Smartphone with Google Docs open on it lying on a table with a laptop, a plant and a notebook and pen surrounding it.
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How Markdown for Google Docs can make typing work documents faster

16 Sep 2022

Simply by checking a box in Google Docs’ settings, you can avail of nifty typing and formatting shortcuts.

You may or may not be aware of a useful trick that can make composing things like bullet point lists or formatting text easier in Google Docs. It can also be used in Google Slides and Google Drawings.

Enabling Markdown in Google Docs will recognise certain symbols and format your document as you type. Markdown is a hugely popular lightweight markup language and smart composition tool.

For example, if you type tm, Markdown will autocorrect to ™. Other examples include (c) to ©; (r) to ®; — to –; 1/2 to ½ and ==> to ⇒. With Markdown enabled, you’ll have less of a need to waste time googling computer shortcuts for these symbols. (Let’s face it, they are very easy to forget.)

Enabling Markdown in Google Docs and other Google applications is very easy. Once you’ve created your new file in Google Docs, Slides or Drawings, click ‘Tools’ from the menu bar on the top of the screen and then click ‘Preferences’. This will prompt a pop-up menu to appear and you’ll want to tick the box to ‘automatically detect Markdown’.

This means you can now use Markdown as you compose your documents. The smart composition feature can save you time and hassle when you’re typing up reports and other documents for work. You can use Markdown to automatically generate headings, italics, bold text, links, bullet points and check boxes in your Slides and Docs.

Markdown for Google is available to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers. It is also available to users with personal Google Accounts. You will, however, need to manually enable the tool in order to use it as it is not automatically enabled.

Markdown was created by John Gruber in 2004. It is supported by several websites including Reddit, GitHub and other desktop and web-based apps.

If you’re looking for more detailed instructions on how to use Markdown in Google Docs, you can access resources at Google’s Help Centre. Then if you have time, it can be good to play around with these shortcuts so they stick in your memory.

It’s worth noting, if you are already familiar with Markdown, that Google Docs doesn’t support all of its shortcuts. It merely converts Markdown into its own formatting.

One major drawback is that Markdown for Google Docs won’t convert text that has been pasted into a document from another source. It also can’t be used to insert images, which may bother people who like to make their presentations visual.

That said, Markdown is not the only tool that Google has added to Docs to make the user experience better. Earlier this year Google introduced some new updates that let you collaborate more efficiently with colleagues on composing documents.

Thanks to the updates, Docs users can now get automatically generated summaries of the document they are working on as well as view their documents in a pageless format. They can also benefit from what Google calls smart chips, or in-built chips that allow you to pull in information from Google Maps or Gmail into documents to make them more informative.

These chips are somewhat similar to Markdown shortcuts in that you just need to type something – for example, the @ symbol to prompt a drop-down menu with your Gmail contacts to appear.

The smart chips are designed to benefit those working in a team in particular, whereas the Markdown capabilities will be more beneficial to workers typing away on their own.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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