How to Change Margins in Google Docs

Woman looking at computer screen with Google Docs open
Paul Conrath / DigitalVision / Getty

When you create a new document in Google Docs or open an existing document, you'll find that it already has some default margins. These margins, which default to one inch in new documents, are basically just the empty space above, below, to the left, and to the right of the document. When you print a document, these margins set the distance between the edges of the paper and the text.

If you ever need to change the default margins in Google Docs, it's a pretty easy process. There is one way to do it that's very fast, but it only works on the left and right margins. The other method is a little more complicated, but it allows you to change all the margins at once.

01
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How to Quickly Change Left and Right Margins in Google Docs

change margins fast in google docs
You can change the left and right margins in Google Docs fast by clicking and dragging on the ruler. Screenshot
  1. Navigate to Google Docs.
  2. Open the document you want to edit​ or create a new document.
  3. Locate the ruler at the top of the document.
  4. To change the left margin, look for a rectangular bar with a down-facing triangle beneath it.
  5. Click and drag the down-facing triangle along the ruler.
    Note: Clicking the rectangle instead of the triangle will change the indentation of new paragraphs instead of the margins.
  6. To change the right margin, look for a down-facing triangle on the right end of the ruler.
  7. Click and drag the down-facing triangle along the ruler.
02
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How to Set Top, Bottom, Left and Right Margins on Google Docs

changing margins in google docs
You can change all the margins at once from the page setup menu in Google Docs. Screenshot
  1. Open the document you want to edit or create a new document.
  2. Click on File > Page setup.
  3. Look for where it says Margins.
  4. Click in the text box to the right of the margin you want to change. For example, click in the text box to the right of Top if you want to change the top margin.
  5. Repeat step six to change as many margins as you want.
    Note: Click set as default if you want to always have these margins when you create new documents.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Check to ensure that the new margins look the way you want them to.
03
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Can You Lock the Margins in Google Docs?

locked google doc can't change margins
Shared documents in Google Docs can be locked for editing. Screenshot

While you can't specifically lock the margins in a Google document, it is possible to prevent someone from making any changes when you share a document with them. This effectively makes it impossible to change the margins.

If you want to prevent someone from changing the margins, or anything else, when you share a document with them, it's very easy. When you share the document, simply click the pencil icon, and then choose Can view or Can comment instead of Can edit.

While this is useful if you want to prevent any edits to a document that you have shared, locked margins can become troublesome if you're having trouble reading a document or want to print it out with enough space to make notes.

If you suspect that someone has locked a document that they shared with you, it's easy to determine if that is the case. Simply look at the main text of the document. If you see a box that says View only, that means the document is locked.

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How to Unlock a Google Doc for Editing

request edit access google docs
If you need to change the margins, you can request edit access. Screenshot

The easiest way to unlock a Google Doc so that you can change the margins is to request permission from the document owner.

  1. Click the box that says View only.
  2. Click REQUEST EDIT ACCESS.
  3. Type your request into the text field.
  4. Click Send request.

If the document owner decides to grant you access, you should be able to reopen the document and change the margins as normal.

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Creating a New Google Doc if Unlocking Isn't Possible

creating a new google doc to change margins
Copy and paste into a new document if you really need to change the margins. Screenshot

If you have access to a shared document, and the owner is unwilling to give you edit access, you will be unable to change the margins. In this case, you'll have to make a copy of the document, which can be accomplished in two different ways:

  1. Open the document that you are unable to edit.
  2. Select all of the text in the document.
  3. Click on EditCopy.​
    Note: You can also use the key combination CTRL+C.
  4. Click on File > New > Document.
  5. Click on Edit > Paste.
    Note: You can also use the key combination CTRL+V.
  6. You can now change the margins as normal.

The other way that you may be able to unlock a Google Doc to change the margins is even easier:

  1. Open the document you are unable to edit.
  2. Click on File > Make a copy.
  3. Enter a name for your copy, or leave the default in place.
  4. Click OK.
  5. You can now change the margins as normal.
    Important: If the document owner selects Disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers, neither of these methods will work.