How To Use the Explore Tool in Google Docs [5 Easy Ways]

We all despise the experience of writing in Google Docs while constantly switching between multiple tabs to deal with other tasks. Fortunately, there is a solution to avoid this nightmare: The Explore tool in Google Docs.

The Explore tool consolidates everything you need into one place, making the writing experience much more convenient and efficient. But how do you use the Google Docs Explore tool?

You can use it to seamlessly insert images, conduct quick Google searches, access drive storage, and even automatically generate citations, all without the need to open new tabs. In this article, you will learn how the Google Docs Explore tool can enhance your productivity and eliminate the time-consuming process of switching between tabs.

What Is the Google Docs Explore Tool, and How Does It Work?

The Google Docs Explore tool is a special built-in feature within Google Docs that lets users do several tasks within the document without the need to switch tabs.

Imagine you’re working on an essay in Google Docs, but suddenly a mental block hits you. It seems you need to consult Google for some inspiration.

Instead of opening a new tab to visit Google, you can simply use the Explore tool to conduct research without leaving the Google Docs interface.

Additionally, the Explore tool enables you to access your Drive storage directly from your document. This is particularly useful when referring to saved files while working on your current document.

The Explore tool uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. This means it can also suggest ways to improve your content. It analyzes your written text and offers relevant and helpful suggestions to enhance your content.

The fastest way to activate the Explore tool in Google Docs is using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + I (on Windows) or Command + Option + Shift + I (on Mac).

Explore tool in Google Docs—where to find the Explore tool in the tools menu


Alternatively, you can open it through the Google Docs toolbar by selecting “Tools” and clicking “Explore.” Once activated, a sidebar panel will appear on the right side of your screen.

Explore tool in Google Docs


It’s good to know that the Google Explore tool is not exclusive to Google Docs alone. It is also available in Google Slides and Google Sheets. But in this article, we will only focus on using this feature in Google Docs.

How To Use The Google Docs Explore Tool

Here are five ways the Google Explore tool can help you write your document with ease:

1. Doing Research in Google Docs with Explore Tool

You can quickly search using the Google Docs Explore tool by typing a specific keyword in the search bar. To get started, follow these simple steps:

  1. Type the keyword or topic you want to search for in the search bar within the “Explore” tool.
Explore tool shows search results of the history of the poem "The Raven"


  1. Note: You will only see a snippet of the search result within the Explore tool. If you want to read more, click on the results, and it will open a new tab for you to continue reading.

This feature is particularly useful, as it lets you have your document and potential reference sources side-by-side. This is highly beneficial for students and researchers who need to consult multiple sources to ensure the accuracy and factual basis of their work.

2. Inserting Citation Using Google Docs Explore Tool

After conducting a quick Google search to find references, you may want to cite them to avoid plagiarism. We know how tedious it can be to write citations due to their strict formatting requirements. However, thanks to the Google Explore tool, you can now cite sources without worrying about these formalities.

After searching for the history of the poem “The Raven,” I cited my source from Britannica by clicking the “quotation mark” icon next to the source. When clicked, Google Docs automatically adds a footnote in either MLA, APA, or Chicago format.

How to cite a web result as a footnote in the Google Docs Explore tool


Here is an example of how the footnote appears. It includes the title of the source material, the author, and the date of access, all presented in an organized fashion.

Footnote citation for an article by Britannica about Poe's "The Raven"


This automatic creation of footnotes for citations is incredibly helpful because adding footnotes manually in Google Docs can be challenging.

By default, the Explore tool uses the MLA citation format. However, you can change the citation format to either APA or Chicago by clicking the three dots next to the words “Web Results.”

How to change citation format in the Explore tool in Google Docs

3. Add Images Using Explore Tool in Google Docs

Inserting photos in your document can greatly enhance its visual appeal. With the Explore tool, adding images is made easy with just a few clicks. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Open the Google Explore tool by clicking the sidebar or using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + I (on Windows) or Command + Option + Shift + I (on Mac).
  2. Type the keyword or topic for the image you want to insert. For example, if you’re writing a poem analysis and want to add an image of a raven, you can simply type “raven” in the search bar.
  3. Click the “Images” tab to filter the search results to only display the image results.
  4. You will now see a wide array of images related to your search. Browse through the options and choose the image you want to insert into your document.
Search results of images for a raven the bird on the Explore tool in Google Docs


  1. To insert the chosen image, click on the plus (+) sign located in the upper-right corner of the image.
How to insert an image from the Explore tool search results to Google Docs


  1. The selected image will now be inserted into your document. You can resize and adjust the image’s placement, as well as apply text wrapping to ensure it fits well within your document.
  2. If you wish to add multiple images, simply repeat the process mentioned above.

4. Access Google Drive Files Using Google Docs Explore Tool

The Google Explore button also provides access to your files in Google Drive. To find and access a specific file, here’s what you can do:

  1. Open the Explore tool by clicking on the sidebar or using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + I (on Windows) or Command + Option + Shift + I (on Mac).
  2. Switch to the “Drive” tab within the Explore tool.
  3. Enter the file name you want to access in the search bar.
How to access Google Drive files using the Explore tool in Google Docs


  1. The sidebar panel will display the search results, and your desired file should appear.

Note: Google Drive is only accessible through the Explore tool on account of the email address associated with your Google Docs account.

To open the document, simply click on it, and a new tab will automatically open where you can view and edit the document.

5. Refer to Suggestions of Explore Tool in Google Docs

Earlier, we mentioned that the Google Docs Explore tool utilizes machine learning to provide helpful suggestions. This advanced technology is incredibly valuable for enhancing your document.

The Explore tool uses artificial intelligence to analyze the text in your document and generate relevant suggestions to improve your content. When you open the Explore tool, these suggestions will be prominently displayed in the sidebar panel.

Red rectangle on an online review for the poem "The Raven"


As shown in the example above, the Explore tool recommended an online article reviewing Edgar Allan Poe’s poem because its algorithm noticed I was writing a poem review.

It’s truly impressive how the Explore tool automatically provides these valuable suggestions without requiring any manual input. It simplifies the process of finding helpful sources and enhancing your content.

How To Use Google Docs Explore Tool on a Mobile Device

You can also access the Explore tool when using the Google Docs App on your smartphone. Here are the steps:

  1. Open a document in the Google Docs App.
  2. Activate “Editing Mode” by tapping the “Edit” button.
  3. Tap the three-dot icon located on the top-right corner of the screen.
    Red rectangle on a pen (edit) button
  4. Tap “Explore.
    Red rectangle on the three dots button
Red rectangle on the word "Explore"


That’s it! You have now successfully opened the Explore tool in the Google Docs App.

How To Research in Google Docs Explore Tool Mobile

Just like on a computer, you can use the mobile version of the Explore tool in the Google Docs App to perform quick Google searches. To get started, simply follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Explore tool in the Google Docs App.
  2. Enter a keyword in the search bar.
Search bar of the Explore tool


  1. Select a search result by tapping on it to view the full details.
Search results for the keywords "writing a poem"

Final Thoughts

Writing in Google Docs does not need to be a tiring and cumbersome process. Rather, it should be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience that’s stress-free from menial tasks that stall the quality of our writing.

The Google Docs Explore tool offers a seamless multitasking experience, eliminating the need for constantly switching between tabs. Say goodbye to the frustrating task of juggling multiple tabs and stay focused on what truly matters. Now, you can unleash your creativity and pour your heart into your writing without distractions.

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Emma Collins

Emma Collins

Emma Collins is a tech writer for Spreadsheet Point. She's been writing tech tutorials & how-to guides on Windows, Android, iOS, Social Media, Data Recovery, Cybersecurity, Gaming, and more as a tech writer for over 6 years. You can find her work on many established tech websites, including Productivity Spot,, MakeUseOf, Help Desk Geek, Online Tech Tips, HandyRecovery, Cleverfiles, and more.
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