How to Finally Format Text in Google Docs Using Basic Syntax

How to Finally Format Text in Google Docs Using Basic Syntax
Photo: OpturaDesign, Shutterstock

Google Docs’ formatting features have rarely evolved over the past decade. Typically, you can use keyboard shortcuts or the formatting bar, and that’s it. But Google Docs has recently introduced Markdown as a syntax-only formatting language, and it’s popular among developers and writers.

The beauty lies in its simplicity: You don’t need a formatting bar or even keyboard shortcuts. What to make a word bold? Just wrap it between asterisks. Italics? Use underscores. Markdown offers basic formatting options for headings and links, and it goes all the way to complex tables and code blocks, all using syntax.

Google has started integrating parts of the Markdown syntax in Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings. Basically, Google will convert your Markdown syntax into formatted text as you’re typing. It’s fast, efficient, and cool. The slight downside is that the system only works when you’re writing text, so it won’t work if you paste in a wall of Markdown text into your doc.

How to enable Markdown in Google Docs

Once you enable Markdown once from Google Docs, it will work across all documents. Open a new document, and go to Tools > Preferences > Automatically Detect Markdown. Hit the “OK” button and you’re good to go.

How to use italics, bold, and strikethrough in Google Docs

As mentioned, Google only supports a subset of Markdown features, but even those will come really handy for anyone who spends hours writing in Google Docs. Here’s the breakdown of the syntax:

Start a sentence with “#” for Heading 1, “##” for Heading 2, “###” for Heading 3, all the way to “######” for Heading 6.

To add links in a Google Doc, wrap the text that you want to link with “[” and “]”. Immediately follow it up with the link, wrapped in parentheses. So the text “Here’s the link for a new [Google Docs document](www.docs.new)” will turn into “Here’s the link for a new Google Docs document.”

The Markdown shortcuts for bold, italics, and strikethrough also carry over. Just like WhatsApp, wrapping the text in asterisks (*) will make it bold, underscores (_) will put it in italics, and dashes (-) will add strikethrough.

And for now, that’s it. Google hasn’t integrated the complete Markdown language, and there’s still a lot more to come, hopefully. But this is a good start.

 

Log in to comment on this story!