The Google Docs Explore tool brings you quick access to your Drive files, web search, images, recommendations and more.

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolExplore is available in Docs, Sheets, and Slides and it uses machine learning to try to predict the things you need as you compose and create.

The features vary across applications so this post will focus on how this tool works inside Google Docs.

In this post, you will learn 5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore Tool.

The Explore tool is super handy and can save you time, and help keep students focused on the task at hand.

Let’s dive in!

Please note, while this post is focused on the desktop/web version of Google Docs, the Explore tool is also available on mobile. (Android directions| iOS directions)

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5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolWhat is the Google Docs Explore Tool?

The Google Docs Explore tool uses machine learning to suggest topics, images, and files from your Google Drive to help you create and compose.

You can also search the web, your Drive files, Google Images, and even cite sources using this fantastic tool.

There are two ways to access the Explore tool, (1) Go to Tools>Explore, or (2) Click on the Explore icon on the bottom right of your page.

A new sidebar panel will open giving you access to many different features as shown in the animation below.

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore Tool

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore Tool

1. Quick Access Recommendations

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolOne of the first features you may notice when you open the Explore tool is the quick access recommendations from your Google Drive.

As I mentioned earlier, this tool using machine learning to try to predict what you need when you need it.

The more information in your document, the smarter it gets.

You can click on a file to open it in a new tab, or hover over the file name and click on the “+” to insert a link to the file in the current document.

This is a great way to see related files and a great time-saver for teachers and students!

What you see here varies by person and document. You may also see suggested topics, images, or other files based on your usage of Google Docs and the content in your files.



2. Search Your Drive

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolNot only will Explore recommend Google Drive files for you, but it will also allow you to search your Drive without having to separately open Google Drive in a new tab.

To search your Drive files,

– just type in your search terms in the search box and voila!

-Then choose the “Drive” tab below the search box.

This is a great time-saver for you and your students to locate and link to your other Google Drive files.











3. Search the Web

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolOne of my favorite features of the Explore tool for students is the search the web feature.

Students can search the web without leaving the document!

This is HUGE! We all know how difficult it can be to keep students on task when they are searching the web.

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore Tool

To search the web,

– Click in the search box to type your search terms.

– Then choose the “Web” tab below the search box.

– Students can click on the link to open the page in a new tab to do their research.

And keep reading…there’s even more you can do with this search!












4. Cite Sources

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolThis one of those WOW features!

Yes, you CAN cite sources auto-magically inside Google Docs!

It is a footnote citation, so it will not meet every need, but it is so handy and light years above what I could get my 6th graders to do!

To insert a footnote citation,

– Search the web for the source you wish to cite.

– Hover over the result and click on the quotations to insert the citation as a footnote.

BOOM! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But Wait…There’s More! Change the Citation Format:

Yes! You can cite the source in MLA, APA or Chicago!!!!!

Go to the three dots (snowman) to change from MLA, APA, or Chicago.

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore Tool

For even more detailed directions, check out my previous post, How to Cite Sources in Google Docs.

5. Search for Images

5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolYour third search option is the ability to search Google Images directly from Google Docs!

You and your students can easily find images to add to your documents and project.

To search for images,

– Click in the search box to type your search terms.

– Then choose the “Images” tab below the search box.

– Hover over the image you wish to insert and click “+” to insert (or just click and drag)










5 Ways to Use the Google Docs Explore ToolIt’s not only easy to use, but it’s also easy to check the usage rights to ensure students are not breaking copyright.

Teach your students how to check the usage rights to reinforce good digital citizenship skills! (This also helps you meet the ISTE Standards for Students.)

To check the usage rights for the images,

– Click on the image (not the + sign)

– The image will open in a preview window and below the image you will find the usage rights. (Most are labeled for “Commercial reuse with modification.”)

– The source link for the image is a bit hidden. Look near the top-left of the preview window for a clickable link to the original source.

Note: This image search is definitely filtered, but it not stated or guaranteed so I want to encourage you and students to always check the usage rights. (Here is what Google has to say about it.)

Did you learn some new tricks?

I hope so! There is always something new to learn when it comes to Google, and the Explore tool is no exception.

Look for more Google Docs tips and tricks coming soon.

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