On June 23rd I decided that all my original writing would be done in Google Drive. I had tried desktop based, minimal writing environments, but nothing was a great fit. Jamie Rubin writes about not only the good things that Evernote can do, but also why he writes in Google Docs. His ideas got me started and here are five reasons I write everything in Google Docs.
There are some great writing scripts available
This was the catalyst for my writing switch to Docs. Jamie Rubin has created an open source collection of code that tracks word count in Google Docs. I don’t know how exactly I’m using this data – besides cool charts like this one – but it helps to see that I’m writing each day and I know that like someone carving from a block of stone, I too am whittling away toward a final project.
I learned the important keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are built into any computer program, but my experience grading paper gave me a lot of repetitions to practice and learn important shortcuts. Some weeks I was grading 100+ pages of written work and I learned how to insert comments, bold fonts, and format lists. Much of this work was done in Google Docs so when I was experimenting with writing software, I already knew a bit about the commands.
Beside basic formatting, Google Docs also lets you look up word definitions with a command (ctrl + shift +y). The fewer internet tabs I have open, the better my writing goes. Plus there is the mighty ctrl + k for links.
Google Docs has built in link searching
I’m often linking to things I’ve read, and the built in link searching makes it easy to add a link and keep writing. The keyboard shortcut, ctrl + k, while text is highlighted brings up a search box that acts like any Google search box. In the image below I wanted to find the How I Work interview with Ira Glass on Lifehacker. This is especially handy lately because computer has been running slower and getting the link without visiting the site saves me time.
Google Docs allows collaboration
This is one of the main features Google touts, and while I use it infrequently it’s incredible that this is a relatively new feature. In that Ira Glass interview he says, “This American Life runs on Google Docs. Before Google Docs existed, those rare times I met software engineers, I’d ask them to please create software so two people in different locations could edit a document together online. God bless Google Docs.” I don’t use it often, but like cruise control in my car, it’s quite handy when I need it.
Google Docs lets me write when traveling
For a while I was taking my laptop on every overnight trip our family embarked on. It made me feel over prepared. Now I travel with only my phone and a Bluetooth keyboard. It seems odd, opening the Google Docs app and typing away on a keyboard four times the size of my screen, but it’s more convenient than my laptop with its own charging cord and bag. Having the app on my phone also means that I can outline a post during some grout time so that I’m ready for writing.
Google Docs lets me recover my writing
Even though I write everything in Docs, nothing I publish happens on the Google system. I publish on WordPress, CreateSpace, Medium and other places. This means that my backups are diversified from the sources. Two weeks ago I needed this because a site was changing their publishing system and some work I had uploaded was either gone or hard to find. Being able to log in to Docs and email the files was easy.
That’s why I use Google Docs to write. It has all the basic elements I need, and enough bell and whistle features to make it a bit more helpful. If you have any writing or Google Docs tips let me know in the comments, or on Twitter, @MikeDariano.