Even More Formatting Fun with Pages

Last modified
Thursday, September 30, 2021

In my first Pages guide, I described what certain typographic elements looked like such as bold text and underlining. In my second guide, I provided a crash course in how you can quickly apply styles in your Pages documents. In this guide, let’s tackle some more complex concepts. You can apply these to the test document available in my second guide, or use one of yours as a playground.

Switching Cases

Capital letters are visually distinct from their small counterparts. They all occupy the same height in a line of text. These are also called upper case letters as typesetters used to keep the capital letters in the upper case of their printing presses when text used to be set by hand. Writing all of your body text in all caps is the visual equivalent to shouting your words at your reader. This is often seen as tacky or just plain rude in school and work settings.

This being said, all caps can look very sharp in a heading or a title as it gives your words a uniform height. They can also be inaccessible to those with low vision and print disabilities, so use this sparingly. Acronyms and initialisms are typically in all caps.

Another smart look is small caps where the entire word is in capital letters, but the first capital letter is slightly bigger than the others. This looks very sharp in titles and headings and may help some people with low vision distinguish the letters more easily.

To change the case of letters in Pages:

  1. Highlight the words or paragraph to change.
  2. Edit menu; Transformations>
    • Make Upper Case: Makes all the letters capitals.
    • Make Lower Case: Makes all the letters small. Useful for when someone accidentally sends you text in all caps.
    • Capitalize: Capitalizes the first letter of each word.

Second Method:

  1. Highlight text.
  2. Move to the Text Formatter.
  3. Navigate to Show Advanced Options and activate.
  4. From the capitalization dropdown, choose the desired case.
  5. Close the Show Advanced Options screen with escape.
  6. Return to your body text.

This second method is different than the first. Your text will read as if it’s in whatever case you wrote it in, but be visibly changed on screen. This may be helpful when VoiceOver spells out a capitalized word instead of reading the word as a word.


If you’re a braille reader, braille itself would be considered a monospaced font. This means the space for each character is exactly the same, just as a typewriter uses monospaced type. Fonts on a Mac are proportionally spaced. This means the spacing between each letter differs slightly.

Kerning (or character spacing) refers to the space between letters inside of a word. Kerning is described as loose (spaced out) or tight (squished closer together). This can be visually appealing or save space, but tight kerning can be inaccessible to people with low vision or print disabilities. Some people may try to space letters apart in a word by adding spaces in between each letter, but this not only looks tacky, it’s not very friendly to VoiceOver.

QUARTERLY REPORT (Regular spacing.)

Q U A R T E R L Y R E P O R T (The same words with spaces between each letter. Annoying to listen to and visually unappealing.)

Kerning achieves the same effect without adding the annoying spaces for loose text. Tightening text can be used to save space if a headline or title breaks over a line. This is very useful if you are using a very large font and don’t want a short word to be alone on the line below.

Low Information Music in a High Information


Here, the line breaks before the end of the title.

Low Information Music in a High Information World

(The result when the same font size is tightened, but this varies by font.)

To adjust kerning do the following:

  1. Highlight text.
  2. Format menu>Font>Character Spacing>
    • Tighten moves the letters closer to gather.
    • Loosen moves the letters further apart.
    • Use none returns the letters to their normal spacing.

Second Method:

  1. Highlight text.
  2. Move to the formatter.
  3. Move to the Show Advanced Options panel.
  4. Move to Character Spacing and adjust.
  5. Return to the body of your document.


Generally, the rule for colour is to use it sparingly. Unfortunately, Pages doesn’t read back colour information when using VO-T, but you can set this in the formatter. It’s often a good idea to set colours last when you update styles. You might wish to use colours to reflect the tone of your document. For example, a red heading can stand out visually if the rest of the text is black. It’s always a good idea to check on using colour in work or school settings. Colour and accessibility are also concerns and you may be making a document inaccessible to someone with colour blindness if you use it improperly. I typically leave others to fiddle with colour once I’ve finished with the document, but you are free to experiment.

Colours can be found by moving to the Text Formatter.


Ligatures go back to the days of typesetting where common combinations of character such as fl and fi were combined onto a single dye to save space on the typesetter’s press. The letters themselves look as if they’re glued together. This is very common in publishing as it gives a fancy look to words like first and flower. If you’ve used Pages before, you’ve used ligatures without knowing it as it is turned on by default.

One problem with ligatures is that they can mess up OCR software and be difficult for people with print disabilities to read. There is no harm in leaving this on, but if you need to turn it off:

Format menu>Font>Ligature>Use None.

Drop Caps

When typesetting, printers would use a very large initial letter for a paragraph, often in an ornate font to set off a chapter. This letter would be set to the left side of a paragraph and be three or four lines high. This looks very fancy for fiction documents, poetry, collections of essays and biographies. Unfortunately, VoiceOver doesn’t respect the drop cap, so put this in last and only once per chapter or document.

To use drop caps:

  1. Move to the Text Formatter and interact.
  2. Find the Drop Cap Preset button and activate it.
  3. Select from one of the presets.

Drop caps can have the text around them “hug” the shape of the letter (contour text wrapping), or appear with a ruled edge to the right of the drop cap. You can set this to none if you find VoiceOver performance too inconsistent when reading the paragraph with the drop cap.

Unordered Lists

Bullet lists are very common. You’ve been reading them this whole time. The bullet itself appears as a small black circle to the left of the text in the list. The text to the right is lined up at an equal distance from the bullet. This looks very neat on the left side.

You can instantly create a bullet list by pressing option-8, a space and then typing the first item in the list. Pressing return automatically formats the first line as the first item in your bullet list and puts you on the second line of the bullet list. When you’re done, simply press Return twice to get out of the list and return to your body paragraph style.

Bullets are for unordered lists. These don’t have to be black circles. They can be stars, squares, triangles, flower shapes, empty circles, diamonds or other shapes that match the style and tone of your document. If you’re using fancy bullets, make sure they are all consistent throughout your document. It’s best to make the bullet list with regular bullets first, then format the bullets when you format the rest of your document. This is surprisingly accessible.

To make fancy bullets

  1. Highlight your regularly formatted bullets. Alternatively, update the list style as described in my prior guide.
  2. Move to the Text Formatter.
  3. Navigate to the Choose a List Style menu. You may hear VoiceOver just read “Paragraph Styles” as you navigate past the paragraph spacing options.
  4. Activate this and you’ll be presented with a set of list styles.
  5. Select Bullet, Bullet Big or Image. This window will close.
  6. VO-right and move past the Drop Cap menu until you arrive at a combo box called Bullet Type. Selecting Image bullets may land you on a scroll area to interact with.
  7. Each bullet has a very comprehensive description of what it looks like. Select one.
  8. Return to the body of your document.

You may wish to copy and paste the formatting of this list or save it as a preset in the list styles. Like paragraph styles, these can receive a keyboard shortcut.

Ordered Lists

Ordered lists are usually preceded by a number: 1, 2, 3…. This can be any other type of ordered indicator such as small letters: a, b, c…, capitals: A, B, C…, Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV… and small Roman letters, I, ii, iii, iv….

Pages will automatically format your list by typing a letter, number or Roman I for the first item followed by a period, a space and the first item in the list. Press Return to continue the list and double press return to exit the list when you’re done.

1. Bananas

2. Corn

3. Lemons

A. Mozart

B. Beethoven

C. J.S. Bach

You can find more advanced list controls in the Text Formatter in the same way you did for unordered lists. This includes controls for varying the space between the bullet, number or letter and the text that comes after it.

In the next instalment, I’ll discuss margins, headers, footers and the document inspector. Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave a question or comment.


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Start an ordered list by typing the first number, letter or Roman numeral followed by period and a space. Type out the list item and press return. The list will continue.

If you want to create a sublist, press tab on a new line. Pages will start counting from 1 and add nested items. To return to the parent list, press return, then Command-[ (left bracket). VoiceOver will announce you are returning to the previous list level. Double press return to exit the list as normal.

You can return to the nested list, highlight and then use the Text Formatter to change the way the nested list appears. For example, letters followed by a right parenthesis, lower case Roman numerals followed by a period and so on. I've mocked up an example.


1. Action

A) Die Hard

B) The Expendables

C) Enemy of the State

2. Comedy

i. Animal House

ii. Borat

iii. The Princess Bride

Lists deserve their own guide altogether as Pages is very sophisticated.

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