Annotating Google Docs: The Quick Guide


At least 90% of the copy we write goes through Google Drive at one point or another; it’s an easy and free way to create and edit documents, archive files, and share proofs with clients.

Previously, we looked at proofing and editing content in Microsoft Word, and Adobe PDFs. We promised we’d get to Google Docs later, so here it is: our list of content collaboration tips and tricks.


The number one way we collaborate on documents is through the use of comments. Google’s comment system works fairly similar to Microsoft Word’s – highlight the appropriate text, and insert a comment either by clicking the “comment” button on your toolbar (located next to the paragraph alignment options), heading to Insert > Comment, or pressing Ctrl+Alt+ M.


Editing Comments

Once you submit your comment, it will appear as a white box on the right margin of your document, near the initially highlighted text. To view the details of a specific comment, simply click on it or on the highlighted text. You will then see an option to either “edit,” “delete,” “resolve,” or “reply.” Editing allows you to add or remove text, while replying lets you post another comment in the thread. If you choose to delete the comment, it will be permanently removed. (This is a great choice if you’re submitting a document to a client, and don’t want to leave your internal revisions process in the file.) If you mark it as resolved, it will be cleared from the page, but will still be accessible in the “comments” box at the top of the document.


Reviewing Comments

The “comments” button at the top right of your document opens up a window with all comments that have been made, in chronological order. You can reply to or resolve comments here. If you click the small carrot next to the date stamp, you will also be able to edit, delete, or even link to a specific comment.


Comment Notifications

At the top of this window is a “notifications” drop-down menu. When someone adds or replies to comments on a document you are working on, Google will email you a notification. This menu allows you to choose which notifications to receive, if any at all.


Revision History

Google has another handy feature for collaboration – the ability to review revision history. To use this feature, go to File > See Revision History. A window will open on the right hand side of the page with a list of all revisions that have been made to the document, including the user and date stamp. Changes relevant to the currently selected revision will appear in the document in colored text, and deleted words will have a strikethrough.


The best part about this feature is the ability to restore old versions. Simply select the timestamp you want to revert to, then click “restore this revision.”

Other Markup Tools

Like most word processing programs, Google Docs comes with the ability to highlight text or change it to a different color. These options can be found on the main toolbar, under the color formatting drop down menu. To use them, simply highlight a portion of the text and select the desired color (or background color).


Highlighting text can be a handy way to make certain elements stand out; however, we recommend inserting a comment if you need a more detailed note.

Sharing Documents

Access to Google Drive can be a bit of a headache, especially if someone doesn’t have a Google account. Luckily, you can share a document with any email address. Once you do so, an email will be sent to the person with a link through which they can access your document.

To access your sharing settings, click the big blue “share” button on the top right corner of the screen. A window will pop up with a list of everyone who can currently access your document, alongside their permissions. You can invite someone by typing in their email or, if you have added them as a contact, their name.


To change the level of access a user has, click the carrot next to their current permissions. Your options are “can view,” “can comment,” “can edit,” and “is owner.” Each permission level includes the capabilities of the previous level – so someone who can edit the document can also add comments. Editors can also change permissions and invite new users.

Finally, you can also make the document public, or private to a set of specific people. At the top of the access list will be an icon denoting who generally has access. You can change this to “public on the web,” “anyone with a link,” “People in your company,” or “specific people”. You can also choose the level of access to be granted to this group – for example, you can let anyone on the web view the document, but not edit it.


Sharing settings and most features are universal across Google Drive, meaning you can add comments to a spreadsheet or a presentation. As long as you have your Google account, you can edit and share your documents from any computer with an internet connection – making it the perfect place to store and edit collaborative files.

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