Google Docs is a very popular word processor. It forever changed the way people write, take notes, and collaborate on a single document. Microsoft Word was always there but in a very limited fashion. Plus, it was never free. Google offers its office suite of apps for free. What’s more? Documents you create are not even counted towards the 15GB free storage you get with Google Drive. Sweet. Where Google Docs really shines is the collaboration part. People are increasingly using the chat feature now to communicate right inside Docs instead of using a 3rd party chat app like Skype or Hangouts or other business chat apps like Slack.
Why? Good question. Let’s see why people, and especially teens, are increasingly using Google Docs to chat with others and how you can do it too in a way that is productive, quick, and easy.
Why Use Google Docs Chat to Chat
Picture this. You are working on a school or office project, inside a document. You need help. You ask your colleague or friend to join Google Docs. To do so, you quickly send him/her an email invite and now he is online. Both of you are now working on the same document but your chain of thoughts are not matching. Instead of using Slack or some other chat app, which you will have to open in a new window, you can chat in Google Docs to communicate in the same tab.
This is a time saver and allows users to be quick and more productive without leaving the document. Drawing attention to different parts of the document is even easier. You can select words or phrases and add a comment to it for others to read. Comments, together with live chat, make Google Docs one of the best apps to chat and collaborate.
Google Docs Chat
Open a Google Doc if you don’t have one already have open. It doesn’t matter how many users are collaborating on the document, you can send a chat message to everyone at once. Google Docs can be used for open group communication which makes it that much powerful.
To initiate a chat, just click on the name of any person to open a new chat window.
You can now chat with the person live without leaving the document at all. As you can see, this can be a real time saver and reduces the need to depend on another dedicated chat or messenger app.
Here are a few things that you need to know about Google Docs’ chat feature.
- You can see the chat option only when more than one person is active in the document. Otherwise, the chat feature will remain invisible.
- You can chat in real time, however, you cannot send or attach files using that feature. I guess Google wants you to use Drive for that. I think it would have been cool if you could attach files using the chat feature that would be shared via Drive servers. That way, you are still part of the Google ecosystem. Maybe, this feature will be added in the future.
- Even if you close the chat window, you will still continue to receive messages in the background from other users who are still participating. You will see them all the next time you open the chat window.
- You will see a red dot near the chat bubble at the top if there are unread messages. This red dot will appear even in the document is open but the chat window is closed.
- You will remain part of the chat as long as you are part of the document itself. They are treated as one by Google. So the moment you accept the invite to a Google Doc, you will be added to chat if there is one open.
- If the Google document is publicly shared, everyone who has received an email invite can view and participate in the chat. Note that anonymous animals (users) who can view the document because they received a public link to the doc but were not personally invited via email will not see the chat window or the messages within.
- If you log off or close the Google Doc, you will stop receiving chat messages. All those messages that were sent when you were logged off will not be visible to you when you log back in. This implies that chat messages are not saved anywhere but happens in real time all the same.
- There is no way to export chat sessions or save chat messages for future references. The only way to save them is by either taking screenshots which can be cumbersome, to say the least. or, you can select the chat window, press Ctrl+A on your keyboard to select all the text messages and copy it. You can then save it anywhere like a notepad file or something.
- The chat in Google Docs is also available for mobile users of the service. There are no extra steps involved here.
- The chat feature is only available to users who are 13 years of age or more. Google will determine this from your Gmail or Google profile.
- If you can’t see the chat window, it is also possible that the admin has either removed you from the document or has disabled the chat feature altogether from the settings. This is only possible for GSuite users at the moment.
- This is a group chat feature which means you cannot chat with individual collaborators in separate chat windows.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the chat disappeared the moment my colleague went offline and came back. This is one of the inherent limitations of chatting in Google Docs.
Using Speech to Text Feature in Google Docs to Chat
Another feature that Google Docs chat comes with is speech to text. You can use your voice to send messages and communicate. This can be a time saver if your hands are busy doing something else. Like taking care of research. Here are a few things to keep in mind before we see how to enable this feature and use it.
- Speech to text is only available for laptop or desktop users. Though smartphones do support this feature and even Google Assistant accepts voice commands, somehow, chat in Google Docs on mobile skips this feature
- You will need a working microphone to use this feature
How to Enable Voice typing?
Open Google Docs in a browser of your choice. I prefer Chrome. Open the document in which you want to chat. Make sure there is at least one collaborator online before you begin the chat. Otherwise, it will not work as noted before. Now select Tools from the menu above and click on Voice typing.
You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+S to enable or disable it. You should now see a microphone icon on the left. You will now click on it before speaking.
You can set your preferred language using the drop-down menu above the mic icon. This will convert your speech using the correct dialect as there are subtle differences between say, English US and English UK. The microphone popup can be moved anywhere on the screen if you think it is coming in the way of the document.
Noticed the dotted line under the new sentence? That denotes that the sentence was typed using voice typing, to distinguish it from text typed using the keyboard. Did you notice the lack of punctuation? You will have to say them as well. For example, speak ‘comma’ if you want to insert it.
Here are some common punctuation commands you can use. The list is not exhaustive.
- question mark
- new para
- full stop
- new line
These should be enough to get you started. You can reach ‘voice typing help’ by speaking the same command.
Google Docs Chat Feature
The Google Docs chat feature is a casual one which is apparent from the number of features that are missing from the roaster. There is no way to attach files, export conversations, and if you leave the chat window, you won’t see past messages. Nonetheless, it is of great value to those who are collaborating on a single document. Real-time chat while working together can remove possibilities of errors from the equation. My only irk is that I can’t share files even though Docs is part of the Drive ecosystem.