If you’re used to using Microsoft Word and glancing down to the bottom of the screen to see where you’re up to on a document, you’ll know how simple and intuitive it is:
Similarly, with Adobe Acrobat, you just have a quick look at your dashboard to get the page number:
But when you’re on Google Docs, there is no such counter active on the screen. So how are you supposed to find out what page you’re on in a document? It’s not immediately obvious, but it’s simple when you know how. On desktop computers, you just hover the cursor over the scroll bar on the right to see this pop up:
And there you have it. You’ll also see the current page number in the same place if you use the scroll bar to move through the pages, but that’s not much use if you just want to see the number of the page you’re working on.
On mobile devices using Google Drive, you’ll also see the page number when you press or move the scroll bar, along with headings. However, this will only work if you’re in “Print layout” (settings > Print layout (toggle)). If Print layout is off, the text will be one long stream without page numbers.
Why do I need to know the page number?
It’s handy to know where you’re up to if you’re proofing or editing a document, especially if you’re working against the clock or someone needs to know how far along the document you’ve got, and how much more time you estimate you’ll need.
It’s also useful if you want to refer someone else to a specific point in the document, or compile a list of pages that need attention. Be careful, though – if you make an edit, it can make the whole document past that point re-flow, and change the pagination throughout the rest of the document. Pro tip: to avoid this, work through the comments backwards, so nothing you can do will affect the previous pages.
Why doesn’t Google Docs show the page number automatically?
If you’re working on a document, the page numbers don’t tend to be all that important until the work is published, and it will probably go through many edits and amends, and have images, title pages, notes and all sorts of material inserted into it before it’s published. Everything you do changes the position words appear on in any page, and you can easily push or pull paragraphs onto the next or previous page by making a correction several pages earlier. That’s why indexing and cross-referencing are among the final tasks a book or other document goes through before it goes to press.
Useful though it is as a collaborative work tool, Google Docs is not a professional typesetting suite like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. It’s just for getting words, images and ideas on the page, and if the material is destined for pro publishing, it will almost certainly go through a pro suite for typesetting and printing.