Make life easier: how to sign up for Google Docs

I’m in the middle of no less than 3 projects at the moment that would each be made that much easier if everyone involved could work collaboratively on various documents. Artists, teachers and museum staff; lists, budgets, plans and texts.

Unfortunately, a lot of the online collaborative tools I take for granted haven’t filtered out into general use and suggestions of using things like Google Docs are met with everything ranging from blank looks to outright terror. Then we’re stuck using group emails where confusion and time delays generally make things harder than they need to be…

Here then is a quick guide for the uninitiated. We’ll work through setting up a Google account and from there you can access a whole new world of getting things done more easily!


You need a Google account

You need a Google account in order to be able to access Google’s free services. Files etc are stored online, so this is needed to match you up to your stuff. The sign up is minimal – you won’t need to share lots of addresses and personal details – and is well worth the couple of minutes spent.

Do I already have a Google account?

NB. A Google email account is not the same as a Google account.

If you already have a Google email account (gmail or googlemail) then you automatically have a Google account and can skip a few steps.

If you don’t already have a Google email account a) it’s worth thinking about – free, excellent spam filters etc etc but b) don’t worry, because you can hook up an alternative email address (eg hotmail or yahoo) to a Google account and access lots of great tools anyway.

These instructions assume you don’t already have a Google account…

Sign up for an account

Follow this link to the sign-up page.

Creating a Google account - click on this image to see a larger version

Fill in your existing email address and give yourself a password. This will be what you will sign in with in once you’re all set up. The password is for your new Google account, not the one you use to access your existing email account.

Fill in the remaining parts of the form and click the button to send it.

Confirm your account and verify your email

All being well, you’ll see the confirmation screen. If you’ve made a mistake filling in the form then you’ll be sent back and you’ll need to fill in the bits with red error messages again.

The confirmation screen looks like this:

Confirmation screen - click image to see a larger version

It’s letting you know your account has been confirmed, but that you need to check your email for a message to confirm that the email address is correct.

Go to your email account and open up the email from Google. If you can’t see it in you inbox, then double-check the spam folder.

The verification email - click image for a larger version

After clicking on the link it gives you, the following page should open in your internet browser:

Verification verified...

I’ve never linked my mobile up to it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t if you want to…

If you click on the last line “Click here to continue” then you’ll be taken to the next stage in the sign up process. Oh wait! There isn’t one!

You’re in!

That continue link takes you straight to your new Google docs area!

Welcome to Google Docs

It’s empty at the moment because you haven’t created any files yet. If you go to “Create new” in the top left hand corner you can select what type of document you’d like to create. The selection is fairly standard.

Drop-down menu for creating new documents

Getting back in again

All good, but how do you get to your docs normally, now you’ve got an account?

Click on the “sign out” link in the top right hand corner. You’ll be taken to a sign in screen.

To get to here at a later date you can either:
a) bookmark this page now
b) google “google docs”
c) go to

Sign in area

To sign in you will need to enter your email address and your Google account password. Click on “sign in” and you’ll get back to the area where your docs are kept.

Doing stuff

From here I’ll hand you over to the official support pages.

If you’re comfortable working with word processors and office suites already, creating and editing documents should be fairly intuitive.

It’s the collaborative aspect that makes this useful for project work though, so make sure you read the pages about sharing documents (so others can see what you’ve written) and collaborating (so others can edit the same document with you). If you’re working on a project with me, at this stage I’ll probably invite you to collaborate on a document I’ve set up.

Other useful things to be aware of are things like the chat window you can use when 2 or more collaborators are online and working; uploading and exporting from and to other formats; using forms to do surveys etc and automatically enter the responses into a spreadsheet.

Onwards to a shiny new collaborative future!

edit 06/02/2011: