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Google Docs Programming Languages: Front End and Back End

It’s no secret that Google has a reputation for keeping a lot of its operations confidential. From algorithm updates (that impact search functions and SEO guidelines) to Google Docs programming languages available, it can feel like you’re in the dark at times.

If you want to learn how coding in Google Docs works, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we take a closer look at what languages the popular online word processor uses and how it functions differently than other text editors.

How the Google Docs Backend (Probably) Works

There are some things that we know for sure about Google Docs languages (and the programs that it uses). However, we can make assumptions based on how other Google apps work.

Java in Google Docs

Google Docs programming languages—Get Java homepage screenshot


Google uses Java to handle all of the major functions of its text editor, which would be the server side of the system in a traditional network.

Java is an object-oriented programming language (OOP), although not purely. It organizes its design around data (otherwise known as “objects”) that developers want to manipulate instead of the functions and logic that are needed to manipulate them.

There are seven characteristics that define an OOP language:

  • Abstraction
  • Polymorphism
  • Encapsulation
  • Inheritance
  • All user-defined types must be objects
  • All predefined types must be objects
  • All object operations must be performed using methods

Note: Java satisfies all of the above conditions except the last two.

Why Is an OOP Used?

OOP is the go-to approach for large and complex programs that are actively going through updates or maintenance activities — like Google Docs. It facilitates collaboration, makes the process more efficient, enables code reusing, and makes elements easier to scale.

So if you like the way Google Docs stays ahead of the curve, you have these features to thank.

Java vs. JavaScript: What’s the Difference?

JavaScript homepage screenshot

The client side of the system consists of different web applications that are enhanced by the JavaScript programming language.

It’s important to note that Java (programming) and JavaScript (scripting) are two different things.

To illustrate: Programming involves the creation of various applications from scratch and compiling the languages for conversion into machine code. Scripting does away with the compilation step and interprets things instead.

Other Characteristics of Google Docs’ Backend

Not much is known outside of the fact that Google Docs uses Java and Javascript, which is a shame because there’s so much more to its backend infrastructure. However, as we mentioned at the start of this section, there are a few things that we can confidently assume about the word processor.

For instance, Google has a long history of using ready-made hardware, especially in its Google File System and other computer networks. There’s a good chance that they did the same thing for the servers handling Google Docs.

Still, while these pieces of hardware aren’t particularly powerful, they’re relatively affordable, meaning that Google can continuously afford to add more system resources. What you get is a workhorse of a computer network that already has a high capacity but is still scalable.

Since Google uses cheap hardware, they probably expect the parts to fail from time to time. If this is true, it’s likely that the company stores Google Doc files on multiple servers for redundancy and just sends messages to a central control server to stay updated.

This ensures that Google can pull the information from other sites in the event that one of the servers fails. Just how many data centers Google has remains a mystery, but it has several known such facilities that are huge.

Front-End Google Docs Programming Languages

Front-end (or client-side) web development is the process of building the structure, design, and layout of a webpage. This creates the user interface and visual elements of an app or website. It’s one-half of the web development field.

Note: Google Docs is currently written in a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

HTML, Javascript, and CSS in Google Docs’ Frontend

HTML is the main tool for structuring documents and making them compatible with all devices. JavaScript, however, adds interactive elements that enable users to work on the same document simultaneously.

Aside from the collaborative feature, Google’s JavaScript library also powers the autosave and comment systems of Google Docs.

However, while HTML and JavaScript can account for much of the application’s functionalities, they’re not enough. It’s likely that Google uses the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and Google application programming interfaces (APIs) to build the rest of the platform.

What Are GWT and Google APIs?

Google Docs Programming Languages GWT


GWT is an open-source Java development framework that makes it easier to write AJAX applications with Java. Its set of tools allows developers to create web-based applications (with a rich user experience) by combining Java with CSS and HTML.

On the other hand, Google APIs allow communication with the rest of Google’s services, including Gmail, search, and Translate.

What Is Google Docs Built On?

JavaScript is one of today’s most popular coding languages, and Google Docs uses it for the entire closed-source editing surface and layout engine. This approach allows its users to create documents and edit them without having to install any software.

JavaScript is an open-source code, meaning that virtually anyone can pitch in to improve Google Docs. Aside from being open to development and improvement, Google Docs is designed to be powerful and flexible. That’s because developers can now create custom plugins and extensions here that anyone can use.

Aside from Java, Google Docs also uses PHP, NGINX, and other programming languages for its back end.

PHP for Google Docs

PHP is a scripting language that can make websites and applications more engaging by helping with server-side programming.

NGINX for Google Docs

NGINX is an open-source, web-serving software that’s known to deliver content to its users in a fast and efficient manner. As a result, it’s more than capable of handling large amounts of traffic that Google Docs might receive at any given time.

What Is the Difference Between Google Docs and Other Text Editors?

Most text editors are heavily dependent on an editable HTML element that allows their users to see the results as they type code in. However, Google Docs is different in this regard:

When you type code, you don’t see the web page change dynamically but you know that it’s there beneath the surface.

Using this method gives rise to a number of differences, including:

1. Unique Editing Surface

One of the first things that you’ll notice about Google Docs is that it offers a unique experience. It allows you to track changes, leave comments, and collaborate on documents in real-time.

What’s more, the editing surface offers a number of features and add-ons that you can use to tweak the aesthetics and feel of a document. The editing surface is a feature designed to process all inputs from Google Docs users and make the application feel like a regular editor.

2. New Layout Engine

If you edit documents using different gadgets, then you’ll love Google Docs. It uses a proprietary layout engine that’s capable of rendering documents that are compatible with any device.

Whether you’re on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet, Google Docs provides a high level of user experience that’s similar to Microsoft Word.

3. Collaboration

Another advantage of JavaScript is that it can handle multiple users working on the same document simultaneously — even if users don’t have the same dependencies. Additionally, there’s no need to invest in expensive software or hardware.

What Is the Google Apps Script?

Google Apps Script is a coding language that allows its users to unlock more features in Docs, Sheets, Drive, and other Google applications. It’s Java-based and runs in the cloud, not on the device you’re using.

Aside from extending and manipulating Google apps, Google Apps Script also provides an easy way to automate tasks across different Google products. Even better, it’s surprisingly easy to learn — especially if you have JavaScript experience.

Related: Discover how to use code to make sidebars as well as buttons in Google Sheets.

Coding Languages Used By Other Google Apps

Now that you know about the programming languages used by Google Docs, you’re probably wondering what other Google apps use.

Here’s the lowdown on some of the most popular applications by Google:

1. Google Drive

Go (also known as Golang and Go Language) is the go-to programming language for Google Drive. Created by Google in 2009, It’s statically typed but feels like it is dynamically typed, making the code-writing process both quick and efficient.

2. Google Sheets

Similar to Google Docs, Google Sheets uses Java App Script. You can use it to add new features, customize existing features, and automate certain tasks (like sending emails).

3. Google Calendar

Google Calendar uses multiple languages, including Java, JavaScript, and Python. Java is responsible for the server side of the app, while JavaScript is useful in enhancing its web services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Develop a Version of Google Docs on My Own?

In theory, it’s possible to develop something that’s similar to Google Docs on your own, but it would take a lot of hard work and a high skill level in multiple programming languages.

For some context, it requires a team of talented and motivated engineers to develop a text editor like Google Docs. And even then, it would be difficult for them to build it because Google Docs has so many features that help to enhance user experience.

For example: If you were to create a simple text editor that adds text, formats, saves, and does other basic functions. You would therefore have to be well-versed in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You’d probably expect to spend anywhere between two weeks and months making it, depending on your skill level.

Can I Write Code in Google Docs?

At the time of publication, it’s not possible to use Google Docs to edit code. If you write some code lines on the text editor, it won’t recognize the text as code.

That said, Google has plans to let its users “insert” some “code blocks” sometime in the future. However, only those with certain types of accounts would be able to access this feature.


Google Docs is a useful tool that’s both convenient and easy to use. However, a lot of thought and effort went into it to turn it into one of today’s most popular text editors, including a parade of Google Docs programming languages led by Java and JavaScript.

Google guards its trade secrets jealously, but we hope this article has given you a good idea of what happens behind the curtains. You can also access different tutorials and online GSuite courses to get the most out of your favorite Google applications.


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