Type text in Markdown in Google Docs for quick, cross-platform formatting of styles (bold, italics), headers, links, lists, and more.
Many people who write content to be published on the web use Markdown because Markdown allows you to specify formatting in human-readable plain text. At the end of March 2022, Google added the ability to recognize text typed in Markdown format and convert it into properly formatted content in a Google Doc. You can add italics, bold, strikethrough, links, headers, and lists with a few taps of Markdown-style keys.
SEE: Feature Comparison: Time Attendance Software and Systems (Tech Republic Premium)
In a Google Doc, Markdown commands not only allow you to quickly format text with the keys you type (no need to open a menu, mouse, or touchpad), but they also work consistently regardless of your operating system. Built-in system key combinations are different on different systems: to make selected text bold on a Chromebook or Windows system, press Ctrl+B, while the combination is Command-B on macOS. With Markdown Command Recognition enabled in Google Docs, you can surround text with two asterisks and Google Docs makes the text bold, whether you’re using a Chromebook, Windows, or Mac. If you often switch between systems, Markdown format recognition can reduce the number of times you press a key combination that doesn’t work on a device.
For the examples below, you must have the Auto-detect Markdown and Auto-detect lists options active in Google Docs. To check the settings, in a Google doc on the web, go to Tools | Preferences, then make sure the boxes to the left of each of those options are checked.
How to Add Italic, Bold, and Strikethrough with Markdown Commands
In a Google Doc, you can use an asterisk or an underscore to format text. Surround text with:
- * or _ to make text italic (single asterisk or underscore),
- ** or __ to make text bold (two asterisks or underscores), or
- *** or ___ to make text italicized and bold (three asterisks or underscores).
- Type *example* or _example_ for italics: example
- Type **example** or _example_ for bold: example
- Type ***example*** or ___example___ for italics and bold: example
Note that you do not type spaces between the asterisk or underscore and the text to be formatted.
Likewise, for a strikethrough effect, surround text with:
– to create a strikethrough effect: -example- results in example
Create a link from Markdown format
To link in a Google Doc using the standard Markdown format, you must type the display text and destination URL. Enclose the display text in parentheses and enclose the destination URL in parentheses as follows:
[Example display text](URL)
For example, to create a link to TechRepublic, type:
[Example text link to TechRepublic](https://techrepublic.com)
In a Google Doc with auto-detected Markdown enabled, it would convert to the following:
Sample text link to TechRepublic
I find it helpful to remember that Markdown links are made with punctuation in alphabetical order. In other words, that you format Markdown links with parentheses before parentheses or b-before-p.
Enter Headers Markdown Style
To type headers in Markdown, use the pound sign (now often known as the hashtag) followed by a space, then your header. To type different levels of headers, you can use anywhere from one number character to up to six number characters. This works like this:
- # Title1 results in header 1 text (Title1),
- ## Title2 results in heading 2 text (Title2), and so on, until
- ###### Title6 results in header 6 text (Title6).
Tapping the space bar after the hashtag key is important. If you omit it, the system will interpret your text as a number indicator (eg #5) and will not reformat it as a heading.
If you enter more than six hashtags in a row followed by a space, Google Docs will simply display the text you entered, for example: ####### Header7.
Enter Lists Markdown Style
In a Google Doc, you can use an asterisk or dash followed by a space to create an unordered list. For example, press:
– followed by a space to start an unordered dashed list, or
* followed by a space to start an unordered bulleted list.
To create a list of check boxes, type the symbols in parentheses left and right with no space in between. For example, use  to start a list of checkboxes.
To start a new numbered list, type the number 1 followed by a period and a space. Google Docs will recognize this as a new numbered list and indent the 1. and continue to automatically increment list items as you enter content.
For all of the above list types, tap enter (or return) twice to end the list and return to standard text input.
What is your experience?
I like the ability to type Markdown commands that Google Docs recognizes and converts into appropriately styled or formatted text. Somewhat ironically, I had to temporarily disable the feature to write this article because the system kept recognizing and modifying my explanatory text automatically.
Are you familiar with Markdown? Do you enter Markdown key commands in Google Docs? Do you find the various options described above helpful? Or have you chosen to disable automatic recognition of Markdown or List options in Google Docs? Let me know what you think of this added support for Markdown-style text input in Google Docs, with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber†