How to chat secretly using Google Docs or Apple Notes

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Google Docs, Apple Notes, and most similar services let you share a document to collaborate with others. The changes you and the added person make are instantly visible to one another. You can use this handy feature to chat, and in this tutorial, we show you how!

Why use Docs or Notes for messaging?

Besides the good old SMS, there are plenty of secure messaging services like iMessage, Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, etc. Plus, almost all social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, have direct messaging built-in.

However, there can be a small niche of users and situations when you may not want to use the aforementioned services.

For example, if you don’t have a colleague’s phone number and don’t want to email back and forth, you can use Google Docs or the Apple Notes app to have a discussion. Also, keep in mind that your employer can potentially see your Slack messages. The case with Google Workspace or G Suite is similar where the admin can reset your account password, and voila, they have access to your emails! So, one way to prevent this is by simply keeping the Docs or Notes window open on one side of your office computer, chat, and then delete that document.

Let’s take another example where someone is after you and determined to see your chats. They will check Mail, Gmail, Messages, and third-party texting apps installed on your phone or computer. Almost anyone won’t even think of checking your Notes app or Google Docs, as these are writing tools and not a medium of instant messaging.

How is the experience?

As you might have already figured out, chatting via Docs or Notes won’t have the bells and whistles of a messaging app. It’ll just be a text field where you and the participant types the message that both can see almost in real-time. No meaningful notifications, no chat bubbles, etc.

Have a quick look if you’re interested in this now or think it can be helpful someday in the future.

How to chat using Google Docs

The steps below are for a computer, but you can also use the Google Docs app on your iPhone or Android to start a chat or continue an ongoing conversation.

1) Visit Google Docs and click the plus button to create a new document. While you’re at it, you may rename Untitled Document to something relevant like New Project DiscussionPrivate Chat, etc.

Start a new blank document in Google Docs

2) Write your first message.

3) Click Share.

Write your message and click Share

4) In Add people and groups, type the person’s name and pick it from the suggestions. Next, make sure it says Editor and click Send.

Add a person as editor for your Google Doc

Alternatively, you can also choose Anyone with the link under General Access. After that, click Viewer and change it to Editor. Now, click Copy link and send this link using any medium (messages, email, WhatsApp, etc.) to the person you wish to chat with.

Google Document access to anyone with the link

5) Once the recipient opens this Google document (by going to their Google Docs or clicking the link), they will see the first message you wrote. Next, they can type the message, which you will see almost instantly.

Friend replies your Google chat message

You can delete all previous messages (select all > delete) and type a new message. This will ensure an onlooker or another office colleague who happens to come to your desk can’t see past conversation texts. Or, you can choose not to delete what your friend wrote and continue the conversation. Since there are no chat bubbles, either you or your friend can make things a bit visually pleasing by using formatting like bolditalics, text color, etc.

Another way to chat in Google Docs

Google Docs also has a proper chat function for shared documents. After you follow the steps above to share a document, click the chat button from the top right.

Chat option inside Google Docs

Done chatting?

If you’re no longer interested in continuing this conversation, do one of the following:

  • Delete all text from the shared document and leave it blank. You can use this same shared document to chat again in the future.
  • Delete the actual document by clicking File > Move to trash.
  • Remove access. To do this, click Share. Next, click Editor next to your friend’s name > Remove access > Save. This document is no longer shared with them, and you two can’t chat now. If you had chosen Anyone with the link, click it and choose Restricted. This document is no longer shared.
Remove access from Google Docs

How to chat using Apple Notes app

The fundamentals of chatting via the built-in Notes app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac are the same. You create a new note or edit an existing one and add another person as the collaborator. After that, you and the collaborator can type your thoughts inside that shared note, which both can see. Here’s an iDB tutorial that shows you how to collaborate by sharing notes in the Notes app.

Can I do group chats?

You can share or collaborate with multiple people on a single Google document or Apple note. However, it can get messy and troublesome if several people write the message at the same time.

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