The Google Docs text editor lets you write, edit, format, and share text documents through your web browser, for free.
It's free: Just like Sheets, Slides, Gmail, Photos, and other Google consumer apps, Google Docs is free to use across popular browsers, from Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to Apple Safari.
Editing tools: Google Docs comes with the basic editing tools you'd expect from a text editor. You can enter and change text. You can undo and redo edits as you work. And you can copy and paste text and images within a file or between files. And you can search through a document, find and replace text elements, spell check your document, and check word, page, and character count.
Style and format: Docs comes with a broad collection of document-formatting tools that help you organize your text and add polish to your docs. For paragraph-level control, you set line spacing and align a paragraph to the left or right, center it, or justify the text. You can create columns, numbered lists, and bulleted lists. And you can increase or decrease the indent of a paragraph. You can hyperlink text, insert images you are storing in Drive or from Google Photos, and insert charts and tables you build in Sheets.
To help organize your document, you can assign paragraph styles through Paragraph styles on the Format menu. You can assign a title, subtitle, and subheadings to a paragraph, and design your own paragraph styles if you want to override Google's default settings. You can also view an outline of your document and create a table of contents that links to your headings and title.
For fonts, you can change which font a document uses from the Font menu and add fonts to the menu by selecting More fonts from the menu. You can, of course, bold, italicize, and underline your text; apply strikethrough, superscript, or subscript; and change font size.
To simplify reapplying a style, the Paint Format tool lets you copy formatting between text.
Share, edit, and chat in real time: You can share a doc by tapping the Share button in the top-right corner of the Docs window and then adding collaborators by name or email. You can set whether they can edit, comment, or just view the file. Users can add comments to a file and address comments made by others. You can view collaborator edits in real time, and by selecting File > Version history, you can see earlier versions of the file and view changes with timestamps. If you want to revert edit, you can restore an earlier version of the file. You can also chat with others working in the doc by tapping the Show chat icon.
Works with Word: You can import and convert Office files to Google Docs files. Through the Chrome browser version of the apps, you can use Office Compatibility Mode (OCM) to work on Office files in their native formats.
Live in the cloud: All your Google files are stored in Google's Drive cloud service. Out of the box, you get 15GB of storage for free to store your Gmail email, Google Photos images, and anything you keep in your drive. Every change to a Docs file is automatically saved to the cloud. If you hit the limit of your free allowance, you can move to 100GB of storage for $19.99 per year or 1TB for $99.99 per year. And if it still feels cramped, for $199.99 a month you can get 20TB of Drive cloud storage.
By default, you need to be connected to Google's cloud service to work on your files, but you can install a Google Docs Chrome extension to turn on offline access to your files when you're not connected. You can also turn on the ability to create, edit, and open your files while offline in settings for each app. You need to be using the Chrome browser to work with your files offline.
Add-ons: Through add-ons you can extend the functionality of Docs. Focused on business and education uses, add-ons can help with anything from creating charts and graphs to building bibliographies.
Companion apps: In addition to Docs, Google has companion apps that work side by side with the text-editing tool: Sheets to create, edit, and format a spreadsheet; Slides for building compelling presentations; Keep for taking notes; Drawings for creating charts and diagrams; and Forms for building surveys and forms.
And mobile apps: Google has Docs apps for iOS and Android devices. While the mobile version of Docs lets you do much of what you can with the web version, more complicated tasks are a bit harder to perform on a phone or tablet's touch screen.
Few advanced tools: Google Docs lacks some high-end capabilities found in a paid productivity suite such as Microsoft Office. If you need to index hundreds of pages of a report or need more sophisticated track-changes tools, you might need to look elsewhere.
Privacy concerns: Google relies in part on a user's settings and web-browsing history to serve ads to its users. Through your user settings, you have control over which information you share with Google. But in the end, the company monetizes your Google-related activities.
Unless you are writing the next great American novel, Google Docs' free and collaborative text-editing tools should be more than up to the task.