How to Use Google Docs with WordPress, and Why It’s Awesome

Automattic (the creators of WordPress) recently released a Google Docs add-on aptly named, WordPress.com for Google Docs. It’s a pretty simple add-on that allows you to draft and publish posts from Google Docs directly to your WordPress site. The WordPress.com distinction in the add-on is a bit misleading, as this feature is available to self-hosted WordPress sites (through the free Jetpack plugin). This means that nearly anyone using WordPress can use this tool.

The marriage of these two apps is significant: about 60% of content management systems use WordPress (free, self-hosted, or enterprise-level), and Google Docs are an increasingly important collaborative tool (integrated into the Google ecosystem and popular with millennial users). But what are the benefits to using Google Docs to draft content instead of WordPress?

  • Collaboration – one of the best features of Google Docs is the capability to share and collaboratively edit documents. This is quite simple even for users outside of the Google ecosystem. By giving users permission to modify a document, multiple users can contribute and edit a piece of content simultaneously.
  • Ease of use – Google Docs works like a simplified version of Microsoft Word. Because of its cloud functionality, everything is automatically saved to the document as soon as it is written, and Docs notes who contributed what content in the revision history.
  • Security – Perhaps one of the most under-reported aspects of Google Docs posting to WordPress is how it enhances the security of your posts. You can allow multiple collaborators without having to assign WordPress logins and user roles. All of the writing and editing can be done in Docs and saved to WordPress by one person (I’ll discuss why it might not be wise to publish directly from Docs below).

What I want to do in this post is to show how to install and use the WordPress.com for Google Docs add-on, and demonstrate how the add-in translates text in Docs to HTML.

Getting started

If you want to use this feature with a self-hosted or enterprise WordPress site (wordpress.org as opposed to wordpress.com), you’ll need to have the Jetpack plugin installed. Note that Jetpack is a freemium plugin, but you only need to have the free version installed to use the Google Docs add-in.

Jetpack by WordPress plugin

Note that Jetpack will require a wordpress.com account and that you will immediately want to look at the default Jetpack settings and make sure it’s not doing something you don’t want it to (I turned off everything except for spell-checking, which is the integration of the After the Deadline plugin).

Jetpack plugin installation

 

After installing the WordPress.com for Google Docs add-in, you will need to activate it under the “Add-ons” tab in Docs. Note that you don’t have to do this until you are ready to save, spruce or publish to WordPress.

WordPress.com for Google Docs add-on

 

After opening the add-on, to the right of your document, you’ll see an “Authorization Needed” box. Click Authorize…..

WordPress.com for Google Docs authorization

 

Now the box should allow you to post a draft to any site that you have associated with your wordpress.com account (with Jetpack installed).

Draft to WordPress pick site

 

How True is Google Docs to HTML?

As a test, I created a document in Docs using all of the available (common) functions that it offered, I then saved it to WordPress and compared the post and the HTML to see how well Docs translated my text to HTML. And for the most part, it did well…. although some of the features in Docs didn’t appear in the WordPress post. Here’s my Google Doc:

Google Doc sent to WordPress

 

And here is how the post looked on my site:

Google Doc to WordPress HTML preview

 

And this is the HTML:

Google Doc to WordPress - HTML

 

Overall, Google Docs does a pretty fantastic job of translating text to HTML. Here are some of the takeaways/inconsistencies that I noticed:

  • Headings are true: H1, H2, H3 translate well
  • “Title” in Docs creates an H1 heading in WordPress
  • “Subtitle” in Docs creates an H2 heading in WordPress
  • Bold, underline, italics, and strikethrough are translated perfectly from Docs to WordPress
  • Ordered and unordered lists translate true from Docs to WordPress
  • Text color, font type, and indentation do not translate from Docs to WordPress
  • Links from a document work fine in WordPress
  • There is no blockquote in Docs

Most of this is forgivable but reinforces that you need to preview content in WordPress before publishing. This is why I recommend only saving drafts from Google Docs, rather than using the Publish to WordPress add-on that installs with the Draft to WordPress add-on. And this….

Images are easy to insert and tough to manage with Docs

As with any document, you can just cut and paste an image into a post. I tried three different methods of inserting an image into a test post: cut and paste, insert file, and insert from URL.

Images in WordPress from Google Docs add-on

 

What I discovered about images in Google Docs translated to WordPress HTML:

  • “Cut and paste” resulted in Google Docs naming the file “image” and making alt text = “null”
  • Inserting an image from file led to the image being uploaded to WordPress with the original image title with alt text equal to the file name.
  • Inserting an image from URL resulted in the image being uploaded to WordPress with the original image title with alt text equal to the file name. So it doesn’t stay hosted on the URL as it would if you performed the same function in WordPress.

Practically, the only situation where you would insert an image through Docs would be if you wanted to host the image on your site and the filename is equal to the alt text. Other users of the add-on have commented that the lcr orientation of images doesn’t translate well for images.

Realistically any images that you upload you will have to preview and possibly amend in WordPress (I am drafting this post in Docs, but will go into WordPress to place Imgur links for my images.

Conclusion

If you like Google Docs (I do) or if you do a lot of collaboration, you may find this add-on useful. Using Google Docs is far faster than WordPress (if your computer has poor processing power this might be a great option), but Docs has disadvantages such as lack of function, features lost in translation, and reduced image choices.

I wrote this entire post in Docs and found it incredibly easy to use, but still, have to do some editing in WordPress to optimize the images and to check formatting. If you like Google Docs, I recommend trying this add-on to see if its features are helpful for you. For many content creators, this may be a very valuable tool.



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