Your organization might use a standard font — or set of fonts — to improve visual consistency. Documents with consistently applied fonts will at least look similar. In contrast, if your organization lacks font standards, your documents may well resemble a cartoon "ransom note" with a patchwork of different fonts.
Yet most of us use the default Arial font when we create a new Google Doc.
That's a missed opportunity: the font(s) you use in Google Docs should be consistent with the fonts you use elsewhere.
Google offers hundreds of fonts you can use in Docs, Slides, and on your website. Here's how to identify the font your organization uses, find a similar Google font, and use that font in Google Docs, Slides, and on the web.
Identify your organization's font(s)
Check with your organization's branding and design experts first. They may have already identified a specific font — or set of fonts — to use. If so, proceed to identify your Google font options.
If you have printed materials, but don't know the font, two websites can help: WhatFontIs.com and WhatTheFont.com. You'll need to take a photo of the printed text, then upload it to each site for identification. Even if you don't get a perfect match, the site may suggest similar fonts that might be quite close.
Google fonts for the web
Explore more than 600 fonts available for use on the web at google.com/fonts (Figure A). The site offers several font filters: serif or sans serif? wide or narrow? thin or thick? slanted or straight? (For non-typographers: a serif is the small line at the end of a letter, such as a capital T, which might have three serifs: two at the top — at either end of the horizontal line — and one at the bottom.)
Google offers more than 630 fonts for your website.
To use any of the Google fonts on your website, select the Quick Use button by the font name you want to use. This should bring up a page with four numbered steps, the first of which identifies the font's impact on page load time.
Next, choose any of the extended character sets you'll need. These are important if your site supports multiple languages.
Copy the code that Google provides "as the first element in the <head> of your HTML document." Finally, add the name of the font to your CSS styles. (Often, there are several ways to add these bits of code to a content management system. For example, "How to Add Google Web Fonts to Wordpress Themes the 'Right' Way" covers at least three ways to add the codes in Wordpress.)
Google fonts in Docs and Slides
More than 450 fonts can be added from the browser to Google Docs and Slides. While working on a Google Doc or presentation, select the drop-down menu to the right of the current font (e.g., Arial), then choose More fonts... at the bottom. Many, but not all, of the fonts available for the web are also available to add to Docs and Slides.
Once you've found a font you want to use, select it: a checkmark will show to the left of the font name, and the font will be added to your available font list (Figure B). Remove any font from your font list by selecting the X to the right of the font name.
Add fonts to Google Docs and Slides.
Change the default Google Doc font
The default font in a Google Doc doesn't have to be Arial: you can change it. Here's how:
- Open a Google Doc, then select a bit of text. Make sure the text matches the font and size you want to be the default.
- From the menus, choose Format | Paragraph styles | Update 'Normal text' to match (Figure C). (You may also modify any of the other Paragraph styles using a similar method.)
- Choose Format | Paragraph styles | Options | Save as my default styles. The next time you create a document in Google Drive, your document will have the new font and styles you selected.
Update your Normal Text setting, then save your Paragraph styles as the default.
Mobile users of the Google Drive app have far fewer fonts: seven on Android devices; eleven on iOS. Documents you create on your device will use one of these fonts. Documents with custom fonts created in a browser retain their formatting when edited with Google Drive mobile apps (unless you edit fonts).
Templates (for Google Apps domains)
As of April 2014, there's no way to configure a default document font for everyone in a Google Apps domain.
The best alternative is to create a document formatted with the fonts and paragraph styles needed, then submit the document as a template for your domain. Templates work well for any formatted content that people in your organization use frequently: meeting agendas, reports, contracts, brochures, or event programs. Simply follow these steps:
- Create your sample document. Be sure to customize the document's paragraph styles and settings as desired.
- When you're finished, view your document in the Google Drive document listing.
- Check the box to the left of the document name to select the document, then choose More... above the document listing.
- Choose Submit to template gallery.
- Add a brief document description, and select a document category.
- Select submit template. Only other people in your organization will have access to the template.
Creating a new document from a template only takes two steps:
- Choose Create | Document from the main Google Drive menu to create a new Untitled document.
- In that document, choose File | New | From template.... You can then select the template you want to use for your new document (Figure D).
Templates make it easier for people to create documents with proper fonts and formatting.
Fonts at your organization
A font can make text easier to recognize or read. We immediately recognize Google's multi-colored serif font, IBM's striped block letter font, and the Coca-Cola Company's script font. We adjust fonts — and font sizes — to make digital text easier to read.
But fonts today need to work well everywhere: in print, in browsers, and on mobile devices of varying sizes. What font — or fonts — does your organization use? Is the use consistent across devices and platforms? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.