Mobility

How to make the most out of the mobile Google Docs editing tools

The editing features of the Google Docs mobile app are not exactly intuitive. Here's what you need to know to maximize the benefits of using those tools.

Image: Jack Wallen

As someone who depends upon Google Docs, and collaborates with editors on documents, being able to take advantage of its editing features is the difference between getting work done efficiently and struggling to complete a task with a modicum of effortless success.

When I work with Google Docs, about 95% of the time I use either a desktop or a laptop; when I only have a mobile device, I still need to be able to use the editing features. On the mobile edition of Google Docs, the editing functions aren't out in plain sight and lack the full feature set, but they work well enough to get the job done.

Let's take a look at how to use the Google Docs editing functions when all you have is your mobile device handy.

SEE: Mobile Device Computing Policy (Tech Pro Research)

The types of editing tools

There are two major editing tools on most platforms: Track Changes and Comments. When you're working between the regular version of Google Docs and the mobile version you have to consider the big limitation...no Track Changes (or, in the Google vernacular, Suggestions). Although you can view and accept changes, you cannot make suggestions via that feature. Because of this limitation, I make suggestions via the Comments feature; it's not nearly as efficient as Track Changes, but it works.

In summary, on the mobile version, you cannot make suggestions, but you can:

  • add, respond to, or resolve comments;
  • accept or reject changes; and
  • reply to suggested changes.

With that said, how do you make these tools work? Let's take a look.

Suggestions

When someone on the desktop version of Google Docs make an edit on your document, it will appear in the mobile version as a Suggestion (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

A suggested change in the mobile version of Google Docs.

If you tap that suggestion, you will have the option to Accept, Reject, or Comment on a change (Figure B). You cannot edit a change.

Figure B

Figure B

Accept, Reject, or Comment on a suggestion.

And that's really all you can do with the mobile version of Google Docs with regard to Suggestions. The Comments feature will be your saving grace on the mobile version of Google Docs.

Comments

As much as I'd prefer to have Track Changes (otherwise known as Suggestions on Docs), that's not available at the moment (make it happen, Google) so I use Comments—it's not the most elegant solution, but it's the only option.

Here's how to add a comment to a section of text within the mobile version of Google Docs.

  1. Long press and select the text to be commented on.
  2. Tap ADD COMMENT.
  3. Type your comment.
  4. Tap COMMENT (Figure C).
  5. Tap the X (upper right corner of the comment) to go back to the document.

Figure C

Figure C

Adding a comment to a document in the mobile version of Docs.

If you're in editing mode in the document, the ADD COMMENT button won't immediately appear; instead, you have to follow the steps above, but (in order to tap the ADD COMMENT button) you must tap the menu button associated with the selected text and then tap ADD COMMENT.

To respond or resolve a comment on the mobile version of Google Docs, locate and tap a highlighted section of text (the highlight indicates an associated comment). You can either mark a comment as resolved by tapping RESOLVE or reply to the comment (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Working with Comments.

After you reply to the comment, tap the arrow button to save the reply, and you're good to go.

SEE: Special report: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Moving forward

Considering the scale at which people are migrating to mobile-only usage, it would behoove Google to add the Suggesting edit feature (aka Track Changes) to the app version of Google Docs to complement the Comments feature that already works like a champ. With both editing features available, the Google Docs mobile version would make for incredibly easy on-the-go document collaboration.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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