documents, slides, sheets, drawings, etc.

The only way to get the animation to work is to insert it via URL.

  1. Go to your document / slide Insert Menu.
  2. Choose image
  3. Choose By URL
  4. Copy and paste the image address copied above.
  5. click Choose to insert the picture.
  6. Voila!

So take your time to spice up your presentations, documents and more with animated GIFs. It’s a great way to involve students (and adults). Your animations can be used for humor and other emotional reactions, or show how tasks are performed as above.

You can find more information about inserting gifs in Google Docs here.

7. How to edit pictures

Did you know that you can edit images in Google Docs?

With just a few clicks, you and your students can add your pizzazz to your pictures Google documents and Google slides!

Resize images

You can easily resize images by selecting the image and clicking and dragging the blue “handles” until you get the size you want.

Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking and dragging to keep the ratio. This prevents the picture from looking disproportionate.

Changing the image size by clicking and dragging

Resize images by clicking and dragging

Crop pictures

1. Run Image

Click the image you want to edit with the mouse or click the crop button on the toolbar. (Please note that with one click you get the blue handlebar to change the size and to move. With a double click you get the new cutting tools (see below).)

2. Click and drag the black cutters at the corners and sides to crop your image.

3. Select the area you want to crop, then click “Enter” on the keyboard or the crop button on the toolbar to crop the image.

Click and drag the black bars to crop

Add a border


You can easily add a frame to your images for a more professional look.

1. First select the image and then your color from the drop-down menu next to the pen tool.

2. With the second tool you can select the weight of the line. With the third tool, you can even change the border to dots or dashes.


(Picture with 4pt orange border)

Reshape / mask images (Google Slides only)

Google Slides offers you an additional function that you will not find in text documents.

You can put your pictures in Google Slides for Image

additional effect.

1. Select the picture

2. Then click the drop-down arrow next to the crop button on the toolbar.

3. Then select the shape. Voila! A new shape for your picture!

Below is an example. There are many different shapes to choose from that give your presentations a little more.

Image options (Google Docs)

When you click an image in Google Docs, “Image Options” appears on the toolbar. Clicking on “Image Options” will open a sidebar menu where you can recolor your image (think of Andy Warhol). You can also adjust the transparency, brightness, and contrast of your image in Google Docs to control the image more precisely.

How to edit images in Google Docs

Format options (Google Slides)

When you click an image in Google Slides, the “Format Options” toolbar appears. Clicking “Format Options” opens a sidebar menu where you can tweak many different things in your image.

How to edit images in Google Docs

You can find more photo editing options in this post.

8. Use the Google Docs Exploration Tool

The Google Docs Explore tool gives you quick access to your Drive files, web search, images, recommendations, and more.

Explore is available in documents, sheets, and slides and uses machine learning to predict the things you need to create and build.

Please note that this post focuses on the desktop / web version of Google Docs. However, the Explore tool is also available for mobile devices. (Android directions| iOS instructions)

5 ways to use the Google Docs Explore tool What is the Google Docs Explore Tool?

The Google Docs Explore tool uses machine learning to suggest topics, images, and files from your Google Drive and help you create and compose them.

With this fantastic tool, you can also search the web, your drive files, Google Images and even cite sources.

There are two ways to access the Explore tool: (1) Go to Tools> Explore or (2) Click the Explore icon at the bottom right of your page.

A new sidebar window opens in which you can access many different functions, as shown in the following animation.

5 ways to use the Google Docs Explore tool

Click here for 5 ways to use the Google Docs Exploration Tool.

9. Edit Microsoft Office files in the drive (without conversion)

This is the best of both worlds!

If you use Google Drive to save your files, there may be some Microsoft files that you want to edit without having to download and open them in their native applications.

How to edit Microsoft Office files in Google Drive

This post is about editing native Office files in Google Apps without converting them. Please keep in mind that the formatting will be shaky! But it’s nice to have this ability when you need it.

How to edit Microsoft Office files in Google Drive

Supported files

I wish I could say that all Microsoft files could be edited from Google Drive, but there are only three, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The following Office file types are supported:

  • Word files: .doc, .docx, .dot
  • Excel files: .xls, .xlsx, .xlsm (macro-compatible Excel files), .xlt
  • PowerPoint files: .ppt, .pptx, .pps, .pot

Note: If you edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents that are older than Office 2007, files are saved in a newer format when you edit them with Office Editing.

See this page for more information on using this feature.

10. How to access Google files offline

Sometimes we have to work on our Google Drive files when we don’t have an internet connection. So I’ll show you how to use the Google Docs offline extension to access files in Google Drive.

This is useful when you are on the go.

It is also a great tool for students and teachers with limited or no home internet access.

This process varies depending on the device.

This is NOT the same as backup and sync, where ALL your files are stored on your local hard drive. This method shows you how to select individual files that you want to make available for offline access.

If you are not connected to the Internet, you can still view and edit files, including:

  • Google documents
  • Google Sheets
  • Google slides

Save and open Google Docs offline

Before you enable offline access

  • You must be connected to the internet.
  • You have to use that Google Chrome Browser.
  • Do not use private surfing (incognito).
  • Install and turn on Google Docs Offline Chrome extension.
  • Make sure there is enough space on your device to store your files.

Open Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline

  1. Open Chrome. Make sure you are signed in to Chrome.
  2. Go to
  3. Check the box next to “Sync Google Docs, sheets, slides, and drawings with this computer so you can edit offline.”

Using #GoogleDrive Offline

Save Google Docs, Slides, and Slides for offline use

  1. Go to your computer
  2. Right-click the Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides file you want to save offline.
  3. Activate “Available offline”.

To save multiple files offline, press shift or command (Mac) /Ctrl (Windows) while clicking other files.

How to access files in Google Drive offline

Preview offline files

  1. Go to your computer
    • Make sure you enable offline access first.
  2. Click Ready for Offline in the upper right Ready for offline .
  3. click Offline preview.

How to access files in Google Drive offline

More information about offline access and how it works on mobile devices can be found in this article.

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