Writing & editing basics

Brian Park
Nov 15 '17 · 14 min read · 2873 views
Notion is first and foremost a writing tool. It works as simply as any word processor, only you can add many different types of content to a page, and move it around and modify it in new ways.
That said, if you just want to start typing, go for it. Notion will become a blank, distraction-free writing surface for your thoughts 😙If you want to do more, keep reading.

What's a block?

You'll see us referring to "content blocks" a lot. This is an easy way to visualize the content you put on your Notion page. A block is any piece of content you add to a page, including:
  • A paragraph or line of text
  • A bullet in a list
  • An image
  • An embed
  • A heading
  • Etc.
If you're curious whether something is its own block, hover over it. Every block has its own ⋮⋮ icon, which opens a menu of options for the block, or acts as a handle for drag-and-drop.
More on all this later, but for now, think of every Notion page as a stack of blocks you choose and arrange.

Editing tools

There are three tools to familiarize yourself with in order to create any page you want.
  • + icon: Appears in the left margin whenever you hover over a new line. Click it to open a menu of content types you can add to your page.
  • ⋮⋮ icon: Appears in the left margin whenever you hover over a new line or content block. Click it to open a menu of actions you can take on the block:
    • Delete: Pretty self explanatory :)
    • Duplicate: Makes an exact copy of the content block.
    • Turn Into: Transforms the block into another type of block (like a bullet into a checkbox, or plain text into a heading).
    • Copy Link: Copies the anchor link to this particular block.
    • Move To: Lets you move the block to another page in your workspace.
    • Comment: Lets you add a comment to the block.
    • Color: Only appears for certain types of blocks to turn them a color or give them a highlight — like text, files, and web bookmarks.
    • This icon also doubles as a handle you can use to drag and drop the block.
  • / commands: The easiest way to both add content to your page or apply any of the actions above (essentially a shortcut for the same functionality of the + and ⋮⋮ menus).
    • Type / followed by any type of block to add it. Like /bullet or /heading.
    • Type / followed by any action to apply it to the block. Like /delete or /duplicate.
    • Type / followed by the name of any color to change the color of the block. Like /red.
    • As soon as you type / a menu will pop up that you essentially search in real time for what you want. Just press enter to select it. Like so:

Types of content

There are many different types of content blocks you can add to Notion, from bullet points to images to embeds to math equations. Here's a full list of content types, split into the same categories you'll find in our block menu (which can be opened with / or +).

Basic blocks

  • Text: Just your regular old plain text 👌
  • Page: Adds a sub-page inside your page. You can put pages inside pages inside pages.
  • To-do list: Checkboxes for tasks and such. Shortcut [].
  • Heading 1: The largest heading, can be easily added with shortcut /h1.
  • Heading 2: The medium-sized heading, can be easily added with shortcut /h2.
  • Heading 3: The smallest heading, can be easily added with shortcut /h3.
  • Bulleted list: Bullets. Shortcut - + space.
  • Numbered list: Indents your list and automatically generates the next number.
  • Toggle List: Creates toggles you can open to nest content and close to hide it. Shortcut > + space.
  • Quote: Creates larger text to break quotes out from the rest of your document.
  • Divider: Creates a thin gray line to break up text. Shortcut ---.
  • Link to page: Creates a block that's a link to another page in your workspace. Like this:
  • Callout: Creates boxed text for tips, warnings, disclaimers, etc. With emoji! More here →

Database

Add a database in-line in the body of a Notion page. A great way to create a page that includes both writing and databases. More on databases here →
  • Table - Inline: Adds a table on your page.
  • Board - Inline: Adds a Kanban board on your page.
  • Gallery - Inline: Adds a gallery on your page.
  • List - Inline: Adds a list more minimal than a table to your page.
  • Calendar - Inline: Adds a calendar on your page.
You can also use / commands to create full-page databases as sub-pages inside a page. Just type / followed by the names of these blocks:
  • Table - Full Page: Creates a full-page table as a sub-page.
  • Board - Full Page: Creates a full-page board as a sub-page.
  • Gallery - Full Page: Creates a full-page gallery as a sub-page.
  • List - Full Page: Creates a full-page list as a sub-page.
  • Calendar - Full Page: Creates a full-page calendar as a sub-page.

Media

There are several types of media you can add, view, and play (audio/video) right in Notion.
  • Image: Upload images or add images on your page. Full guide here →
  • Video: Upload your own file or embed from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. More here →
  • Audio: Upload your own recording or embed from Spotify, Soundcloud, etc. More here →
  • Code: Add a block of code in any language, complete with formatting. More here →
  • File: Upload any sort of file to a page to store it exactly where you want it. More here →
  • All of these blocks will initially appear as a gray box asking you to add a URL or upload a file.
  • Web Bookmark: Add a clickable link preview of a URL to your page, like this one:

Embeds

You can embed content from 500+ apps directly into Notion. We created shortcuts for a few of the most popular apps, but /embed works for nearly any other. Here are our named embeds:
  • Google Drive: Pull together Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. right in your Notion page.
  • Tweet: Adds interactive/clickable tweets into your page. (/tweet + enter for example.
  • Github Gist: Embeds code, notes and snippets from Github.
  • Google Maps: Embeds an interactive Google Map in your page.
  • Framer: Embed a prototype from Framer into your page.
  • Invision: Embed a project from Invision.
  • PDF: You can either paste a link to a PDF or upload one to display it in full on your page.
  • Figma: Embed a Figma file so it appears in your page.
  • Loom: Embed a playable Loom recording in your page.
  • Typeform: Embed a survey that people can complete entirely in Notion.
  • CodePen: Embed code snippets from CodePen on your page.
  • Whimsical: Embed mind maps, flowcharts, wireframes, and sticky notes from Whimsical.
  • Type / followed by the name of any embed to add it. More on embeds here →
  • All of these will prompt you to input the URL for the embed you want.
  • Here's an example:

Advanced blocks

  • Math Equation: Displays beautifully formatted mathematical characters and expressions. More on this here. And here's an example:
f(x) = x^2
  • Template Button: Lets you create and configure a button that replicates any combination of blocks you want over and over again. More on this here →
  • Breadcrumb: Inserts an automatically generated breadcrumb menu that shows where the page you add it to lives in your workspace. Like the one at the top left on this page.
  • Table of Contents: Adds a list of links to all the headings on your page. More here →

In-line options

The content menu includes a few options that aren't technically blocks. Instead, they're / commands that will add several other types of content to your page:
  • Mention a Person: Gets the attention of someone else in your workspace.
  • Mention a Page: Creates an in-line link to another page in your workspace.
  • Date or Reminder: Creates a dynamic timestamp or reminder that will trigger a notification.
  • All of these can also be achieved by simply typing @ followed by a person or page's name, or a date. More on @-mentions and reminders here →

Add content

There are four ways you can add content to a Notion page.
  • Just start typing!
    • This includes a few shortcuts like - + space for a bullet or [] for a checkbox.
  • Click the + icon. It appears in the left margin when you hover over a new line. Click it to bring up your full menu of content choices. Scroll and click on the one you want.
  • Use / commands. Type / followed by the name of whatever content block you want and press enter.
    • For some types of content blocks, like media or embeds, you'll need to insert a URL or upload a file to get them to appear on your page.
  • Drag and drop. Images and files can be dragged from anywhere on your computer and dropped into a Notion page. Like so:

Style your writing

In the meantime, here are the basics:
  • Notion is equipped with all the text styling features you've come to expect from any word processor — with a few more added in. Highlight any text to see this menu:
  • Change the color/highlight of in-line text with the A dropdown in this menu.
  • All the usual shortcuts apply, like cmd/ctrl + b for bold and cmd/ctrl + shift + s for strikethrough. Our shortcuts for writing live here ✂️ But we've thrown in a couple others:
    • cmd/ctrl + e to display code in-line.
    • cmd/ctrl + shift + m to add a comment to any text.
  • Choose from three different typography styles for every page you produce — selected to match most writing moods 😙 Just click ••• at the upper right of your page and pick Default, Serif, or Mono. All the text on your page will change accordingly:
  • To change text size, go to ••• and switch on Small Text.
  • You can shrink the margins on any page and widen your content area by going to ••• at the top right of your Notion window and toggling on Full Width.

Arrange & modify content

In the meantime, here are the basics for moving content around your page.

Drag & drop

Any content block in Notion (including lines of text) can be dragged and dropped around the page. This includes rows in tables and cards in boards and galleries!
  • Hover over any block and use the ⋮⋮ icon that appears as a handle to drag it around.
  • Blue guides will appear to show you where it will go. (A good way to nest bullets and to-do's.)
  • Release your mouse to drop the block, table row, or card wherever you want it to go.
  • Drag-and-drop also works in your sidebar to reorder pages, nest pages inside pages, and move them between sections.

Columns

To format text (or any other type of blocks) into columns, do the following:
  • Click and drag the text you want to put in another column. (The ⋮⋮ symbol in the left margin is your handle for drag-and-drop.)
  • Follow the blue guides that appear.
  • Drop it where you want it. You just created a new column!
  • You can create as many columns as you want across the width of a page.

Action menu

Click the ⋮⋮ icon that appears in the left margin on hover to bring up this menu of options for every block on your page:
  • Delete: You can use this, or select the block and hit backspace.
  • Duplicate: Makes an exact copy of the content block.
  • Turn Into: Transforms the block into another type of block (like a bullet into a checkbox, or some plain text into a heading).
  • Copy Link: Copies the anchor link to this particular block.
  • Move To: Lets you move the block to another page in your workspace.
  • Comment: Lets you add a comment to the block.
  • Color: Only appears for certain types of blocks to turn them a color or give them a highlight — like text, web bookmarks, or uploaded files.

Markdown & shortcuts

In the meantime, Notion supports these Markdown shortcuts:
While typing:
  • Type ** on either side of your text to bold.
  • Type * on either side of your text to italicize.
  • Type ` on either side of your text to create inline code. (That's the symbol to the left of your 1 key.)
  • Type ~ on either side of your text to strikethrough.
At the beginning of any line of text, try these shortcuts:
  • Type *, -, or + followed by space to create a bulleted list.
  • Type [] to create a to-do checkbox. (There's no space in between.)
  • Type 1. followed by space to create a numbered list.
  • Type # followed by space to create an H1 heading.
  • Type ## followed by space to create an H2 sub-heading.
  • Type ### followed by space to create an H3 sub-heading.
  • Type > followed by space to create a toggle list.
  • Type " followed by space to create a quote block.

Collaborative content

There are a couple of tools you can use while writing and editing that help with teamwork.
  • @-mention a person: Type @ followed by one of your teammate's names to draw their attention to something on your page. You can do this in-line in text or in a discussion or comment. The person will be notified to look at that part of your page.
  • Add a comment: You can add a comment to specific text by highlighting it and hitting the Comment button or using the shortcut cmd/ctrl + shift + m. You can also add a comment to a block by typing /comment in a line of text or clicking ⋮⋮ to the left.

On mobile

The editing experience is pretty different on mobile than it is on desktop. There are no / commands. And no icons that appear on hover. Instead, all content is created from the editing toolbar located above your keyboard:
  • Tap the + to see a full menu of other content block types you can add to your page.
  • From this toolbar, you can also:
    • @-tag a person or page
    • Add a comment
    • Insert an image
    • Delete content
    • Indent or un-indent
    • Select text color and highlight
    • Delete and duplicate a block.
    • Copy a link to a block (under More).
Take a look:
Other editing options are located in the ••• menu at the top right:
  • Style: Choose from three different typography choices to format your page.
  • Undo/Redo: Take back your last action on a page, or reinstate it.

FAQs

  • Can I make full-width pages the default? Can I set default styles for all new pages?
    Not yet, but a lot of users have asked for this! We're working on it, stay tuned...
  • How can I create columns inside of a toggle?
    Officially, there's no way to do this yet. We're still working on building that in. Unofficially, here's a workaround you can use in the meantime 😉
  • Can I justify text or images to be left/right/center aligned?
    Notion doesn't have traditional alignment options at the moment. For now, you can align content left or right by creating a new empty line under it, then using the ⋮⋮ icon to drag it to the left or right to the content. If you drag it to the left, your content will move right, and vice versa. You're essentially creating a new empty column that you can also resize.
  • Is there a way to disable the menu that appears every time I type /?
    There's no way to turn this off by default for now, but you can press esc as soon as it pops up in order to dismiss it.
  • I can't seem to "select all" on mobile. How can I copy text from multiple blocks?
    Yeah, we don't support selecting multiple blocks at once on mobile yet 🙈 It's on the roadmap though, stay tuned.
    For the time being, you can lock your page by going to the ••• at the top right, then toggle on Page Lock. That will allow you to select multiple blocks! It's a clunky workaround, admittedly, but hopefully that helps for the time being.

Related guides

Something we didn't cover? Message us in the app by clicking ? at the bottom right on desktop (or in your sidebar on mobile). Or email us at team@makenotion.com ✌️
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