Using Style Shortcuts and Creating New Styles in Pages

Last modified
Friday, July 16, 2021

In my last guide on Pages and design, I described how visual documents appear with font variations and how you can manipulate fonts, sizes, styling and more so your documents can look aesthetically pleasing to your sighted colleagues.

In this guide, I’ll describe how you can quickly apply styles and customize them in your documents. Nothing here requires advanced VoiceOver skills, however you may wish to use hotspots to jump around a bit faster in Pages.

More on Your Formatting Flow

As I mentioned in my last guide, it’s a great idea to format your document last. For us audio nerds, this is analogous to recording all of your audio, editing it, cleaning it and then adding your effects like reverb and compression. In the world of typography, formatting adds those design flourishes that add the signature look to your work, just as adding EQ, delay and compression adds the signature sound to your recording.

The flow I use and recommend:

  • Write. Get all of the words, even if they’re the wrong ones.
  • Edit. Remove the words you don’t want.
  • Correct. Check your spelling, grammar and style. Remove things like double spaces, extra characters from when your cat ran across your keyboard and so on. As you edit and correct, Pages will move text ever so slightly to prevent widows and orphans. Some text may spill over to a new page or be pulled up.
  • Apply styles. Format headings, body text, quoted material, lists and so on.
  • Update styles. Set font, size, colour, spacing and so on.
  • Format the document. Turn on hyphenation, add page numbers, header and footer text and more.

Setting Keyboard Shortcuts for Styles

It’s possible to set keyboard shortcuts for styles. This is useful for when you have two or three different styles in a document and you need to quickly format text. For example, a business plan might require you to use a level 1 heading, a level 2 heading, bulleted lists, numbered lists and explanatory text in italics. An essay for school may require you to set quoted material in from the margins and single-space the quotation while the body remains double-spaced. Jumping back and forth between the formatter and your document every time you need to bring up a new format—especially for a long document—can be time-consuming. Let’s use keyboard shortcuts to speed up the work.
  1. Highlight the text you wish to format with a style. Or, move the insertion point to the heading or paragraph you want to format. Pages is smart enough to know to format the text in that paragraph without highlighting.
  2. VO-J to the formatter and VO-right until you land on the Style button which will announce what style you’re currently using. If you’ve waited until the end to format, VO will say something like “Body selected, paragraph Styles.” VO-space. Here you will find the New Style button and the Styles table. We will tackle the New Style button in a moment.
  3. Interact with the table and VO-up or down to locate the appropriate style.
  4. Interact again with the style you want. VO-right until you hear “Menu”. Activate the menu. You will find several choices. The most important are:
    • Define from selection: Useful for or when you want to copy the exact characteristics from another place in your document. If your colleague hands you a document to work on with headings that are customized to have blue, extra bold, Palatino letters with 1.2 lines of spacing, you can define an existing heading style from that text and then use it in your document.
    • Clear Override: This removes all of your formatting and returns the style to the original.
    • Rename style: Renames the existing style.
    • Delete Style: Deletes a style.
    • Shortcut: This opens up a submenu where you can set F1 to F8 as shortcuts for the style.
  5. Select a shortcut. Escape out of the Paragraph Styles popover and VO-J, then VO-right back to your document.

Once you’ve set a shortcut for a style, you can highlight and apply the style with your new shortcut.

  1. Move to the paragraph you want to format. Highlighting isn’t necessary.
  2. Press the appropriate shortcut key and the text will conform to the new format.

Here are some examples of how you might use shortcut keys to apply various styles:

  • F1: Body. Good to keep this as a default in case something gets messed up and you want to return to your default paragraph style.
  • F2: Heading 1. Perhaps this is your main heading style for all headings in your document.
  • F3: Fancy List.
  • F4: Numbered List.

Creating New Styles

Sometimes, your school or work may request your documents conform to their particular style guide or to match company branding. Here’s how to create a style.

  1. Select your text or move your insertion point to the paragraph you want as your new style.
  2. Move to the formatter.
  3. Navigate to the Text Formatter and interact. Manipulate the text styling any way you like. This can include spacing, colours, fonts, line weights, sizing and more.
  4. When you’re done, stop interacting. Navigate to and activate the Paragraph Styles button.
  5. Activate the new Style button.
  6. Type the name of your new style. Examples: Quotation, Fancy List, Green Heading 1, Company Standard.
  7. Set a keyboard shortcut if desired.
  8. Exit the formatter and return to the body of your document.


Now that you’re aware of how documents can be formatted to look great on your Mac, create a playground document you can work in to experiment with your new formatting knowledge. Here are a few suggested tasks:

  • Set up a keyboard shortcut for body text and a heading.
  • Change the body text to Verdana, Regular, 14 point.
  • Make a bold, cyan heading in Century Gothic font @ 18 point size and create a new style called “Cyan heading”.
  • Create a bulleted list with square bullets. Make a new style and apply it to another list.
  • Discover the keyboard shortcuts to align your paragraph text to the left, centre, right and fully justify.
  • Copy and paste the format of your Cyan heading to another heading.

I've uploaded a document you can play with. Give it a try and good luck!


Attachment Size
Pages Design Guide for Apple Vis.pages 397.98 KB



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