How to Collaborate on Google Docs

Google Doc Collaboration Featured Image

Just because you have to work from home doesn’t mean you can’t work together in real time. By using Google Docs, you can easily collaborate with your team members, allowing them to all work on one document. Each person can see what the rest of the team is doing and make suggestions and comments directly on the digital page. Here are some ways you can collaborate on Google Docs.

Two ways to use a shared document

The two most common ways to collaborate on shared documents are brainstorming sessions and working on one paper together as a group.

Gather ideas from members of your team by using one single document where each person can list their ideas.

If a final report is to be completed by more than one person, each person can be assigned a portion of the paper to write. Everyone will be able to work on the document at the same time, while each team member will be able to review what the others are writing and comment in real time.

How to Share

The first step to collaborating on a document in Google Docs is to share the document with the people you want to access it. You can give each person different access depending on their role in the project. The three different levels of access are “Can edit,” “Can comment,” and “Can view.”

Google Doc Collaboration Share With Others
  • Someone with “Can edit” privileges can make any changes to the document directly without involving any other member of the team.
  • Those who “Can comment” cannot make direct changes to the document. They can only add comments where they can share their ideas.
  • A “Can view” level of access allows the person to see what everyone else is doing but not make any changes or comments.

If you are the owner of the document (that is, you created the document), you will have all three privileges. While working on the document, each person who has the material open will have their changes made in real time. You will see different colored cursors for each contributor.

Working with the Shared Document

Once you have shared the document or had one shared with you, it’s time to make your contribution.

Editing Mode

When working in editing mode, any changes you make to the document show up immediately. Just put your cursor where you want to add text and type. It changes without any notifications to anyone else.

Google Doc Collaboration View Others Work


Commenting allows you to add virtual sticky notes to the document. To comment:

1. Highlight the section of text you want to comment on.

2. Click on the small plus sign that appears on the right edge of the page.

Google Doc Collaboration Add Comment Icon

3. Type in your comment.

Google Doc Collaboration Add Comment

4. Click the blue Comment button.

Google Doc Collaboration Adding Comment

If you want to respond to a comment, click on the comment and type your reply. Once the issue in the comment is resolved, you may want to remove the comment to keep the copy clean. Click on the “Resolve” option in the box, and the comment will disappear.

To review any removed comments, click on the comment icon (looks like a speech bubble with lines in it). There you will see the comment and all interactions with it.

Another handy tool in comments is the ability to tag other editors so you can direct a question or idea to one specific person.

1. Type @ in the comment box.

Google Doc Collaboration Tagging

2. Choose from the options or type the email of the person you want to tag.

3. If it is a specific task you want them to complete, tick the box next to their name, and they will be responsible for completing the item and marking it as done.

Google Doc Collaboration Assign Tasks

Suggesting Mode

Suggesting mode lets the people collaborating on the document make edits to the copy that have to be approved.

Google Doc Collaboration Editing Suggesting

To suggest an edit to the file, type your changes directly on the document. The changes you make appear in a different color than the original text. What you delete is crossed out, and a comment box appears in the right margin explaining the edit.

Google Doc Collaboration Suggesting

Revision history

Using the Revision History in Google Docs, you can see different versions of the document and what changes were made at different times.

In the revision history, you can see who made what changes through color-coding. You can also rename any of the versions or restore previous versions, erasing all changes done after that point.

Google Doc Collaboration Color Coded Revisions

To find this history of changes:

1. Click on File.

2. Hover over “Version history.”

3. Click on “See version history.”

To view a previous version, click on the title of that version. If you want to restore that version, click the blue button at the top of the page.

Google Doc Collaboration Restore Version

Click on the three dots next to the version to rename it.

Google Doc Collaboration Name Version

That’s it. As you can see, it is easy and straightforward to collaborate in Google Docs. Best of all, the service is free, and you can use it to collaborate with up to 100 people. In addition to collaboration, you can also compare two documents in Google Docs and add a table of content to your document. For more tips and tricks on Google Docs, check out our library of Google Docs tutorials here.

Tracey Rosenberger
Tracey Rosenberger

Tracey Rosenberger spent 26 years teaching elementary students, using technology to enhance learning. Now she's excited to share helpful technology with teachers and everyone else who sees tech as intimidating.

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