Having multiple tabs open when researching can be overwhelming, but with the Explore tool in Google Docs, everything you need is in one place. The tool gathers content related to your document from the internet or your Google Drive, and displays them in Docs. You can choose which topics, research, and images to include or cite in your document. Since most Google Workspace apps work together, you can also use the Explore tool in Google Sheets and Slides, and on your favorite iOS device, Android phone, tablet or computer.
If you often suffer from writer’s block or lack sufficient information, the Explore tool can help you come up with ideas. Here’s how you can make the most of it in Google Docs.
The Explore tool in Google Docs is quick and easy to access, enabling you to search the web or your Google Drive for research. The tool’s icon appears automatically in the lower-right corner of your screen if you type enough text in Docs. If your document is sparse or empty, you may need to highlight your entire document or sections to make the tool scan those parts and offer suggestions. Click the icon or use a keyboard command to access it, opening a panel on the right side where you can view internet, image, and Drive materials. Selecting a search result or Drive content expands it in a new tab, so you can’t instantly insert it into your document. You can only insert images directly from the tool.
On the Android and iPhone mobile app, the Explore feature works slightly differently. You can open web results and images within the app, but there is no option to access Drive. For footnote citations, you can only hyperlink to the source page, whereas on computers you can add citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago formats.
It’s important to note that the Google Docs Explore feature is not the same as Google Fact Check Explorer. Explore helps you conduct research within Docs without constantly switching between windows or tabs, while Fact Check Explorer confirms facts and reviews debunked information found on the internet. Explore is part of the G Suite apps and is also in Google Slides and Sheets, but the tool works differently in each application. On the other hand, Fact Check is part of Google’s Fact Check Tools.
It’s crucial to ensure you have permission to use any material you source online so that you don’t infringe on the owner’s copyright. Copyright infringement makes you liable to pay fines or damages to the owner. Although Explore in Google Docs is a useful tool, it doesn’t exempt you from copyright laws.
To insert web results in Docs on computers, launch Google Chrome and open a document. Click the Explore icon in the lower-right corner of your screen. If you can’t see the icon, press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + I on your keyboard. A panel appears on the right, and you can use the search bar to enter a keyword or choose variations under Topics. Click a search result under Web to open it in a new tab. You can view more options by scrolling up and clicking “See all results on Google”, which opens the Google homepage in a new tab, and you’ll need to type and search the keyword again. To cite the web page as a source, click the three-dots icon and select a citation format from the drop-down options. Hover your mouse cursor on a web result and click the quotation symbol to cite it as a footnote.
On smartphones and tablets, open a document in the Docs app and enter Editing mode by tapping the pen button. Tap the three-dots icon and select Explore. Use the search bar to enter a keyword or select a variation under Topics. Select a search result to view it in full. To copy and paste information, long-press a word on the web page to highlight it. Drag the tiny circles down to your desired point, tap Insert, and Docs adds the highlighted text to your document. For hyperlink citation, return to the web page and tap the link icon. Define an anchor text in the Text field, tap Insert, and Docs adds the hyperlinked text to your document.
Inserting images into Docs with the Explore tool on both mobile and web apps follows a similar process, where you can click the + icon or drag and drop images. The mobile and web apps display commercial images with modification permission as the top results. It’s best to visit the image’s webpage for more license information before using it.
Lastly, Explore also enables you to access existing documents in your Drive account, a feature not available on the mobile app. When you click a Drive document, it opens in a new browser tab where you can copy and paste parts of it into your document or gather ideas. Highlight some text in your current document, press Ctrl + K on your keyboard, paste the link into the search bar, click Apply or press Enter, and Docs will hyperlink to the Drive document allowing you to open it by clicking the link.
The more text you type in a document, the more suggestions the Explore tool offers. To get suggestions, highlight your entire document before opening Explore on computers. On mobile devices, highlighting text before using the tool will take you straight to the search results for websites and images, so it’s best not to use it if you need suggestions. Explore offers suggestions such as Topics, Images, and Related Research to help with your research in Docs.