Google Docs Preferences: Should You Change Default Settings?

Google Docs provides a lot of flexibility in terms of user preferences.

Some of the preferences are very useful when enabled. Others can be plain annoying.

However, utility is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s annoyance may be another’s productivity booster.

The following is a list of the current options in the General tab (under Tools > Preferences), along with our preferences. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Google Docs General Preferences

Automatically capitalize words

If you start a new paragraph and the first word begins with a lowercase character, this setting will automatically change the first letter of the first word to uppercase.

We find there are times when we want the first letter of a sentence to be lowercase, such as in bulleted lists.

Our preference: Disabled

Use smart quotes

Smart quotes, a.k.a. curly quotes, make for a better visual presentation. However, in our case, we do a lot of blog authoring in Google Docs.

Google Docs: Smart vs Straight Quotes

Since we paste text from a Google Doc into an HTML editor, we prefer using straight quotes, which is what HTML calls for.

Our preference: Disabled

Automatically detect links

If you paste a full URL into a document and then hit Enter on your keyboard, the text will have a link to the page. This is useful, as you usually want the reader to be able to click out to the referenced website.

Our preference: Enabled

Automatically detect lists

By default, if you preface a sentence with the number 1 and a period, the line will automatically become the first line of a numbered list.

If you don’t want a numbered list, you have to click the Undo button.

Our preference: Disabled

Automatically detect markdown

Enabling this Docs preference can speed up your writing. For example, if you use headings a lot, you can add a heading 2 by typing in ‘## Your Heading 2 Name.’

Here is a basic syntax guide for markdown.

Our preference: Enabled

Automatically correct spelling

Rather than simply underlining a misspelled word with a squiggly red line, this option will suggest the correct spelling for an incorrectly spelled word.

Google Docs Auto Correct Spelling

You can tell Google Docs to auto-correct the same misspelling in the future.

Our preference: Enabled

Suggest action items

With this enabled, Google Docs will intelligently suggest assigning a task to a user via a comment assignment. We found that this one popped up more than we wanted it to.

Our preference: Disabled

Suggest contacts in comments

When you begin a comment with the @ symbol, Docs will display suggested contacts to direct the comment to (and give them an immediate email alert).

Our preference: Enabled

Show Smart Compose suggestions

This is an excellent application of artificial intelligence. Google Docs learns how you write and will make progressively better suggestions over time. This option can be a big time saver.

Our preference: Enabled

Show Smart Reply suggestions

This works the same way as Show Smart Compose suggestions.

Our preference: Enabled

Show link details

When you click on a link in a document, this option gives you a mini-preview of the destination page for the URL.

Google Docs Show Link Details

The only downside is that this obscures the text behind the ‘details’ thumbnail.

Our preference: Enabled

Google Docs preferences are easy to switch on and off. So, you can try different settings and find out what works best for you.

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