How to use Google Docs: Tips for HOAs

Date Published : Sep-02-2022

Written By : Kim Brown

Google Docs is an online word processor. Users can complete letters, announcements, proposals, resumes, and virtually any other type of written document on this cloud-based platform. It’s very similar to programs like Microsoft Word, but the biggest appeal is that Google Docs is free.  


Why use Google Docs?

If you are an HOA board member or property manager, then there’s no getting around written documents. You need a record of everything, and as a result, communication is a big part of your role.

Google Docs can be an excellent option for HOAs because the program is free, easy to use, and it supports collaborative work.


Google Docs is free to use 

While not all free software is useful, Google Docs is definitely a platform that offers users great value and utility. All you need is a Google account and internet access. It’s also very easy to use, and has a lot of the core features that any board member or manager would need to complete quality work. Money always matters when you’re managing an association.  Cloud-based software have fees that must be paid every year. By using Google Docs, you can save the community hundreds of dollars over the course of a few years.  


You can use it for multiple HOA tasks

The Google suite allows you to do much more than write letters or notices. Users have access to several tools that make it easier for HOA leaders to be productive.


Store resident information

Google Drive is a file storage service that saves all of your documents. Managers or staff could use Google Sheets (similar to Microsoft Excel) to build a detailed resident database and save it in Drive. The spreadsheet can easily be retrieved and updated from any computer since Drive is a cloud-based system. While there are only 15GB of free storage, it is possible to purchase more space.


Build AGM presentations

Use the Slides feature to create simple, attractive material for your next AGM or member meeting. It is very easy to change layouts, add speaker notes, modify background colors, fonts, etc. You can also share slideshows with other board members, or present them virtually using Google Meet.  


Archive association documents

Virtually any type of file or form can be saved to Google Drive. Teams can save invoices, CC&Rs, policies, photos, forms for owners, and anything else that matters to the community.  


Customize HOA forms

Speaking of forms for owners, you can create popular forms such as service request or amenity booking sheets using Forms or Google Docs. This way, you can email or print off forms in seconds instead of having to dig through a binder every time an owner wants to book the clubhouse or submit an architectural change request.


Create surveys

Yes, you can even design and share surveys with the help of the Google Suite. Forms allow you to build surveys and questionnaires. Send surveys directly to owners, or share a link to the survey with them in a separate email. Admins can view responses as soon as the survey is submitted. You can also access the raw data and analyze it with Sheets or other software.


It has a template gallery

There are dozens of templates to choose from on Google Docs, including items to help HOAs:  

  • Newsletters
  • Project proposals
  • Policies
  • Contractor agreements

Some of these templates are optimized to integrate with add-ons such as signature tools to streamline workflows and simplify processes that require the involvement of multiple parties.


It has a lot of storage

Google Drive, the platform that hosts Google Docs and similar apps, provides up to 15GB of storage space. That’s sufficient for most, but associations can purchase more storage if they need it.

Users can create organized folders so that the documents don’t become overwhelming or messy. There’s also a handy search bar that allows you to find the item you need in seconds.


It allows for collaborative work

This online word processor makes it easy for teams to work together even if they aren’t in the same room. It’s possible for two (or more) people to create and edit the same document at the same time. Edits are tracked by the user making the edit, and it’s possible for users to view past versions of the item.

It’s also very easy for the owner of one document to control permissions and share documents with other people. So, a board member could share the link to a document with a manager and only give them access to review the item. Or they could be granted permission to make changes.  


It’s convenient

Google Docs is accessible through an internet web browser and as a mobile app. ChromeOS users can also download it as a desk application. Users have the freedom to pick up where they left off using any computer or tablet. They don’t have to lug their work laptop home in order to access a file.

Documents can be opened or saved in the standard Google Docs format, as well as in Rich text format, plain Unicode text, zipped HTML, and Microsoft Word.


It saves work automatically

Remember how angry you were the last time you lost all of your hard work because a program crashed before you hit save? This won’t happen with Google Docs. The app autosaves progress every couple of minutes so that you can focus on completing your work instead of preserving it. 


The cons

Google Docs isn’t perfect, but the drawbacks probably aren’t serious enough to dissuade HOAs from using the program.


Features are still limited

Although there are a lot of tools and functions, Google Docs features are still very standard. Unlike Microsoft Word, which has advanced editing features, it satisfies more basic writing and formatting needs. People who write for a living may prefer to invest in a paid software option, but Google Docs will be a good fit for most HOAs.


No desktop version

Google Docs is not available as a desktop application for Windows and Mac. Most people would prefer a cloud-based program because it is more accessible. But some users might feel that having a desktop program is more secure.


Did you know you can…

Google Docs can do most of the things that Microsoft Word can. It also has some unique features worth highlighting. For instance, the program can:

  • Integrate images, tables and charts into documents. You can import these items from your computer or from Google Drive. Images can also be edited from within the document
  • Translate an entire document from one language to another. This can be helpful if you care for a community that speaks another language
  • Create task charts that are visually pleasing and easy to update. This is great when trying to execute projects               
  • Search Google without leaving your document. Just click the grey and white icon at the bottom right of your screen to bring up the browser
  • Add suggestions or make edits to documents sent from board members or management
  • Embed documents completed on Google Docs onto your HOA website. This is a simple way to share event updates, announcements, or blog articles


When to use Google Docs?

HOA board and managers can use Google Docs for a variety of tasks. Some of the most common situations include drafting notices to the community, typing out newsletters and creating any board materials. But the platform is flexible enough to accommodate:   

  • Grant applications completed on behalf of the HOA
  • Meeting minutes to be shared with members
  • Speeches for annual meetings
  • Policy creation or amendment
  • Proposals
  • Written text to accommodate reports



Google Docs is a free word processor available to anyone with a Google account. It is a cloud-based platform, which means users can access their documents from any device that has internet connection.

This software option is a solid choice for boards and managers who need a reliable program to help them produce professional communications. While it may be lacking more advanced features, most HOA leaders won’t need anything more than the basics.

Of course, a property management software like Condo Control will give your team the ability to manage communications, day-to-day operations and records all from one platform. With this program, you can draft, schedule and archive announcements, upload records to the document storage library, and customize an events calendar for members. However, Google Docs has a lot to offer users considering it is free.     

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