How to insert a drop cap first letter in Apple Pages documents

Make your documents stand out with drop cap effects

News man: Set the style for a publication with drop caps

Make documents and reports created in Pages on the Mac stand out by using drop caps first letters at the start of a paragraph. It is a common design feature that is very popular in print.

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A drop cap is the extra large first letter that is often seen at the start of an article, story or chapter in print newspapers, magazines and books. It is often part of a publication’s style and is as important as the font or even the masthead – the publication’s title.

It can be used on the web, but is less common. If you are a WordPress user, there is a Drop cap toggle switch in the sidebar to add one.

I don’t know why, but a big first letter just looks good and sets the style for the rest of the publication. Perhaps it is the association with professional print publications that makes it look so good. We see it so often elsewhere that it just looks natural.

How can we add a drop cap first letter to documents created in Pages on the Apple Mac? Until now, it was a bit tricky, but a recent update to the app has added a really easy way to create one. Let’s take a look at how to do it.

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1 Position the cursor

Apple Pages document on the Apple Mac

A drop cap can be added to the start of any paragraph, but its use should be limited to just the start of a document below the title or the start of a main section, like a chapter in a book. Do not over-use it. Position the text cursor at the start of the paragraph just before the first letter.

2 Add a drop cap

Apple Pages drop cap settings on the Apple Mac

Select View, Inspector, Format if the sidebar on the right is not already open. Down at the bottom is the Drop Cap section, tick the checkbox and the drop cap is created and some controls appear in the sidebar to adjust its appearance.

  • Lines: How tall should the drop cap be? Set the number of lines of text it is to cover here
  • Characters: How many characters should be drop caps? Usually, this is one and it looks odd if there are more than one, but try it and see.

3 View your drop cap in Pages

Apple Pages drop cap at the start of a paragraph on the Apple Mac

As you adjust the lines and characters, the drop cap is instantly updated in the document and you can easily experiment with the settings.

4 Select a predefined drop cap style

Select a predefined style for a drop cap in Pages on the Apple Mac

Several predefined drop cap styles are available and clicking the icon to the right displays a little pop-up panel showing them. For example, the large letter can be embedded in the text, rise above it, appear to the left as if in the margin and so on. I have selected the reversed drop cap with white text on a black background. Try it.

5 Customize the drop cap style

Customizing the style of a drop cap in a Pages document on the Apple Mac

This is where it gets interesting and clicking the Options button displays a pop-up panel with many controls that enable you to customize the drop cap. The raised lines, text wrap, extra spacing, outdent and other attributes can be changed. I selected a white on black inverse drop cap, but clicking the Background Shape color chip enables another colour to be selected. I chose blue.

6 Change the drop cap shape

Customizing the style of a drop cap in a Pages document on the Apple Mac

Here is an interesting control and when using an inverted drop cap with a background, you can customize the corner radius. Drag the slider to 100% and see the effect it has on the drop cap shape.

7 View the drop cap design

Drop cap effect in a Pages document on the Apple Mac

See how a change in style, background color and corner radius has transformed the drop cap into something completely different. Experiment with all the controls and create your own unique style for the start of documents, reports, ebooks and so on.

8 Save your drop cap style

Save a drop cap style in the Pages app on the Apple Mac

It would be tedious and time consuming to have to create this drop cap style every time you wanted to use it. You might even forget the exact settings when you come to use it again tomorrow or next week. Fortunately, styles can be saved.

Click the style button to show the panel containing predefined styles. Click the arrow on the right side of the panel to go to the next page and then click the plus button to save it. A preview is automatically created and in the screenshot you can see my round blue drop cap.

If you add a style and then change your mind, Ctrl+click it and use the Delete option on the menu that is displayed.

9 Remove drop caps in Pages

Removing a drop cap is easy and you just have to move the cursor to just before the giant letter and then clear the Drop Cap checkbox in the sidebar on the right. The text goes back to normal.

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