What is Google Docs?

What you need to know about the popular editing system

Using Google Docs on laptop

Google Docs is a word processing program that you use in a web browser. Google Docs is similar to Microsoft Word and can be used for free by anyone who has a Google account (if you have Gmail, you already have a Google account).

Google Docs is part of Google's office-style apps which Google calls Google Drive.

Because the program is browser-based, Google Docs can be accessed anywhere in the world without having to install the program on your computer. As long as you have an internet connection and a fully-featured browser, you have access to Google Docs.

What do I need to use Google Docs?

You only need two things to use Google Docs: A web browser that is connected to the Internet and a Google account.

Is it only for PCs or can Mac users use it?

Google Docs can be used by any device with a full-featured browser. That means any Windows-based, Mac-based, or Linux-based computer can use it. Android and iOS have their own apps in their respective app stores.

Can I only write documents in Google Docs?

Yes, Google Docs is just for creating and editing documents. Google Sheets is for creating spreadsheets (like Microsoft Excel) and Google Slides is for presentations (like Microsoft PowerPoint).

Can you add Word documents to Google Drive?

Yes, if someone sends you a Microsoft Word document, you can upload it to Google Drive and open it in Docs. Once you’re finished, you can even download the document back in Microsoft Word format. In fact, you can upload virtually any text-based file to Google Drive and edit it with Google Docs.

Why not just use Microsoft Word?

Despite Microsoft Word having more features than Google Docs, there are several reasons why users may want to use Google’s word processor. One is cost. Because Google Drive is free, it's hard to beat. Another reason is everything is stored in the cloud. That means you don’t have to be tied to a single computer or carry around a USB stick to access your files. Finally, Google Docs also makes it incredibly easy for groups of people to work on the same document at once without having to worry about which version of the file is the most up to date.

Google Docs Embraces the Web

Unlike Microsoft Word, Google Docs lets you link between documents. Let’s say you’re writing a paper and want to reference something that you have previously written about in a separate document. Rather than having to repeat yourself, you can add a URL link to that document. When you or someone else clicks on that link, the referencing document is opened in a separate window.

Should I be concerned about privacy?

In short, no. Google assures users that it keeps all data private unless you choose to share documents with other people. Google has also said that its most popular product, Google Search, will not read or scan Google Docs or anything saved on Google Drive.