Adding Line Numbers in Google Docs

First, this is really a great program and it is easier to use than EndNote. However, all of the journals that I publish in require that all lines in a ms be numbered. I don’t know if this can be included in a format style in Paperpile, or it is a feature of Google Docs that I cannot find. Otherwise, I would convert all of my EndNote libraries to Paperpile now and have all of my students use Paperpile as well and would recommended that Texas A&M look into a site license.
Thanks and Happy New Year


We’re glad you like Paperpile. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no way to add line numbers to a Google Doc. This function does not exist. You are actually the first asking for it, so we never thought about whether it’s possible for our plugin to add these numbers. Seems to be tricky but we can look into that.

The only robust option I see at the moment is exporting the document to Word in the end and adding the line numbers there before submission.

Also it would be interesting to know how important the line numbers really are for these journals. Many journals add them to the PDF they create for review automatically these days. The manuscript guidelines are often from a time before PDFs and e-mail and have never been questioned. But it might be field specific and they really matter in your field. I used to write papers in the biomedical field and happily ignored any manuscript guidelines without bad consequences for more than 10 years…

Thanks for the reply. I have had a paper returned without review because of the lack of line numbers. I think this is an exception and was probably done by technical staff before the editor saw it. Converting the document in Word is possible but then defeats my main goal; to eliminate a need to use MS Office.

I have looked at the GDocs forums and there are some workarounds but nothing that is easy. I guess I am surprised that GDocs does not do line numbering since it is vital in law as well as MS preparation. I really don’t think that adding this function to GDocs would be that difficult for the GDocs team and from the forums this appears to be a popular feature suggestion…

I still plan on using paperpile as long as I can easily download and convert to an endnote library simple because it puts the pdfs in my GDrive and I want to support development of this program.


That’s interesting, I guess some journals take their line numbers seriously… And you’re right it should be part of Google Docs.

But even though it seems to be a basic feature and a popular feature suggestion I’m not optimistic they will implement it any time soon. There are quite a few basic features missing (e.g. multi column documents) and so far it seems it’s by design to keep the feature set minimalistic.

It will be interesting to see if they keep this strategy given that they aggressively going after businesses with Google Apps for Work. Right now they seem to compete on simplicity and simple licensing which seems to work well for small businesses. Office 365 is really good software so let’s hope Google Docs will start competing on features at some point to stay competitive also with big companies.

Hello Stephan. There are demmands of this feature on the net since 2009. Some people suggest using a two column table so you number your lines in one column and paste the text on the other column. But this solution es very lame.
Journals do actually need the numbering to allow the correction procces to be fluid. It is not enough with the comments feature, reviewers list their suggestions and corrections giving a reference of were in the text they found a mistake, i.e. file numbers. This way everything is more “official”. The comments are used among work mates to correct the text before submission.
That’s what I can add to the discussion for enlarging the whole picture. I’m currently writing the first paper of my PhD, my research is encouraging me to avoid microsoft products and approach linux environments and open source resources. I will number the lines at the last stage of my writing, in Word. It is a pitty google docs does not include basic features like this one so we can be totally microsoft independant.


I was hoping there was a workaround for this. All the journals I submit to also require line numbers. They require a microsoft document anyway, so I just export to word and add line numbers last.

This would be above and beyond … and very nice to have. It’s just handy to refer to a line number. Research benefits from collaboration, which hinges on communication, which is facilitated by unambiguous language, like line numbers. I wish GD would do this. But if P stepped up, that’d be impressive.

I would love to have this feature too. Exporting to Word and adding there is an option I guess, but the whole idea is to have a single place end-to-end submission process.

Not sure google will implement any time soon - locked thread with a lot of responses, back from 2011:!topic/docs/uuVPuULkjbk

About journal requirements, it is not uncommon to require line numbers for the version to be reviewed. If it would help motivate this feature for the Paperpile team, maybe we could start here a list of journals that require it?

For now – my +1 to add this feature!

Displaying line numbers is a feature of the word processor. It’s very unlikely that Google Docs will add this anytime soon.

We hate to see how limitations of Google Docs limits the usefulness of Paperpile. But we can’t really spend our resources fixing Google Docs.

In this particular case, I don’t even know how this would work technically. Can you tell me a way how you would add line numbers by hand? I could then think about how to automatize that.

A “recipe” suggested in the google complaint thread was to have a 2-column table with all of the content in one column, and line numbers in another one. But it is a hack that I am not sure will work reliably in all cases. I guess I don’t know Google Docs well enough to suggest a solution. My personal “by hand” solution would be “save as word”…

You know, I take this back. The utility of line numbers is not to precisely match the content, and be exact, but to give an close/approximate location of the issue identified by the reviewer so that there is no ambiguity to the author what needs to be fixed. This two-column table idea might as well be just good enough!

I don’t really like the table solution. It does not feel right to put the whole document in a table. Perhaps a solution would be to run the PDF through some small program that adds the line numbers in the end. If it does not exist somebody should write such a utility.

Actually this thread here is the second most popular thread on the forum because so many people come through Google searching for “line numbers Google Docs”. So it really seems that’s a problem going way beyond Paperpile.

There is no question the problem is beyond Paperpile (and by the way, this is exactly how I came across this thread).

But another way to see this is as an opportunity. If this is indeed such a high-demand issue, and Paperpile provides a solution to it, guess what people will do next! :wink:

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Hey guys, I found this nice add on in Mozilla… it adds the line numbers


Unfortunately it appears to only add it on your screen. I exported to PDF and the numbers were gone.


Line numbers are also holding my colleagues from entirely using GoogleDocs instead of Word, because they (and I) like refering to line numbers in a general discussion of the ms we do by email or during our conversations. Having to export to Word makes the process troublesome.

Hope you look into this at some point.



I’m afraid nothing has changed with this issue. It’s a limitation of Google Docs and not of Paperpile. Not much we can do except encouraging everyone to go to the Google Docs support forums and requesting this feature there.

Hi, I only created an account to reply to this thread. Today I needed line numbers in google docs for a paper that I do for college (I need to have a certain amount of lines), and the first search result on google was this forum that unfortunately gave no answer. Then, after searching a little more I found an add-on for firefox. Just google:
“google docs line numbers” add on

and it should be the first search result.
I don’t know if it helps you or it’s what you want. For me it was, and I thought it might help you too if I posted it here.
I must say, that the lines are only visible in google docs, you won’t see them exported in pdf though and neither when you print the document. Also, the other persons that view the file must have the add-on installed (like my team colleagues had to add it to firefox), otherwise they will obviously not see the line numbers.
So… hope it helps. If it’s not what you need, then I’m sorry for the post.

Have a nice day.
PS: English is not my native language, so please forgive me for any mistakes

[later edit]
Ok, as I said, I accidentally got on this site, so I had no idea what paperpile was about - I was just searching a way to add line numbers in google docs. I read a little about the app after first posting this message (btw, the app seems interesting, I might try using it for college work :smile: ). But I noticed it said it doesn’t work for firefox, so what I wrote to you, hoping I might help, seemed to be useless.

So I just googled something for chrome, and here it is:

but you still have the same problems as in firefox: you can’t print the line numbers, you can’t export them in pdf, and others must install the extension, in order to see the line numbers.

Hope this time it might be helpful.
Bye bye.

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The Chrome extension mentioned above works fine for pub or grant submissions in PDF format requiring line numbers. The only limitation is that one needs to use Print > Save as PDF to maintain the numbers in the final PDF. When using the usual download to PDF or MS Word then the line numbers are not maintained.

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That chrome extension is broken now and has been all summer: I’m just here to say - @stefan I know this is an issue with google docs and is certainly not something paperpile should have to do, BUT if you did (since you already have a chrome plugin that interacts with google docs maybe this isn’t a huge task?) I bet you would get a bunch of people to try paperpile out just because they like writing on google docs and need line numbers (and then they would realize it is a great citation manager too). Just putting that out there, though obviously I understand it might not be something you view as worthwhile right now