What are Google Docs Building Blocks, and how do you use them?


Building blocks in various colors

Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Google is always thinking of ways to improve your experience with its cloud-based office suite. And with every new iteration, the tools become more and more useful.

A case in point is Building Blocks. This is yet another new feature added to Docs, which gives you an assist on creating things like Meeting Notes, Email Drafts, Product Roadmaps, Review Trackers, Project Assets, and Content Trackers. 

Also: This handy Google Docs feature help writers stay focused

The Email Draft feature alone is worth using, as it not only allows you to take advantage of the usual Docs tools, but it also means you can compose your emails in a more comfortable environment. Instead of drafting your emails in the small compose window, you have the entire Docs window to use.

Let me show you how to make use of Google Docs Building Blocks.

How to use Google Docs Building Blocks

What you’ll need: The only things you’ll need for this feature are a valid Google account and a web browser. That’s it. Let’s use Building Blocks.

The first thing you want to do is log in to your Google account from your default browser. Google Docs Building Blocks works in most web browsers. The only exception is that Building Blocks doesn’t seem to be available on the mobile version of Google Docs. Maybe Google will roll out the feature to the mobile version at some point. In the meantime, stick with your desktop browser.

Also: Are your Google Docs safe from AI training?

Once you’ve opened Google Docs or Google Drive, create a new Google Document.

At the top of the new document, you’ll see three ‘pills’, which are Meeting motes, Email draft, and More. For our purposes, click Email draft.

The Google Docs Building Blocks pills.

If you click More, a Search Menu will appear, where you can select from even more Building Blocks.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

After clicking Email draft, the Building Block will appear in the document. Compose the email exactly how you want.

The Google Docs Email Draft Building Block.

Creating an email draft with Building Blocks is easy. It’s also possible to then use these drafts as handy templates.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

When you finish composing the email, click the blue Gmail ‘M’ at the top-right corner and a new popup will appear. If you’re certain the email is ready, click Send and you’re done.

The Google Docs Email Draft Building Block send window.

After clicking Send, the popup will disappear.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Here’s another benefit of using Building Blocks. After sending the email, give the original document a name and it will be saved in the folder from which it was created. You can then use that document as a template for emails. 

Also: How to change the task overdue sound on Google Calendar so you never miss a deadline

You might have to send similar emails to the same or different recipients, and having a draft ready makes that task considerably easier.

There are two other ways to add Building Blocks to a document. 

Also: My favorite keyboard shortcut of all time (and it works on every browser)

The first way is from the Insert menu. Click Insert > Building Blocks and select the block you want to add.

The Google Docs Insert menu.

Adding a Building Block from the Docs Insert menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The final method of adding Building Blocks to a document is to type the @ symbol and select the block you want from the popup menu.

Adding a Building Block with the @ menu method.

You can add a Building Block to any part of your document with this method.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that’s all there is to using the new Google Docs Building Blocks feature. This addition to Docs can really empower your workflow to make it more efficient and repeatable.

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