Google Docs finally gets custom styles

New! Custom styles

I opened Google Docs this morning to work on a client specification and I was delighted to see that they’ve finally implemented custom heading styles.

It’s relatively simple to use. You can style selected text in the way you like, and then go to the heading style you want to change, click the fly out arrow and select “Update heading x to match selection”.

There’s some more information on Google Docs help.

Here’s a sample screen shot showing some custom headings I’ve applied to a basic document.

You can also, via the options fly out menu, save your current settings as the default style on all your Google Docs documents.

This is a really important update as the lack of styles definition was one of the reasons I wouldn’t use Google Docs to create work documents – it’s so important to have consistent styling across your work files, and I wasn’t going to settle with redefining heading styles every time I worked on a document.

That said, it’s not perfect though – we’re still missing style rules for lists, and there’s only 3 heading rules available (although I guess you could say that ‘Title” and “Subtitle” make up for this and really give you 5 heading styles). Also, the choice of available fonts is still somewhat limited, but the real-time collaborative editing functionality makes up for this in many ways.

I would be interested to see how these headings translate into PDF bookmarks for proper document structuring.


  • Liviu Grigorescu

    Headings may be added from Format->Paragraph Styles

    •  Hi Liviu,

      I hadn’t spotted that. Thanks for the clarification. So they just have a selected list in the toolbar drop down.

      I’d love to see the ability to save style rules by name. I might have heading styles for personal documents, and another set of heading styles for work documents etc.

      Hopefully they do something like this 🙂


      • Also, whenever you use a level 3 heading, level 4 appears in the list. And whenever you use a level 4, level 5 appears. So whenever you actually NEED a header, it’s readily available – provided you use the headers as they are intended, i.e. as markers of the document’s hierarchal structure (one shouldn’t go to Header 6 directly hafter a header 1, for instance)…

        That said, I do miss the ability to add my own paragraph styles and name them. They apparently thought adding a “research” pane was a lot more important…

        •  Aye, I noticed that eventually when I actually made use of multiple header levels. I guess it makes sense – only display UI elements when they’re needed.

          It’s definitely not designed for super complicated document layouts, but for a quick and speedy document editor it does a fairly good job.

          That said, having a doc loaded in Chrome actually uses a fair amount of RAM – a lot more than the equivalent doc loaded locally in LibreOffice..

  • Adam Lein

    I came here looking for how to create custom styles. Those aren’t custom styles. Those are editable pre-made styles. Google Docs strips out all actual custom styles when opening a Word document. My “AuthorName” or “Pricing” text styles are gone and cannot be applied by other users. What’s worse is they’re all gone when opening the file back in Word or trying to link the styles in InDesign.

    • Hey Adam,

      Apologies, didn’t mean to mislead with the post title! You’re right though, these aren’t ‘custom’ styles as such, but certainly did expand the options available from before. There are definitely plenty of places where Google Docs fall behind a more fully-featured Word Processor, but I’ve found the sacrifices made are compensated by the benefits for me anyway. I generally find myself only needing a very basic set of document editing functionality.

      That said, they could really do with proper templates functionality as they only have ‘public’ templates at the moment which really doesn’t suit any organisational usage.