The greatest Google Docs shortcut you’re probably not using

A game-changer.
A Mac laptop on a wooden table with Google Docs open in suggestion mode.
This is what I have to deal with... Alex Knight / Unsplash

One of Google Docs’ best features is the ability to switch between editing and suggesting mode, especially if you’re collaborating on a project. But changing modes is a chore—it requires you to move your hand off your keyboard, reach for your mouse, drag the cursor to the corner of the screen, click a button, and put your hand back on the keys. And for what? A colon you think is better as an em-dash? No.

It’s not obvious, but there are hidden shortcuts that make the change between editing and suggesting mode as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

Edits vs. suggestions

Editing mode allows you to make changes straight into a document. Once you’re done, there are no traces of where you made your edits, so it always looks like a final version. You can, however, see these alterations in the document’s version history.

[Related: 38 advanced Mac keyboard shortcuts to supercharge your workflow]

Suggesting mode, on the other hand, marks everything you do so other people know exactly what you did. Pieces of text you remove will appear with a line through them, while the text you add will be underlined. The platform assigns different colors to different users—so you know who did what—and every change is accompanied by its own sidebar comment detailing what was there, and how it is now different. 

The only downside to suggesting mode is that when a file has to undergo major surgery, it can look a bit messy. That’s why it’s easier to make small adjustments like typos and missing commas directly using editing mode. That’s where these handy shortcuts come in.

Swap between modes with a simple set of shortcuts 

Let’s get to it: From Editing mode (Google Docs’ default) change to Suggesting mode by hitting Ctrl + Alt + Shift + X. On Mac computers, the key combo is Shift + Option + Command + X. 

To go back to editing mode, hit the same combination but replace the X with a Z. This is Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Z on Windows and Shift + Option + Command + Z on MacOS. 

[Related: 20 essential Windows keyboard shortcuts that will make you forget your mouse]

If this shortcut seems too complicated, we assure you it is not. On a PC, try hitting the first three keys with your pinky (Ctrl), ring finger (Shift), and thumb (Alt). It’s similar on a Mac computer. Try hitting the first three keys with your ring finger (Shift), middle finger (Option), and index (Command). On both operating systems, you’ll have to hit the final key (whether X or Z) with your right hand. With practice, you’ll naturally switch between the modes without even thinking about it.  

If you’re not sure if you’re editing or suggesting, keep in mind that anytime you go back and forth, Google Docs will remind you what mode you’re in with a pop-up notification on the bottom left of your screen. 

Happy editing.