Word processors were once a software that would allow you to type words, edit them minimally, and then save the document in a suitable format. Some of the earliest word processing software were Tasword, Wordstar (which George RR Martin still uses), Applewriter, etc. Today, we look into how Google Docs for writers is the best choice.
Today, the choice of your word processor can be based just on the aesthetics of the software. The number of choices has increased so much that it has made the writing process inefficient. So what should you choose? Instead of looking at hundreds of reviews, I’d recommend you try Google Docs once.
This recommendation for Google Docs is not coming from someone who used Docs once and is now playing the praise flute. I will elaborate on my experience of trying a plethora of writing software and I’ll mention why Google Docs is superior on specific terms. Also, I am not being sponsored by Google to write this in any way (although I wish I was).
The other word processing software
Before coming on Google Docs, I used all the available word processors, for both macOS and Windows. I have a Macbook Pro and an HP laptop, although Macbook is my daily driver.
So the software that I have used and not just tried are Apple’s Pages, Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Bear, Focuswriter, WPS Office, Ulysses, Scrivener, and Notion. There are some others such as Corel word processor and such. I haven’t tried it, so feel free to do so.
I will use a few parameters to draw the contrast (or resemblance) between Google Docs and other software. These parameters will also serve as the advantages of using Google Docs. The shortcomings will be addressed in a separate section at the end.
These are the advantages of using Google Docs. Many other word processors come close (or even beat) Google Docs in these criteria, but Docs is more of an overall package. Here are the advantages:
- Ease of use
- Cross compatibility
- Documents organization
Ease of use
The reason I put ease of use on top of the pile is because of how convenient and clean Google docs is. I am writing this section of the article using my phone.
As you open the site (or the app), you are greeted with a clean, white space for you to write. The tools are all placed on the top (and top and bottom for phones). The interface feels a lot like Microsoft word and everything is easy to understand.
The learning curve
The best thing about Google docs is the shallow learning curve. You don’t need to keep using it for weeks to get used to the knicks and knacks.
There are other apps with similar learning curves such as Microsoft Word, Pages, etc. But I feel Google does it better.
The opposite of the learning curve comes to the usual suspects; Ulysses, and Scrivener. Usual because this software is designed to write drafts for novels, scripts, etc. The word count goes beyond 50,000 words. So, of course, it will be a bit complicated.
I’d recommend going for these two if you want to write the next bestseller or a vampire fanfiction. I prefer Scrivener as it is feature-rich and they give 30-days free trial for you to learn the basics. But both of them are usable on a monthly subscription basis.
You can also use Google Docs for writing length drafts. I’ll explain how in the latter section. Now let’s move to the features.
I am not the kind of writer who needs everything in a word processor. I don’t want a separate section for research, one section for watching videos, one section that accesses the Pentagon for classified documents.
It’s not that I don’t want it, I just find most of the USPs of many word processors unnecessary.
I need the least amount of distraction while I think and least amount of disruption when I write, and most of the authors, including Patrick Rothfuss and Stephen King agree to that.
Google docs have many features, but they are conveniently hidden and can be summoned when needed. But Word and OneNote offer the same features. Most of the word processors are very similar in terms of features. What makes Google Docs better? The same reason Apple products are preferred over other brands; The ecosystem.
If you are reading this by accessing the internet, wherever in the world you may be, you must have used Google’s services. I get surprised when someone tells me their email ID that does not have @gmail.com. The point is, Google is present almost everywhere, even in Apple’s devices.
Being in the Google ecosystem is great for using Google Docs. First, you get free 15 GB of storage for the documents in your Google Drive. Upgrading is also very cheap. What’s great is on the right-sidebar of Docs.
The sidebar has three options; Google Keep for all your digital post-it notes, Google Calendar to access all important reminders and events, and finally, Google Tasks which has all your tasks. All these are synced with your Google account. How convenient.
Another great thing for me was the automatic headings. Here’s how it works; you type a paragraph and then switch to another. But if you make a single sentence as a separate paragraph and either change the size of the fonts or make it bold, it automatically registers it as a sub-heading. You can remove it if you want but having a list of all the sub-headings on the side and being able to jump to that section with just a click makes the writing process highly efficient.
Google Docs Add-ons
One great feature that makes Google Docs great is Add-ons. This is a feature where you can add plug-ins that enhance your productivity. There are thousands of these add-ons ranging from charts and graphs to correct grammatical errors.
To elucidate all the advantages of different add-ons, I’ll have to write a separate article. Keeping things short and simple here, I have add-ons like EasyBib which lets me import bibliography from thousands of books, journals, etc.
I also have a word cloud generator that lets me have a deeper insight into my article. You can download multiple plug-ins that will help you with the process of writing. There’s also Grammarly integration with Docs, making it easier to polish your documents.
Do note – Many of these add-ons are freemium, meaning some features work while others need subscription or payment. Also, these plug-ins ask for access to your Google account. So be careful.
This is the only feature that made me switch. The best thing about Google Docs is the cross-compatibility and the ability to access it anywhere, with any device. I know that many other software programs offer cloud storage and multiple device support but serve it as a privilege that must be bought with money. Google doesn’t.
Evernote can be accessed on only two devices and there is an upload limit of around 60 MB/day if I remember correctly. Want more? Pay up. Bear is a beautiful app, but you have to pay subscription fees to access it on any other device. This means there’s no cloud storage in the free plan.
Word, WPS Office, Pages, and OneNote come very close to cross-compatibility with access to multiple devices and OneDrive storage for free. But again, the apps must be downloaded on the device if you want to use it. Apple’s Pages is just available for macOS and documents can be accessed via iCloud storage (5GB free). And this is where Google Docs takes the cake.
Accessing Docs is very easy. All you need is a browser on your laptop or PC or Mac or Macbook or download the app on the phone for free. Log in and start writing.
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Switching from one device to another can be a hindrance to your productivity. Cloud storage and syncing are great, but what other programs lack is seamlessness.
From using Docs on my smartphone to walking to my home office and opening Docs on my iMac and seeing everything updated is a blessing for productivity.
Pages takes a few seconds before syncing and showing the documents over iCloud and the same with Word. Sync is also available in Scrivener and Ulysses. No sync in the free version of Bear and Evernote is what I want to talk about.
Evernote has the worst syncing performance out of all these services. I had to repeatedly click on the sync button over and over because there were some missing documents. I had about 200-250 documents, no images or anything. It was all below 30 MB and yet it took me 20 minutes of mental stress and haphazard clicking. The short story was made even shorter; it was not productive.
Google Docs is estimated to have 500-HP. Kidding, here power refers to the software’s ability to manage large documents filled with charts and graphs and media files ranging from audio to video. And Docs does that easily.
I have written documents ranging from 300 words to 7,000 words and I did not feel anything obtrusive. Everything worked fluently. At around 5,000 and 6,000 words mark, I did experience minor hiccups. This was an increased latency of keystroke registration, but it only happened once or twice, probably because of fluctuating internet speeds and latency.
Docs is very close to Microsoft Word. One could say they are the same software with a different theme and shuffled icons. Anything that Word can do, Docs can do too, for free.
Other than that, there are all the bells and whistles you need for your document editing and stylizing. There’s support for a lot of fonts and more can be added from Google Fonts.
Comments can be added, as well as footnotes which makes editing documents later very easy and efficient.
You can insert tables, charts, images, videos, line spacers, header, footer, links, table of content, etc. I am not gonna go into the details because this is focused on writers of articles, fiction, and nonfiction. So I highly doubt you’ll need equations for your work of fiction.
Tools of Google Docs
There are a ton of great features in Docs that aid you in your writing process. It’s not just limited to the nagging auto-correct and auto-suggest feature (which can be turned off). Some I found gimmicky, some were useful and all of them were great to have at your disposal.
There are spelling and grammar features, word count (character count, pages, characters excluding spaces), etc. What’s great is the inbuilt dictionary and explorer. This gives you not only the meaning of the word but lets you do a Google search for that word. Google ecosystem folks.
There are preference options for substitution and general. I’ll add an image for you to look at it. Add image. There’s also the script editor which I know no writer will use, hence it falls under the gimmick section for me.
There’s also an option for translating the entire document using Google Translate. But Google Translate needs a bit of polishing. Goes into the gimmick department.
The voice typing feature felt like a gimmick at first, but not after I tried it. Find it for yourself because this paragraph that I am writing has been completed using voice typing feature and I’m not talking slowly so that the system can understand I am talking with my regular place and if there are going to be any mistakes in this paragraph and not need to correct them just so that you can get an idea of how accurate is this voice typing features is.– The author of this article. A very handsome man.
There are a few mistakes in the paragraph and the voice typing feature is not perfect, but there was a lot of noise around and I used my iMac’s microphone. Voice typing is fairly useful, but you won’t find yourself using it all the time.
When dealing with a lot of writing, you will have a lot of documents that need organization. I write both articles and novels. Articles range from multiple topics and I need everything well organized. This was something that I wasn’t getting while using Apple Pages. All documents just scattered here and there and I had to manually place them in folders to sort them. This was a problem.
This is where Google Docs does not hold the top place. Evernote takes that place because it is so good at organizing documents. Make notebooks and keep all your notes there. Easily accessible and clean to look at.
What I don’t like about Docs is that it lacks a sorting system in its native UI. You can create folders and move your documents on them but that is stored in the drive. You can access the folders from Docs homepage, but there’s still a pile of unrelated documents sorted either by alphabetical order or last modified.
I would have loved having a folders view in Docs homepage to access the document I wanted. This is the complaint I have. Evernote does it best, but the God-awful word processor interface it has keeps me from using it. So I use Evernote as a filing cabinet.
This section merges well with the section above. However, it focuses on where and how much space you get in the cyber world. Google gives you 15 GB free storage to use and if you take just 5 GB off it for Docs, you won’t have to upgrade for the next 2-3 years.
Since I use Google Drive as my primary cloud storage, having an upgraded plan of 200 GB, there is no storage-related problem at all.
Apple gives 5 GB of iCloud storage but this also includes other files such as photos and videos. You can choose it just for documents. Upgrading on iCloud is a bit more expensive than Drive, but it’s negligible.
What’s not negligible is cross-compatibility. iCloud is exclusive for Apple, while Drive can be accessed everywhere. So that’s a plus point.
What I Don’t like
As mentioned before, I don’t like how the documents are organized in the Google Docs interface. You can put these documents in separate folders, but that is done in the Drive. There is no way of making folders and keeping all the files organized. It makes me feel like Docs is a subsidiary of Drive, not a service on itself. I hope It’s not much of an inconvenience, but it is one nevertheless.
The other minor inconvenience I had was the lack of customizability of the interface. This is straight-up nitpicking, I’ll admit it. But here’s the thing, sometimes when I am writing a document at night, post 12 pm with a glass of apple juice and Smash Mouth playing in the background (don’t ask why. This isn’t the only weird thing I do), I want the canvas to turn dark and the texts white so it’s not the searing, bright light. But that can’t be done either.
Another tiny request is if Google can make a browser-based app for Docs for desktop and Mac, it would be nice. But it’s nothing that important. This concludes the list of things I don’t like about Docs. Do let me know if there are some which you don’t like.
After this long tooting of Google Docs, I can say this. Google Docs is a great software for writers writing anything, from novels to articles, from school reports to a research paper, from poetry to personal diary. It is easy to learn and use, powerful, and compatible with all devices that can access the internet (not smartwatches or e-readers but you get the point).
I started using it a few months back and I am in love with it. It has boosted my productivity by many folds. The ability to access my documents anywhere, even on my phone is great. While most people (including me) are not comfortable in writing important documents on phone, I find it much more convenient to proof-read my documents.
Long article short, Google Docs is great and can boost your productivity. So try using it for a week and you can see the results.