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Workplace Software and Skills

4.5 Working with Graphics and Text Tools in Google Docs

Workplace Software and Skills4.5 Working with Graphics and Text Tools in Google Docs

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Insert special characters and equations
  • Insert and modify an image
  • Use the Google Drawings tool
  • Insert and modify a table

Google Docs has many of the same graphic-insertion tools as Microsoft Word, and often functions in a similar way. You can add tables, images, and WordArt, just like in Word. But Google also offers an embedded app called Google Drawings that lets the user have a little more freedom with designing charts and shapes. It is also seamlessly connected to Google Photos and Google Drive. This section will delve into these tools in more depth.

Inserting Special Characters and Equations

Docs has a way for the user to insert special, nonstandard characters and symbols directly into the text. In Docs, this function is accessible from the Insert menu. However, Google has some interesting functionality that Word doesn’t have, such as drawing symbols, a higher degree of searchability, and automatic replacement.

Special Characters and Symbols

From the Insert menu you can see Special characters, as shown in Figure 4.80. You can insert any of the characters you see on the first screen, just by selecting one in Figure 4.81. But you may need a character that doesn’t appear here. One way to find a character is to look by category. Choose the Symbol combo box on the left and select another category. Options are Punctuation, Numbers, other languages, and many other groups, as you can see in Figure 4.82. These are top-level collections of character types and include lots of special characters that are more than just symbols.

When you change the top-level collection to be, for instance, Emojis, the special character selections will change, as shown in Figure 4.83.

Insert is selected and opens to these options for selection: Image, Table, Drawing, Chart, Horizontal line, Emoji, Smart chips, Date, Dropdown, Footnote, Building blocks, Special characters, Equation, Watermark, and Headers & footers.
Figure 4.80 Special characters are inserted from the Insert menu. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
Insert special characters window displays buttons for Symbols and Arrows displaying various arrows. A blank search bar is available and a window with Draw a symbol here visible inside.
Figure 4.81 The special characters dialog box offers a number of different choices, as well as the option to draw a symbol or search by keyword. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
A pane lists options for Symbol, Emoji, Punctuation, Number, Format & Whitespace, Modifier, Latin, and various other Scripts. A screen displays a search bar and a Draw a symbol here pane.
Figure 4.82 When selected, the Symbol combo box opens up a long list of different categories. Each category has a different set of characters and symbols. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
Insert special characters window opens to tabs for Emoji and People and Emotions with a pane of images beneath. A search bar and window with Draw a symbol here are visible.
Figure 4.83 Here, the category selected from the combo box was Emoji. You can see that only emojis are shown in the main window. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

If you do not have time to look through the categories for a character, you can draw the character and Docs will search for one that looks similar to your drawing. If your character cannot be located through the drawing tool, you can type a description in the query box.

If you have symbols or special characters that you use frequently, then you could add these symbols to the Automatic substitution roster. This roster allows you to quickly and easily add in a symbol or special character without having to access the Special Characters menu. For example, whenever you type the word “pi,” Docs will substitute the pi symbol for the word.

The Automatic substitution tool is in the Tools menu, under Preferences. In the dialog box that appears, select the Substitutions tab and add in your custom substitution, as Figure 4.84 shows.

A Preferences window displays tabs for General and Substitutions. Options available in Substitutions include Automatic substitution, and Replace and With columns (with checkmarks and x’s).
Figure 4.84 Adding symbols to the Automatic substitution tool can make it easier to insert frequently used special characters. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)


If you want to insert math notation or equations, go to the Insert menu and navigate to the Equation command, as shown in Figure 4.85. As you do, the Equation toolbar will appear directly below the main toolbar. From there, you can access the different groups of mathematical operations, brackets, Greek letters, and other math notation. This toolbar allows you to write custom math equations.

(a) Insert is selected and lists a selected Equation option. (b) A new equation bar displays options for Greek letters, Miscellaneous operations, Relations, Math operations and arrows.
Figure 4.85 Use the Insert menu (a) to access the Equation toolbar. This toolbar (b) has an easy-to-use interface for inserting mathematical notation, such as Greek letters. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Inserting an Image

Docs has a few more interactive options than Word when it comes to inserting images. Because Docs is a Google product and you are typically online when you are using it, there are some integrations with other Google services, like Photos and Drive, that make inserting your own images easy. First, go to the Insert menu, and select Image. As seen in Figure 4.86, you have a number of different options: You can choose to get the image from your computer, do a Google Image search, insert a photo from your Drive or your Photos account, type in a web address where the image is located, or insert an image from the camera on your laptop/tablet/smartphone. This huge array of options allows for a lot of personalization. Keep in mind copyright protections for images that you might find on the internet. Be sure to cite properly when using images that are copyrighted.

Insert opens to an Image option which opens to options for Upload from computer, Search the web (selected), Drive, Photos, by URL, and Camera.
Figure 4.86 Docs features many different, integrated ways of inserting images into your Doc. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Let’s revisit the market trends report and insert an image of a world map that you can use to show where WorldCorp’s major markets are located. First, place the cursor where you would like the image inserted. You will insert the image at the end of the Industry and Market Analysis section, so you will want to place your cursor at the beginning of the next blank line. Go to the Insert menu and choose Search the web, as shown in Figure 4.87. Select the image you like and click Insert (Figure 4.88).

A document is visible on the left side. The words world map are typed into the Search Bar and images of world maps can be seen below with one selected.
Figure 4.87 When you select Search the web, a navigation pane will open on the right side of the screen. Use descriptive search terms to get a narrower result for what you need. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
In the Google Doc, an image of the world map selected is visible in the document right after a paragraph.
Figure 4.88 The image will be inserted at the location of your cursor in the document. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

If you want to edit the image, simply select it with your cursor; Docs gives the user many ways and options for modification. You will first notice that when you have the image selected, a small toolbar will appear below the image. From here, you have options for text wrapping, sizing, and rotating, as Figure 4.89 presents. If you want even more configuration options, choose Image Options from the action bar, and a sidebar will appear. From here, you can modify all the above options with more detail, such as specific margin sizes. The action bar now displays, on the right side, tools for accessing image borders, cropping the image, and replacing the image.

Map image is inserted into document. Image options button on Action Bar. Options available for editing include Add comment, Suggest edits, Text (In line, Wrap, Break, Behind, In front of, Image options).
Figure 4.89 Select Image options from the action bar when the image is selected for additional formatting options. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Using the Google Drawing Tool

Google’s Drawing tool is an interactive tool that allows the user to create custom shapes and insert preset shapes. Drawings is its own application that can be accessed either by going to Google Drawings or through applications such as Docs. You can create drawings and save them to your Drive. Creating custom shapes or drawings can be particularly useful if you want to insert a specific shape or combination of shapes that isn’t available in the roster of preset shapes. The Drawing app also gives the user the option to insert standard preset shapes or WordArt.

Creating and Modifying Custom Drawings

To create a new drawing, go to the Insert menu and select Drawing. Docs will open a dialog box to another app called Drawings, as shown in Figure 4.90. Through the interface, you can add straight lines, curved lines, WordArt, freehand drawings, and more. This can be a particularly useful tool if you are working on a computer with a trackpad or touch screen. You can also change the color and thickness of the lines in your drawing. When you are finished with the drawing, just select Save and Close, and your drawing will appear in your Doc where your cursor is. You can change the position of the object by aligning it using the action bar align tools, or you can resize it by using the mouse over the edges of the object (Figure 4.91).

Drawing pane is visible with options for Actions drop-down, Undo, Redo, Paint Format, Zoom, Select, Polyline, Shape, Text Box, Image, and Format Options. A tulip is drawn sideways in the window.
Figure 4.90 Drawings gives you many options for formatting text and adding shapes to visually enhance your document. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
A selected image of a tulip is drawn sideways in a window. Action Bar items include Editing, placement of the image, margins, and Move with text.
Figure 4.91 Once you insert the drawing into your document, you have further options for placement and sizing. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

If you want to insert an existing drawing, you need to have uploaded it first to Drive, as Figure 4.92 shows. To do this, go to the Insert menu, choose Drawing, then From Drive. You will then have to locate the item in your Drive and choose whether you want to Link to source or Insert unlinked. Link to source means that you are creating a live link from your original Drawing in your Drive, so that your drawing will be automatically updated if you change the original drawing. Insert unlinked means that you are inserting a static copy of your drawing into your current Doc.

An Insert drawing pane displays options for Link to source (Only editors can update the drawing. Collaborators can see a link to the source.) and Insert unlinked.
Figure 4.92 You can link the drawing to the original file, then it will update if you change the Drawings file. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Inserting Shapes

When you are creating new drawings, you might instead want to use the preset shapes. Drawings has numerous arrows, circles, squares, callouts, equations, and more, which you can select and add via the Drawing app, as shown in Figure 4.93. While on the canvas, these can be resized and modified in numerous ways.

Drawings also has other commands, such as adding lines and text boxes, the fill paint bucket, line width controls, and font color and type modifications (plus all the standard font formatting commands)—all accessible from the Drawing app toolbar, as shown in Figure 4.94. For the market trends report, your supervisor has asked that you create a graphic to show the flow of the report from department to department. The report will originate with the marketing department, then move to the finance department, and finally to the operations department. We can use Drawings to construct such a process flowchart. It is worth noting that in Docs, you need to construct your process flowchart manually, piece by piece, whereas in Word, you can use the preset SmartArt charts and shapes to create one. This means that creating graphics such as flowcharts and organizational charts is a bit more labor-intensive in Docs than it is in Word. You will learn more about this in the section on Inserting Charts.

To create your process flowchart, you first need to insert three rectangular shapes, one for each step in the process (i.e., each of the departments). Then, you will need two arrows and three text boxes. To speed up the process, you can copy the shape you inserted and then paste it in the Drawings window. This works for lines and text boxes as well. Let’s change the fill color to a darker blue so that it is in line with the WorldCorp brand. From the tool menu, select Shape (to insert the rectangles) and Line (to insert the arrows). As you are lining up the images, Drawings will give you red guidelines to show when the images are in line with each other.

(a) Shapes is selected on Drawing pane and opens various selectable shapes. (b) Drawing pane displays three blue boxes connected by black lines. A Text box is inserted in the first box.
Figure 4.93 Docs gives you many different shapes options to work with (a), which can come in handy when creating your own custom flowcharts (b). (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)
In Drawing pane, Fill color is selected and opens to a Solid tab with a display of colors. The first box in the Drawing pane is now a dark blue color.
Figure 4.94 You can make the fill color disappear by using the Transparent option. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Inserting WordArt

Google’s WordArt feature is similar to the one in Word: It is a way to add stylized text to your document. In Google, this feature is available through the Drawing app. When you are in the Drawing app, go to the Actions drop-down menu and select WordArt. A small box will appear, in which you type your text. If you want to change the color, font type, transparency, borders, and other elements, you can do so using the Drawings toolbar commands. Press Enter to finish (see Figure 4.95).

Actions is selected in Drawing and opens to options for See version history, Download, Word art, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Duplicate. A pane displays the word World in blue, large font.
Figure 4.95 In Docs, WordArt is part of the Drawings app. You can apply all the same formatting as you would to a shape or custom drawing. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

Inserting Charts

Drawings has many shapes and connectors so that you can build your organizational charts or flowcharts from scratch. Unlike Word, which comes with the SmartArt options for preset flowcharts, organizational charts, and more, Docs requires that you make your own charts. This can, however, lead to more customization and personalization of the shapes and types of charts you can make in Docs. You can see in Figure 4.96 how to create an organizational chart from scratch by adding boxes, filling them with a light blue color, and connecting them with lines. This is just like the simple process flowchart we made in the section on Inserting Shapes, except the boxes are arranged a little differently.

In a drawing pane, a hierarchy chart displays with one box at the top and two rows of three boxes across beneath. All the boxes are connected downward from the top box.
Figure 4.96 There are ways to make hierarchy charts in Drawings using both shapes and lines to connect the levels. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)


Inserting and modifying tables in Docs is similar to the same process in Word. To add a table, go to the Insert menu, navigate to Table, and hover your cursor over the number of rows and columns you want, as shown in Figure 4.97.

Insert opens to a Table option which opens to Table templates as well as a grid option to select a table up to 20 x 20 cells.
Figure 4.97 The maximum number of columns and rows in a table is 20 x 20. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

From this menu, the maximum width and length of a table is 20 x 20 cells, but you can add more columns and rows later by using the Insert column left/right or Insert row above/below tools, as shown in Figure 4.98. This menu is accessed by right-clicking when your cursor is anywhere in the table. You may also merge cells by selecting the cells and right-clicking to show the context menu and choosing Merge cells. This functionality is useful when you want to merge cells in the top row to create a header row, for example. If you want to delete a row or column, simply select it and right-click to Delete column or Delete row. The same process works for deleting the whole table: Select it, right-click, and choose Delete table.

A pane lists options for adjusting a table: Cut, Copy, Paste, Paste without formatting, Delete, Insert row above, Insert row below, Insert column left, Insert column right, Delete row, etc.
Figure 4.98 Right-clicking anywhere within the table gives you many options for adjusting your table. The menu makes it easy to add, delete, or alter existing rows and columns. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

As for applying formatting changes within the table, you can select the cells to format and use the action bar to change the borders and the background color, as shown in Figure 4.99.

An 8 x 2 section of a larger table is filled in with a teal color. Background color is selected and displays Transparent, colors, and Custom options for selection.
Figure 4.99 Using the Background color tool allows you to fill certain table cells with a specific color. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

You can change the size of the table by selecting it and right-clicking on it to show the context menu, and selecting Table properties. The Table properties dialog box (see Figure 4.100) is where you can change the dimensions of the rows and columns (by setting a set width or height in inches), table alignment within the page, cell text alignment, cell padding, and more.

Outside of this dialog box, you can make some changes manually. For instance, you may change an individual column or row height or width by dragging the borders of cells; the mouse pointer will change shape to a two-arrow cursor. You can also make all rows and/or columns the same size by selecting the whole table and right-clicking it, then selecting Distribute rows or Distribute columns.

A table is visible. A Table properties pane listing options: Row (Minimum row height, Pin header row(s), Allow row to overflow across page), Column (Column width), Alignment, and Color.
Figure 4.100 Docs offers limited options for table formatting. (Google Docs is a trademark of Google LLC.)

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