Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Supercharge Google Docs with Add-ons

Google Docs is a powerful word processing program with many unique features including voice typing, the Explore tool, Version 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. So how do you wade through all of these to find the best ones and the hidden gems? 

To help out I have collected a list 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 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. And be sure to let me know which Add-ons you would recommend to add to the list. I would love to learn from you!


🧰 Resources


❓ What are Add-ons?

  • Add-ons are third-party tools that you can install and use inside of Google Docs.
  • They provide additional features or tools that you normally would not have in Docs.
  • Many are free, but some have a paid version with more features.
  • Note: Your school may need to approve add-ons.




⚙️ Managing Add-ons

Finding an Add-on
  • From Google Docs click the "Extensions" menu.
  • Then choose "Add-ons" from the menu.
  • Then choose "Get add-ons".


  • This will open the "Google Workspace Marketplace".
  • Here you can search and browse through add-ons for Docs.
  • Click on any add-on you would like to learn more about.
  • You can now learn more about the add-on including: Description, Reviews, Number of users, Pricing (if any)


Installing an Add-on
  • If you want to install the add-on, click the "Install" button.
  • You will now need to select your Google account and give the add-on permission to install.


Using an Add-on
  • To use an add-on, click the "Extensions" menu.
  • Choose the one you want from your list of installed add-ons.
  • Launch the add-on.
  • Most add-ons will open in a panel on the right side of the screen.


Removing an Add-on
  • If you no longer want an add-on you can remove it by clicking "Extensions" then "Add-ons" then "Manage add-ons".
  • Click the add-on you want to remove and then click "Uninstall".



🏆 Recommended Add-ons for Docs

In the next portion of this blog post we will explore some good Docs add-ons to try out, along with a short explanation on what they do and how they can be used in school. These add-ons are listed in alphabetical order.


📄 CLOZEit

This add-on allows you to turn any paragraph text into a fill-in-the-blanks activity, or also known as a cloze activity.
  • Simply highlight or underline words you'd like to be blanked.
  • Next select "Option 1" where the words are fully replaced with a blank and a randomized list of those words are added at the end of the text as a 'word bank'.
  • Or "Option 2" where the words are fully replaced with a blank except its first letters. This will provide students hints to figure out the rest of the words.
  • The word bank generated at the end of the text is randomized in order.
  • Also be sure to check out my post for another method here "Create "Cloze Reading" Activities with Google Docs Dropdown Chips"



🛠️ Doc Tools
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 sort text. 
  • This missing option, as well as a few others, can be handled by the DocTools Add-on.
  • With this Add-on you can 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.



㊗️ Docs Paragraph 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 Docs Paragraph Translate Add-on will do the trick. 
  • Simply highlight the text you want to translate and then choose the language you want, including over 100 languages. 
  • The Add-on will give you a translation of the selected text, which you can then insert into the current document. 
  • This could be a helpful support for English Language Learners.
  • Or you could use this 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 resource document here.



🗣️ Easy Accents - Docs
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 choose the language you want and then a panel opens up on the right side of your Doc with a list of accented characters 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 resource document here.



📑 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.


🌈 Fun Text
Google Docs Add-on link

Want to add some more creativity to your writing? 
  • The Fun Text add-on lets you make lots of neat changes to how your words look. 
  • Some effects include rainbow text, random colors, wobbly font sizes, upside down text, and many, many more. 
  • These special effects can add a fun look to a final writing project. 
  • As an example, the random colors would be a great way to do my "Holiday Light Writing" activity which you can see in my blog post here.



🕵 Grammar and Spell Checker - LanguageTool
  • Language Tool is a helpful add-on for proofreading your writing. 
  • The tool scans your Google Doc for style and grammar problems. 
  • When issues are found, it not only identifies the spot, but also offers an explanation of what the problem is and possible ways to fix it. 
  • This can be very beneficial for students checking their work before submitting to their teacher, or even for students providing peer editing feedback for their classmates.
  • For more resources on self-editing see my resource document here.



🟡 Highlight Tool
Google Docs Add-on link

Google Docs already provides an option to highlight text, 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 details on the Highlight Tool add-on, see my blog post here.




🐶 Icons for Slides & Docs
Google Docs Add-on link
  • Another option for inserting graphics is the Icons for Slides & Docs add-on. 
  • Instead of photos, this tool focuses on icons. 
  • You can search for millions of free customizable icons from the Flaticon database for use in Slides, Docs, and Sheets.
  • And it is completely free!
  • For more free image sites, see my blog post here.)



🖼️ LottieFiles for Google Workspace

Google Docs supports many types of images including animated GIFs. By using animated GIFs in your documents you can really bring them to life!
  • This add-on lets you search through a repository of free animations from LottieFiles.
  • When you find one you like, you can insert it into your document as an animated GIF.
  • Or if you want you can insert it as a non-animated PNG image.



🎵 Music Snippet
Google Docs Add-on link
  • How about using Google Docs with the fine arts? Music Snippet allows you to compose and insert sheet music right inside of Google Docs. 
  • From the Add-on you can insert a musical snippet with a wide variety of notes and musical symbols. 
  • Your completed sheet music is then inserted as an image into your document. 
  • With a paid Flat for Education account, you can also re-open the notation later to edit it or play it. 
  • For more ideas on using Google tools with music education see my resource document here.



🔎 OneLook Thesaurus
Google Docs Add-on link

This add-on is actually way more than just a thesaurus. 
  • The OneLook Thesaurus tool will let you select a word in your document, or type in a word, and then will give you suggested words in six categories: 
  • Synonyms, Triggers (associated words), Rhymes, Complete (words that that with your term), Adjectives (related), and Nouns (related). 
  • This can be a useful tool to improve your word choice and writing, as well as generate writing ideas.



🍊 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.



👀 Show
Google Docs Add-on link

One feature I definitely miss from Microsoft Office is the option to show non-printing characters, such as spaces, tabs, paragraph marks, and more. Sometimes a document can be "acting funny" and it is helpful to be able to see all of the non-printing characters and elements to see what may be affecting the layout.
  • With the Show add-on you can temporarily show (and then hide) spaces, tabs, line breaks, and more. 
  • For more details on using this add-on, see my blog post here.



📝 Simple Signature for Google Docs

Another feature missing from Google Docs is the ability to easily sign your name and insert your signature into the document. There are several workarounds for this which you can see in my blog post "4 Free eSignature Options for Google Docs". One of those options is this add-on.
  • With the Simple Signature add-on you can add your signature to a Doc in three ways:
  • You can type it with a handwriting font.
  • You can upload a copy of your signature image if you already have one.
  • You can sign your name right in the add-on to create your signature image.



⛅ 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, which you can then download or append to the document in large or small format. 
  • It also includes “Advanced Options” that allow you to set the maximum number of words, a list of words to exclude, and color palettes.



✍️ Writer's Highlighter
Google Docs Add-on link
  • Writer's Highlighter is another tool to help with self-editing. 
  • It can be used in several ways, but the main focus is to highlight words in your document that match a customized list. 
  • For example, these could include overused words or phrases, including "very", "really", "stuff", and more. 
  • Beyond that, the add-on can also color-code your sentences based on their lengths, and can provide a report of statistics of your writing. 
  • For more details on this add-on see my blog post here.



🏁 Conclusion

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!


Post by Eric Curts
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