How to Open Google Docs

Create and access documents with ease

Google Docs is a convenient way to create, edit, and share documents between various platforms. But it can be confusing when trying to open one that's stored on your computer or if you need to edit one in a different program like Microsoft Word.

Below is everything you need to know, whether it’s opening one you created yourself or one that’s been shared with you. We’ll also go over how to create a new document with just Google Docs (no separate word processor necessary) and what to do if you need to open a Word file or convert a GDOC file into a format that works with Word.

These steps work with any modern web browser running on any operating system, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

How to Open Google Docs

There are several methods depending on where the document is stored:

Make a New Document

Opening a brand new document is simple: go to your Google Docs and sign in to your Google account if asked. From there, you can make a new file by selecting Blank, or choose a pre-made document from the template gallery.

Screenshot of Google Docs templates

If you don’t see any templates, open the menu at the top left, choose Settings, and then enable the viewing of templates.

Open a Document You Own

Opening a Google doc that you created yourself is just as simple as making a new one. There are two ways to go about this depending on how you want to locate it:

  1. Open your Google Docs account and search or scroll through until you find the document. Click once to open it or right-click and choose Open in new tab.

    Opening a doc in a new tab in Google Docs.
  2. Open your Google Drive and browse through the folder the file is located in.

    Screenshot of a Google doc in Google Drive

Open a GDOC File From Your Computer

If you store your files on your computer via Google’s Backup and Sync software, you’ll notice that all of the documents are saved with the GDOC file extension to indicate a Google doc.

Screenshot of several GDOC files in Windows 10

There are two things you can do with these files:

  • Double-click one to open it in Google Docs in your browser.

  • Follow the steps at the bottom of this page to open the GDOC file in MS Word.

Open a Document Shared With You

Some documents are owned by someone else but then shared with you. There are a few ways to open one of these depending on how it was given to you.

A document shared explicitly with you (the owner included your email when sharing the file) as opposed to just anyone with the link, is available from your Shared with me page on Google Drive. If that isn’t helpful, try this:

  1. Visit Google Drive.

  2. Select the arrow next to the search bar at the top and change Type to Documents.

  3. Change Owner to Not owned by me or Specific person if you know who shared the file with you.

    Filtered search for documents in Google Drive.
  4. Select SEARCH to filter the results, and then select the file to open it in Google Docs.

    Filtered results on Google Drive for shared documents.

Some files are shared via a public link only, in which case you just need to click the link to open the document. These URLs aren't as easy to track down because they can be sent to you over an email or text, or provided on a web page.

The third way to open a shared Google Docs file is by opening the notification email (not all shared docs come this way but some do). This works by simply selecting the Open in Docs button from the message.

Opening a shared Google doc over Gmail.

Using Microsoft Word Files With Google Docs

Google Docs and MS Word can mix their file types. This means Google Docs can edit documents that were originally made in Word, and if you need to, you can download your Google documents in a format that Word understands.

Do this if you want to use Google Docs to view or edit Word files:

  1. Visit Google Docs.

  2. Select the folder icon from the right.

    The file picker button in Google Docs.
  3. Choose Upload.

    The Upload interface in Google Docs.
  4. Choose Select a file from your device.

  5. Double-click the MS Word file to start the upload. It will open in Google Docs.

To do the reverse so that Google Docs files will open in Word, you need to save the file in the correct format:

  1. Open the document in Google Docs.

  2. Go to File > Download, and choose Microsoft Word (.docx).

    Downloading a Google Doc as a Microsoft file.
  3. Save the DOCX file to your computer. As long as DOCX files are set up to open in Word (here’s how to do that in Windows), double-clicking is all you need to do.

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