Google Docs, Meet Word

When editors work in Word, they have access to many customizable tools and advanced features that make their work more consistent and faster:

Import–Export Handshake

The good news is that Google Docs plays well with Word, now. The bad news is that this requires you to (and only works if you do) export the document into a Word file, work on it, and then re-upload it to Google Docs when you are done.

I’ve let a couple of my editing students use it (for reasons) and am thrilled to find that Google Docs now produces great markup of the Tracked Changes and Comments when it makes a Word file. It also maintains my markup and comments from Word when I reupload it to Google Docs!

I still do better, faster editing work by using all my macros, plug-ins, and dozens of other customized tools in Word, so this compatibility is very hopeful news.

Markup Using Google Docs

The Suggesting feature in Google Docs marks up text much like Word does with Track Changes and Comments. The reason you want to use this is not only so that the changes stand out for review and can be easily accepted or rejected and so that comments are easy to find. More importantly, by leaving “suggestions” and tracked changes, you avoid having your comments and other infelicities end up in the final product because someone missed deleting them! This has happened many times and it is always an enormous embarrassment as it’s shared widely across the internet.

In Google Docs, click on the speech bubble icon at the top right of the screen. This opens the small menu shown in the image below. Click the Suggesting option to turn on the tracking mode. Then, type additions and delete text without further concern—they will be tracked. Add comments by clicking the speech bubble icon with the plus—the one just to the left of the pop-down menu in the example below.


A dummied-up example of the “Suggesting” markup used in Google Docs. Additions appear in green and deletions are crossed out with a green line. Comments appear in the margin alongside a bubble for each text change.

Troubleshooting

Do not let the writer keep working on the Google Doc while you are editing in Word. These are now two separate versions of the file—the on in GDocs and yours in Word—and their changes will not be incorporated into your edits. You’ll be uploading a new version, separately, since you can’t upload–convert into an existing Google Doc. Ideally, you will lock the old Google Doc from further changes.

At minimum, add in a very large, colourful font at the top of the original Google Doc reading: DEAD FILE. Changing the colour and font family of the body content would also give visual signals that it is not the file to work on. Also change the doc’s name to include the words dead file.

While you might be frustrated by the seemingly endless updates (changes) to Microsoft products, Google Docs updates even more often. So what I say here may be out of date by the time you read it. So far, Google Docs keeps getting better and more functional. So let’s hope that’s what you find.

Styles and internal cross-references do not get carried over elegantly from Word to Google Docs. Just be aware of this, and plan on fixing the flubs in production/layout.

Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing recently described her method of editing in Google Docs and limiting the pitfalls of working in a live document within GDocs, separate from Word. Check out her advice.

book cover cropped to banner size
For more details on using track changes and everything else mentioned in this post, check out the enhanced self-study workbook.


Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the new Q&A thread.


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