The “secret menu” for Google Slides, Docs, Drawings and more

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The “secret menu” for Google Slides, Docs, Drawings and more

Find the tips, tricks and features of your favorite G Suite tools that you didn’t know existed!

I had heard a TON about In-N-Out Burger. Heard that the food was amazing. Heard that it was an experience I should try.

The Millers get their first In-N-Out Burger experience!

While on vacation in California with my family recently, we made a stop at an In-N-Out Burger. It did not disappoint.

Our burgers were tasty. The tiny menu surprised me but made it easy to order. The employees were very friendly!

I posted pictures on Facebook, sharing that we had finally made this West Coast experience happen in our family. Then, the comments started coming in …

“Did you know there’s a secret menu?”

“Did you get your fries ‘animal style’???”

I didn’t know the secrets, and I felt like I left part of my maiden In-N-Out Burger experience on the table! It made me think, “Why didn’t someone tell me about that?!?”

Knowing what’s out there — especially what’s hidden below the visible surface — can open up a whole new world to us.

Working with Google tools in the classroom can be very much like this. Features to apps we use every day, like Google Docs, Slides and Drawings, can get hidden in menus or behind an ambiguous icon.

Here are 10 things to order off the “secret menu” of G Suite:

1. Save images from a Google Doc

Have you ever opened a Google Doc with images in it and wanted to save the images? (Hint: Right-clicking the image doesn’t do it.) You can grab images out of a Google Doc by doing this:

  1. Go to File > Download … > Web Page (HTML).
  2. It will download the contents of the document into a zipped folder.
  3. Open the folder and find the subfolder called “Images.”
  4. Grab the image you need!


2. Copy formatting with the paint roller

There it sits. The paint roller icon is on the far left of the toolbar in many G Suite tools. But what in the world is it for? This one has perplexed me for a long time.

  1. Click a paragraph in Google Docs (or a text box in Slides or Drawings).
  2. Click the paint roller icon.
  3. Click another paragraph (or text box) to copy the formatting of the first one onto the second one.

3. Send someone a link to your Google Doc that forces them to download a PDF version

PDF files are small. They’re easy to read. Plus, they lock text into place so it can’t me moved around. Instead of sending someone a link to your Google Doc, how about sending them a link that forces them to download a PDF of that Google Doc instead?

  1. Create a Google Doc.
  2. Copy the URL (link) to that document. (Be sure you’ve given the recipient access to the file with the blue “Share” button.)
  3. In the URL, find the word “edit” and delete it — and everything after it. (Basically, everything after the last slash.)
  4. After the slash, type “export?format=pdf”. (But don’t type the quotation marks …)
  5. Copy that link and share it with / send it to whoever needs the PDF.

4. Use grid view to watch students collaborate in Google Slides

Using a shared Google Slides presentation for an entire class is amazing. It lets every student have his/her own slide in a shared slide presentation. It creates a sort of digital community inside that slide presentation where each student can work AND see what everyone else is working on.

If you’ve never tried it and want a step-by-step on how to set it up, check out this post on creating a shared slide presentation where your students can work collaboratively.

Want to see each student working on his/her own work — all at the same time — AND live?

Check out this tip I learned on Alice Keeler’s blog

  1. Open the slide presentation where students are collaborating.
  2. Click the “grid view” in the bottom left part of the page. (It’s under the thumbnails of all the slides.)
  3. Once you click it, if you can’t see every slide in the screen at once, zoom out. (Using Control+Minus a few times should do it … Command+Minus on a Mac.)
  4. Watch and comment on your laptop/Chromebook/device. OR, put it on a projector so everyone can see everyone else’s work at any moment!

Image via Alice Keeler’s blog (

5. Add fancy text to your Google Classroom assignments

You can’t format text in Google Classroom assignments or announcements. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put fancy text in them! The “Cool Fancy Text Generator” will let you copy all sorts of fun fonts into your Google Classroom posts to highlight individual words or phrases.

  1. Go to the Cool Fancy Text Generator. (
  2. Scroll through the styles to find the one you want and click the “Decorate” button next to it.
  3. Type your text in the “Input Text” field.
  4. Use the copy button above to copy it for pasting into Google Classroom.

I learned about this from Tony Vincent, who is a great follow on Twitter!

6. Create immovable backgrounds in Google Slides

Often, teachers will create a template for students in Google Slides. Students get their copy of it and do their work in it, moving objects around, adding text, etc. If you use templates in Google Slides, chances are someone will accidentally move something you put in place! Create immovable backgrounds instead for objects that need to stay in place! Here’s how you do it …

  1. Open a new Slides presentation and put everything you don’t want students to move on a slide. (Images, text, anything you don’t want them to move or change.)
  2. Go to File > Download as … > PNG image (.png, current slide). The image will download on your device.
  3. Create a new slide. Click the “Background …” button in the tool bar (or right-click the slide and click “Change background …”).
  4. Upload the slide image you just downloaded.
  5. Add anything students can change as text, images, etc. on top of that background.

Here’s an example of how that might look in a blog post about creating moveable digital activities with Google Slides.

7. Use guide lines to help design your Slides and Drawings

In my former life, I worked in newspapers before switching to education. When designing a newspaper page in a program like Publisher or Quark Xpress or InDesign, there are these things we called “tool lines.” They were a simple line you could put on the screen that helped you line objects up. However, they weren’t seen when you published (i.e. printing on paper, exporting to image or PDF, etc.).

Thankfully, Google Slides and Drawings have added these “tool lines” and they’re called guides. Here’s how you use them:

  1. If you have your rulers showing, click and drag on a ruler onto the slide/drawing. It will pull over a horizontal or vertical guide. (To show your rulers, go to the “View” menu.)
  2. Move as many horizontal or vertical guides on the screen as you’d like.
  3. You can turn them off (to get them out of the way) and back on in View > Guides > Show guides.
  4. Change the color of the guide lines by going to View > Guides > Edit guides … .

8. Live closed captions in Google Slides

When Google made this option live in Google Slides, it blew my mind. You can present a slide presentation and turn on live closed captions. When you talk to your audience (your students, other teachers, etc.), your microphone will pick up what you’re saying and Google will display it automatically at the bottom of the screen. This is FANTASTIC for students with disabilities (hearing, etc.) and even just to reinforce what you’re saying for students.

Note: The captions are being generated live and in real time, so they may not be perfectly accurate all the time. They could also be distracting, so you might ask your audience before using them. Plus, you might mention to your audience that they’re being generated in real time and aren’t part of a video conferencing platform or a video they’re watching.

  1. Present your slides using the “Present” button in Google Slides.
  2. Click the “Captions” button in the button panel at the bottom of the screen.
  3. As long as Slides has access to your microphone, it will start generating captions when you speak.

9. View a history of previous Slides Q&A sessions

Google Slides lets teachers (student presenters, really anyone) collect questions from their audiences while they speak. When you collect those questions and comments from your audience, it’s possible to go back and view them again later. They’re all saved by Google for future use.

  1. Present slides by clicking the dropdown arrow next to the “Present” button and choosing “Presenter view.”
  2. In the pop-up box that displays for the presenter, choose the “Audience tools” tab and click the “Start New” button. Start collecting audience questions and comments by sharing the link that displays.
  3. To access those questions later, open that slide presentation and go to Tools > Q&A history.

10. Skip easily through a YouTube video with the number keys

There’s a good chance you’ll watch a YouTube video that has some content you don’t really need. The number keys on your laptop, computer or Chromebook can help you breeze through the video by skipping unnecessary content. Try it out …

  1. Open a YouTube video on a laptop, computer or Chromebook.
  2. Use the number keys to skip through a percentage of the video. (i.e. the “1” key skips to 10 percent through a video, the “5” key skips to 50 percent through a video, etc.)
  3. The zero “0” key restarts the video.

If you’re using a mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), there’s a solution for you, too! Double-tapping the right side of the screen in the YouTube app skips forward 10 seconds. (Left skips back 10 seconds.)

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  • Michelle O'Malley says:

    Very helpful tips!

  • susan faulkner says:

    thanks for the great tips!

  • Linda Loftus says:

    It is overwhelming at this point-and time consuming-but I think the end product is something the students will enjoy.

  • Julie Smith says:

    good ideas

  • great! this is very helpful blog content for me…

  • Suzanne says:

    When in presentation mode, my moveable parts that I created in my google slide show don’t move? How do I fix that?

    • doop.shwa says:

      You usually have to click it. Most animations in google slides have a start cue. The default is clicking anywhere on your screen. You can change this in the animations pop-up.

  • Luis Arellano says:

    Really interesting work, Matt! I love how you’re using new tools to build new approaches; they’re sorely needed.

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