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Four months after Google opened up the Google Docs templates gallery for everyone, the number of submissions has exploded. Document templates save time and boost your productivity – even if you don’t know how to create them.

Many Google Docs users are unaware of the fact that they can breathe life into their documents with templates. To start a new document from a template, choose New > From template… from your Docs list or click the “Browse template gallery” link found at the top of your Docs list. Many folks don’t create their own templates because they don’t want to mess with custom HTML and CSS.

Luckily, you can create a template from any existing Google Docs document. Start either by choosing an existing document, spreadsheet, presentation, and form or create a blank one. Then, edit the contents of a document whichever way you see fit.

If you want to get down and dirty, you can choose the Edit CSS or Edit HTML options under the Edit menu. A new window will open, allowing you to type in custom CSS styles defining how the basic elements look like, the stuff like paragraph styles (headings, quotes, normal text, etc.), text color and sizes, and alignments. When you’re done editing, save your document and visit the template gallery. Click the “Submit a template” link and pick a document from your Docs list that you want added to the gallery.

You can also pick a category, set the language, and type in the description (the title of your document defines a template title). When you have submitted your template, other users can browse the gallery, discover your template, and use it right away because Google is not screening submissions. Who knows, if you create a great template, Google may even feature it in the gallery.

Any changes you make to the underlying document will immediately carry over to your public template for everyone to see. The “everyone” label in the Folders/Sharing column of the Docs list simply means that a document is shared as a template with everyone. When you edit a document after it’s been submitted as a template, a yellow strip at the top of the Docs editor will remind you that any changes you make to this document will be publicly visible in the template gallery. Note that your template won’t automatically update for people who have already used it in their documents.

That’s because your template got copied into their account so they can make changes without affecting the public template file.

To remove your templates from the gallery, go to the My Templates section in the gallery and click the “Remove from Gallery” link next to a template. Alternatively, trash a template document in Docs list and empty the trash. To edit template details, click the “Edit Details” link next to your template in the gallery. You can also embed a template into a blog or website by clicking the “Embed” link and pasting the resulting HTML code. Embedded templates show up on your blog or website like in the public gallery, with buttons that let visitors preview, rate, and use your template.

Summing up, templates breathe life into documents and enable a wide variety of uses. Even if you don’t want to create them yourself, do browse and try out templates that other users have created. Templates don’t just dress up your document, they save time too. That’s especially true for spreadsheet templates preloaded with formulas that get the job done – all you need to do is type in the numbers. Also consider the life planning. career development. or 2010 calendar templates that turn Google Docs into a capable organizational tool. For example, I use the spreadsheet templates to nail down my personal finance, home budget, gas mileage. car loan, project management. and invoices .

TEMPLATES GALORE Templates like the Photo Album (left) and the Wedding Album (right) can dress up your documents as if a team of designers painstakingly agonized over every pixel.

One of my favorites are awesome presentation templates that enhance slides with eye-candy for that extra punch (photo albums are also nice). I write my Geek documents in Google Docs using a custom template that sports a large paragraph typeface, great headline style, and double the line spacing that all reduce eye strain. Finally, if you want to add a little color to your surveys and questionnaires, like Google’s Star Wars vs Star Trek survey. make sure you check out cool form templates. If you’re using Google Apps, you can even share templates within your own domain (read how). In short, it’s astounding how more useful a tool Google Docs becomes when you incorporate templates into your daily workflow. Trust me, once you try templates, you’ll never want to use stock document styles again.

Google Docs templates: The basics

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