Tips & more

Google Docs dark mode on the web: a 2-step trick to set it without an extension

Google Docs web - set dark mode two steps

∙ Dark mode is still not available in Google Docs on the web.
∙ Thanks to Pageless mode, you can set up the dark colors manually in two short steps.

This quick guide shows how to set up the dark mode colors in Google on the web. It takes a few seconds and involves two steps:

  1. Change the color of the font.
  2. Change the background color of the pageless mode.

Please note that this is an emergency solution. You will have to repeat the steps for each document separately – and manually revert to default color settings.

Google Docs dark mode – things to know

▸ Google Docs mobile apps already offer a dark mode. It can be turned on automatically with the device’s system settings.

▸ Knowing that the dark mode has come to Google Docs, many users assume they can also use it when they access Google Docs in a browser on a laptop or desktop computer.

▸ Sadly, there is still no dark mode in Google Docs on the web. And I believe we won’t see it anytime soon (check out my explanation at the end of this post).

▸ You can always use Google Docs Dark Mode extension from Google Chrome Web Store, but for security reasons, I try to avoid third-party extensions, so it’s not an option for me.

▸ Fortunately, thanks to the pageless mode in Google Docs the background color is applied to the entire browser window not just the page to be printed.

▸ You will have to change colors manually every single time. Google Docs doesn’t offer a macro feature. Recording a sequence of actions and then triggering this sequence with a keyboard shortcut is not possible.

▸ This trick is useful if you are working in dark lighting conditions, and focus on one long document. I have a habit of editing blog posts in the evening and found the trick useful, as the dark mode is a kind of “editing status” signal for me.

2 steps to set up dark mode in Google Docs on the web

I assume you already have the pageless mode enabled. The pageless mode helps you get rid of the classic print page layout limitations. Most importantly, it extends the background to the full window size.

Note: I don’t recommend using this trick if you play with font colors extensively. The moment you apply the new color to the text, all your specific formatting is lost.

1. Select all the text by using the shortcut Ctrl+A (PC computer) or Command+A (Mac computer). Click the font color picker in the formatting menu and select one of the light colors in the top right. I recommend using either “light gray 2” or “light gray 3.”

Google Docs dark mode manual - change font color

2. Go to File » Page setup (it’s the same setting where you enable and disable the pageless mode). Open the color picker under the text “Background color,” and select either “black” or “dark gray 4” color in the top left corner.

Google Docs dark mode trick - change pageless background color

That’s it. You can pick up different colors to meet your needs. You can either go full black and white, or you can pick up dark gray and light gray for less contrast.

Tip: I have found out that when you use the “dark gray 3” as your default font color, you won’t even need to change it when you turn on the “black” background color. So the only thing to do is change the background in File » Page setup.

Google Docs dark mode set manually

You can hide the top bars to further reduce the white background:

  • Hide the main menu – use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+F.
  • Hide the formatting menu by enabling the full screen – start typing “full screen” in “Search the menus box” in the top left, and select the “Full screen” option. You can bring back the menus by clicking on the “Esc” key.

As you will see, the colors of the browser interface elements will remain the same. However, if you are determined to have the full dark mode experience, you can download Google’s Just Black theme from the Google Chrome Web Store and enable it. When you hide the top menus, you will get rid of the white interface elements altogether.

Dark mode in Google Docs on the web – will we see it?

Maybe we will see it one day, but I predict it won’t happen any time soon. Here are two main reasons:

▸ Google Docs is not a simple editor like iA Writer, Bear, or Google Keep. Users play with text colors extensively. Default settings to change the color theme should preserve color formatting applied by users to specific parts of the text. Using a general color inversion pattern would involve generating specific rules for different colors. Otherwise the text in the dark mode would be either ugly or unreadable.

▸ Dark mode in Google Docs mobile apps is easy because the interface elements are reduced to a minimum. On the web, you have two dense menus – the main and formatting. They will have to be inverted as well. And it may create problems with the readability of the menu elements.

Fun fact: I have started writing this post using “dark gray 3” (it’s my default font color, as I don’t like too much contrast). Then I turned the background to “black” and finished the post in the dark mode. Turning the dark mode manually took me 5 seconds and was worth the effort!

• • •

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Keep exploring. Here are other tips and lists for Google users:

Bionic reading on Android – how to add own books
– May 23, 2022

Google Docs: a quick trick to create downloadable files
– April 28, 2022

Google Tasks vs. Keep – comparison and tips to use
– April 8, 2022

Want to disable spell check in Google Docs iOS app? Read this
– April 1, 2022

How to enable Google Docs pageless mode
– March 21, 2022

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