Sunday, May 15, 2016

12 Excellent Add-ons for Google Docs

Google Docs is a powerful word processing program with many unique features including voice typing, the research tool, revision history, web fonts, and much more. However, Google knows that even with all of those features, Docs may not be able to do everything you want it to do. So Google Docs allows you to install Add-ons to extend the capabilities of the program.

Add-ons are third-party tools that provide extra features for Docs. Over time the amount of available Add-ons has grown tremendously. There are currently 179 Add-ons for Google Docs (as of the writing of this post).

So how do you wade through all of the available Add-ons to find the best ones and the hidden gems? To help out I have collected a list of 12 of my favorite Add-ons for Docs. Certainly this is not a comprehensive list, and there are other awesome Add-ons beyond my list, but these will give you a good place to start. Some of these Add-ons will likely be familiar to you, but hopefully you will find a few new ones or be encouraged to dig deeper into one you have tried before.

See below for my list of 12 recommended Docs Add-ons, what they do, ideas for how they can be used in schools, and a quick overview of how to install, use, and remove Add-ons.

How to install an Add-on

When you are using Google Documents, you will see that there is an Add-ons menu item in the top menu bar. You can click this menu item to access your installed Add-ons and to find new Add-ons. To install a new Add-on do the following:

  • Click the Add-on menu item in the top menu bar.
  • Click Get Add-ons from the drop-down menu.
  • This will open the Add-ons window.
  • You can scroll through the available Add-ons, or narrow down the choices with the filter menu, or type in a search term.

  • If you find an Add-on that looks interesting, you can click on it to get more details.
  • In the pop-up window you can read more about the Add-on, see images and/or videos, and see reviews and ratings.
  • If you decide to install an Add-on, click the blue +FREE button.
  • You will then get a pop-up window explaining what privileges the Add-on needs, and asking for your permission to install it.
  • Click the blue Accept button to allow the Add-on to install.

How to use installed Add-ons

Once you have installed an Add-on, it will show up in the drop-down menu when you click Add-ons in the top menu bar. To use an Add-on:

  • Click the Add-ons menu.
  • Click on the Add-on you want to use in the drop-down menu
  • A side menu will pop-up and will typically include a menu item to launch the Add-on.

How to remove installed Add-ons

If you decide you no longer need a particular Add-on, you can remove it easily.

  • Click the Add-ons menu item in the top menu bar.
  • Click Manage add-ons... from the drop-down menu.
  • This will open a pop-up window showing all your installed Add-ons.
  • Click the Manage button next to an Add-on, and then click Remove from the drop-down menu.
  • The Add-on will now be uninstalled.
  • If desired, you can always reinstall the Add-on again.

Recommended Add-ons for Google Documents

Below are 12 great Add-ons for schools, in no particular order, along with a short explanation on what they do and how they can be used in school.

1) Revision History Analytics
Google Docs Add-on link
Revision History is a powerful tool built into Google Docs that lets you see every change ever made to the document, who made the change, what the change was, and when it was made. This is a great way to view student progress when writing, detect plagiarism, evaluate group work, and more. As useful as Revision History is, it can even be made better with the Revision History Analytics Add-on. This tool collects all of the Revision History data and then create pie charts and tables showing data for each person who edited the Doc. These include totals for each person’s interactions, edits, comments, and words. It is a simple way to get a visual and numeric representation of how much each person contributed to the work. (for more ideas on using Revision History see my blog post here.)

2) SAS Writing Reviser
Google Docs Add-on link
It is always helpful to get a second set of eyes to look over your writing. This might include peer review, teacher feedback, or even a text to speech tool to hear your words read back aloud to you. One other helpful tool is the SAS Writing Reviser Add-on. When you run this tool you can choose from 25 different tests that will check over your document. These include tests in sentence economy, sentence variety, sentence power, sentence clarity, and more. This can be helpful to give students additional insight into their writing and some possible corrections or improvement they may make when revising.

3) Easy Accents
Google Docs Add-on link
Normally to insert accented characters into your Google Doc, you need to click “Insert” then “Special characters” then locate the character you need. Although that works fine, it can be a little time consuming, especially if you are writing in a world language with lots of accented characters. The Easy Accents Add-on provides you with quick access to accented characters in a variety of languages. First you chose the language you want (out of 22 available) and then a panel opens up on the right side of your Doc with a list of accented character from that language. Anytime you need one of those characters, simply click on it in the panel and it will be inserted into your Doc. (For more ideas on Google tools for world languages see my blog post here.)

4) g(Math)
Google Docs Add-on link
Another challenge for Google Docs is inserting mathematical expressions. Again you can use the built-in option by clicking “Insert” and then “Equation”. However there is another option that is easy to use while also offering more options. The g(Math) Add-on provides several easy-to-use options to add mathematical content to a Google Docs. With it you can add math expressions, graphs of equations, and statistical displays. The best part (in my opinion) is the handwriting entry option. You can simply use your mouse to write out your math expressions and g(Math) will recognize, convert, and insert it into your Doc.

5) Translate
Google Docs Add-on link
Google Docs already has a powerful translation feature built in. Simply click “Tools” and then “Translate document”. This makes a new copy of your document in the language of your choice. As useful as this is, what if you just need to translate a portion of your document, rather than making an entire new copy? The Translate Add-on will do the trick. Simply highlight the text you want to translate and then choose the language you want, including English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese. The Add-on will give you a translation of the selected text, which you can then insert into the current document. This can be a useful way to practice your writing in a world language, by converting your text to English to see how well you did. (For more ideas on Google tools for world languages see my blog post here.)

6) Highlight Tool
Google Docs Add-on link
Google Docs already provides an option to highlight text (click the “Text color” button in the menu bar and then select “Highlight”) so why would you need an add-on for this? Well the Highlight Tool Add-on provides two new features that the normal highlighting in Docs does not have.
First, it allows you to give names or labels to the different colors so you know what they stand for. Perhaps you want red to be verbs, and green to be nouns, and blue to be adjectives. When you create highlight colors you can click the “Edit” button to type in the name you want to assign to that color. You can even share your custom highlighters with others, and import theirs by clicking “Add-ons” then “Highlight Tool” and then “Share Highlighters” or “Import Highlighters”.
The second feature of this add-on is the ability to export all the text you have highlighted to a new Google Doc. You can choose to export “By sequence” (in the order the words show up in the Doc) or “By color” (to group all the same colored words together). This allows the student to create a Doc with all the noun, verb, and adjective examples nicely grouped. (For more online highlighting tools see my blog post here.)

7) Rhyme Finder
Google Docs Add-on link
The Rhyme Finder Add-on for Google Docs is a tool that provides a list of rhyming words for any word you select in a Google Document. When students are writing poetry, this may help them discover rhyming words they may not have thought of, or find a rhyme when they are stuck. To use it, simply launch the add-on, highlight any word in your Google Doc, and click the “Find Rhyme” button in the panel on the right. A list of rhyming words, with their number of syllables, will show up in the panel. (For more student poetry resources see my blog post here.)

8) Word Cloud Generator
Google Docs Add-on link
A word cloud is used to show which words in a selection of text are used most often and which are less frequent. This can be a good way to quickly discover the most common topics in an essay, story, or speech. Students can do this with their own writing or with someone else’s work in a Google Doc by using the Word Cloud Generator Add-on. When you run the Add-on, a word cloud is displayed in a panel on the right of the document. The word cloud is a bit small, and does not have an option to resize, but still does a good job of showing the most common words from the Doc. It also includes “Advanced Options” that allow you to set the maximum number of words, as well as list words to exclude. (For more online word cloud tools see my blog post here.)

9) Pupil Pref
Google Docs Add-on link
For students who have a difficult time reading text on a paper, a common accommodation has been to place a colored transparency sheet over the paper so the page has a slight color tint. This can help the student to focus on the text better. The Pupil Pref Add-on aims to do the same thing for digital documents. When you run the Add-on you get a list of 16 colors based around the work carried out by Prof Arnold Wilkins and his team at Essex University. When you choose a color it changes the background of the Doc with the intention of making it easier for some students to read the text. (For more special needs resources see by resource collection here.)

10) DocTools
Google Docs Add-on link
Sometimes it is the little things you are missing when using Google Docs. There are a few features in Microsoft Word that are not yet included in Google Docs, including the ability to change the case of text and to sort text. Both of these missing options, as well as a few others, can be handled by the DocTools Add-on.
With this Add-on you can select some text and then change the text to all uppercase, all lowercase, each word capitalized, sentence case, or toggled case. This can be a real time saver when you did not realize you had the caps lock on for the last two sentences you just wrote.
Additionally DocTools allows you to select several lines of text and then click the “Sort A to Z” or “Sort Z to A” option to reorder the text alphabetically. This is great for sorting a list of student names, countries, elements, or such. As a bonus, it also lets you sort the rows in a Google Docs table. (For more details see my blog post here.)

11) Orange Slice Teacher Rubric
Google Docs Add-on link
Many teachers use rubrics when grading written assignments. They help the student know what is expected, and allow the teacher to provide detailed and consistent feedback when assessing. With the Orange Slice Teacher Rubric Add-on teachers can move rubrics into the digital age. First you create a rubric by inserting a table into a Google Doc and filling in the rubric values. Then simply paste that rubric into any Google Doc you wish to grade, run the Orange Slice Add-on to do the assessment, and the completed rubric and grade will be displayed in the Doc. (For more rubric tools see my webinar here.)

12) EasyBib
Google Docs Add-on link
One important aspect of writing is proper citation. As students learn to cite their sources, a useful tool is the EasyBib Add-on. With EasyBib students can search for books, journal articles, and websites, and then add those to their collection of references. When their list is complete, they can click “Add Bibliography to Doc” to create a completed works cited page at the bottom of the document. There is even an option to choose the citation style including MLA, APA, Chicago, and many more.


So how do you use the Add-ons mentioned above in your class or school? And what other favorite Add-ons would you add to the list? Feel free to share your ideas and suggestions in the comment section below.


  1. Great post Eric. Am I right in saying that Add-ons work by building on the API and that is why they play up when Google releases a new version of Forma, therefore a new API? I have been trying to explain it to staff lately.

  2. Perfect timing! Revising pantoums and villanelles today. Thanks for the "Rhyme Finder," Eric.

  3. SAS Writing reviser asked for verification that I was 18 years of age so not a tool that I am going to recommend with MS & HS populations.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I love Flubaroo!

  5. Advanced Find & Replace is yet another one

  6. I'm going to try using the highlight tool to identify comma splice, run on, fragment, verb tense shifts, and other common writing errors. Thanks for the idea. Anyone know of any time saving ways to quickly click and indicate these errors with a hyperlink to explain the error and how to correct it? Please contact me at

    1. You might want to take a look at the JoeZoo add-on for Docs. It allows you to indicate writing errors and provides a bank of premade explanations and suggestions.

  7. Thanks Eric - great post very helpful - I love flubaroo too as well as Doc to Form by Oli Trussell which allows really easy creation of forms from a document.

  8. I just created a Docs add-on called Text Cleaner that allows you to clean text that is copied from elsewhere. It removes things like line breaks and multiple spaces in a row. It also clears all formatting, just like the clear formatting command, *except* that it allows you to keep italics and bold. Often, these are the the one part of the text you want to keep. It’s available free here:

  9. I just created a Docs add-on called Text Cleaner that allows you to clean text that is copied from elsewhere. It removes things like line breaks and multiple spaces in a row. It also clears all formatting, just like the clear formatting command, *except* that it allows you to keep italics and bold. Often, these are the the one part of the text you want to keep. It’s available free here:

  10. very nice tool that helps writing reviews
    It's very important to reduce time for doing same things again and again so with that add-on you just have to check an edit a bit instead of writing the whole book review

  11. On the off chance that you didn't go to the memorial service of Google Adsense despair not, on the grounds that you are not the only one. Despite the fact that much has been composed about the awkward passing of Adsense, the reality of the situation is that Google Adsense is alive and extremely well.