The Markdown formatting language lets you write complicated documents using text shortcuts, as opposed to keyboard shortcuts or a text editor’s nasty row of buttons. It’s a popular option among writers who want a speedy and consistent writing experience across apps, and now, it’s coming to Google Docs.
Google previously added some very bare-bones Markdown support to Docs, including the ability to make bullet points by placing a space after an asterisk. But the company is now expanding Markdown support for headings, italics, bold text, strikethrough text, and links.
After enabling Markdown, Google Docs users can place a hashtag (#) in front of a word or sentence to turn it into a heading. They can also place asterisks or underscores *on both sides of a word or phrase* to make it italicized, or **double down** those symbols to make things bold.
While users who are savvy with Docs may know how to do all this stuff with keyboard shortcuts, people who jump between apps or write on a mobile device may prefer Markdown.
Fans of Markdown will be disappointed by some of Google’s implementation, though. The Markdown standard usually calls for two tilde (~) symbols to strikethrough a word or phrase, but Docs requires two hyphens (-).
Additionally, Google is implementing Markdown through its autocorrect system. That means anything you write in Markdown will automatically convert to formatted text. Usually, Markdown leaves your writing in plaintext but makes small changes to indicate that it’s working. (For example, bold text usually looks **Like this**.)
Google may have implemented Markdown in this way to prevent confusion when sharing documents, which makes sense. If someone unfamiliar with Markdown received a document full of random asterisks and other symbols, they’d probably feel very confused.
To enable Markdown in Google Docs, simply open a document, go to “Tools,” and select “Preferences.” Newcomers should check Google’s instructions on using Markdown in Docs, as there are some things we haven’t covered in this article. Bear in mind that Markdown support is rolling out slowly and may take a while to reach your account.