Adobe InDesign: Tips and Tricks

  1. Tabs and indents can lead to frustration for a lot of new (and even not so new) InDesign users. I’ve seen the Tabs panel bring even experienced users to the verge of tears, so here are a few InDesign typesetting tricks.

    Read Article
  2. Text is converted to outlines in InDesign for various reasons. One is that it allows the InDesign file to be output without system fonts being installed. In other cases, text is converted for creative intent.

    Read Article
  3. Any rectangular frame with unassigned content can be turned into a check box. There are also pre-formatted check boxes in the sample buttons and forms that come with Adobe InDesign.

    Read Article
  4. If you made a mistake in your new document setup, you can easily change the margins and guides.

    Read Article
  5. The Scissors Tool is used to cut shapes, which are closed paths, and turn them into open-ended paths. The shapes can be created with any of the shape frame tools in Adobe InDesign.

    Read Article
  6. Paragraph Styles form the basis of many features in Adobe InDesign, and the Table of Contents function is no different. The Paragraph Styles to be included in the Table of Contents are selected, and then the content with those styles applied is pulled into the Table of Contents.

    Read Article
  7. The Pathfinder Panel is used to modify shapes in various ways. The following four steps show how to make custom shapes with it in Adobe InDesign.

    Read Article
  8. Graphics and images can easily be sized to fit within a frame in the following ways.

    Read Article
  9. Fill colors in image frames will show through in areas where the image is transparent. This is often done with white logos and icons. Transparency can also be applied to the image without affecting the fill color.

    Read Article
  10. A booklet means that both sides of each page are printed, and typically, there are two pages on each sheet of paper, as seen in saddle-stitch brochures, which are folded and stapled on the fold. An InDesign document needs to be paginated so that the front cover joins to the back cover, the inside front cover joins to the inside back cover, and so on. InDesign makes it very easy to do this when creating a mock-up of a booklet. The following six steps show you how.

    Read Article
  11. Liquid Layout is used when creating Alternate Layouts, where one file contains multiple versions of each page at various sizes and orientation. The feature was originally developed to cut down the massive production time required for publishing to tablet devices. It can also be applied to any project where multiple sizes are needed: for instance, an ad that's placed in magazines and journals with different ad sizes.

    Read Article
  12. Creating a pull quote is really just a matter of creating a text frame and applying a text wrap to it.

    Read Article
  13. The scale function is built into the Selection Tool, so the true power is not so much in the Scale Tool itself, but rather in the tool options.

    Read Article
  14. InDesign allows you to create basic animations for output to digital PDF or HTML formats without using separate software.

    Read Article
  15. Special Characters are a wonderful feature of InDesign that can save time and add professional polish to the typography in a layout. Special Characters include commonly used characters, such as ® and ©, as well as lesser characters that can create all the difference in type treatment. In this example, I'll use Special Characters to stylize a quote.

    Read Article
  16. InDesign lets you create text hyperlinks that will be live in an Acrobat PDF or ePUB document.

    Read Article
  17. Adobe InDesign's Find/Change function can be used not only for changing text content, but also for applying formatting to specific text content. In this example, small caps with a different text color will be applied to a company name that appears throughout the body of the text.

    Read Article
  18. More often than not, when providing a file to a printer, it will be as a PDF. InDesign provides color-management tools when creating the PDF. It is always good practice to check with your print provider to verify their requirements.

    Read Article
  19. The Polygon Tool is one of the most versatile of the InDesign shape tools. It can be used to create much more than six-sided polygons.

    Read Article
  20. Animations and interactive objects can be added to InDesign layouts, which can then be exported as Flash Player SWF files. The following three steps show how to create an SWF file from Adobe InDesign.

    Read Article
  21. There are various kinds of text wraps that can be created with InDesign. Text can wrap around the bounding box of an object, which is always rectangular. The text wrap can also be set to follow the contour of a shape or silhouette. In many cases, the silhouette of a portion of an image is created in Photoshop using a Clipping Path or Alpha Channel. In this example, we'll look at turning on a Photoshop Clipping Path to use for the text wrap in InDesign.

    Read Article
  22. The Object States Panel can create multiple versions, or states, of an object in a layout. With the addition of navigation buttons, an interactive slideshow can be produced.

    Read Article
  23. Numbered lists are created using paragraph options and should then be saved as a Paragraph Style. The numbers can be stylized by creating an associated Character Style to be applied to the numbers.

    Read Article
  24. Beyond creating common elements like page numbers on master pages, placeholders can be created on the masters for both text and images. In this example, we'll look at image placeholders.

    Read Article
  25. The rotate function is built into the Selection Tool, so the true power is not so much in the Rotate Tool, but rather in the tool options.

    Read Article
  26. The Gap Tool works to adjust the space between adjacent objects or between objects and page edges.

    Read Article
  27. Text variables are dynamic text content that can change with context. There are some standard text variables in InDesign that can be used for job-tracking, such as File Name and Modification Date. Custom variables can also be created by users. In this example, I'll create a variable based on a paragraph style to be used as a running footer.

    Read Article
  28. Inserting an Excel table in Adobe InDesign is just like inserting any text file. Just follow these four steps.

    Read Article
  29. The Shear Tool can be used to warp frames and content by skewing them.

    Read Article
  30. The Primary Text Frame option in InDesign automatically creates one text frame on each page sized to match the margins. This option replaced the Master Text Frame option in the New Document setup in InDesign CS6. Primary text frames do not have to be overridden on document pages. They are particularly useful when placing long text documents because the pages necessary to contain the text will automatically be generated. There can only be one primary text frame per page.

    Read Article
  31. Sometimes you may need to push a paragraph into the next linked text frame or the next column in the frame. Using paragraph returns can create extra work if the text is edited in the future, so InDesign provides a better alternative with frame breaks.

    Read Article
  32. Adobe InDesign's Find/Change function is very versatile. In this example, we'll use Find/Change to change the stroke color on multiple image frames.

    Read Article
  33. Autoflow is a feature that can be used when placing text that will generate as many pages with text frames as are needed to contain the story.

    Read Article
  34. For many organizations, the layouts of various documents are similar, containing many common elements. If a new project is being started that will use the same page sizes, page numbering, etc., as a previous project, time can be saved by importing, or loading, those master pages into the new file.

    Read Article
  35. Combo box form fields allow the form-filler to either type in an entry or select from a list.

    Read Article
  36. InDesign styles are one of the biggest features for workflow efficiency. Using styles for text and objects allows nearly instantaneous global edits, thereby eliminating the tedium of going page by page through a document to change one common attribute.

    Read Article
  37. The Glyphs Panel lets you access all the characters available in any given font without knowing the keystroke modifiers. You can also create custom glyph sets of favorites that are used repeatedly. In this example, I'll create a glyph set for alternate characters in the Adobe Caslon Pro font family.

    Read Article
  38. Have you ever used an image with the body text wrapping around it that now needs a caption? The default is that text wraps apply to all text frames, but there are ways to control that.

    Read Article
  39. Optical Margin Alignment creates hanging indents on letters like A, V, W, Y, and punctuation, so that the beginnings of lines in a text frame appear flush. It is one of the finer points of typography aesthetics. The following four steps show how to apply Optical Margin Alignment.

    Read Article
  40. Creating text frames in InDesign is a basic skill. It's really as simple as drawing a box, but we'll take it a little further.

    Read Article
  41. By default, all InDesign documents have one master page, but additional master pages can be added as needed. Additionally, a master page that's added can be based on an existing master, eliminating the need to re-create common elements.

    Read Article
  42. In Adobe InDesign, tables are always anchored objects within a text frame, and they can be anchored before or after regular body text. An anchored object is basically any kind of frame within a text frame, which means typography options like text alignment and paragraph spacing can be applied to the object. In many cases, it's easier to format the table first, then anchor it in the text frame where it belongs.

    Read Article
  43. The Workspace refers to how the entire InDesign window is configured—the panels on the Panel Dock, the tools that are displayed on the top level of the Toolbar, etc. There are several preset workspaces built into InDesign that are geared for different kinds of projects, such as Digital Publishing. Customized workspaces can also be created by users.

    Read Article
  44. One advantage to creating an Adobe InDesign Book from multiple project files is that one file can be used to harmonize Swatches, Paragraph Styles, and Master Pages throughout all the book files. To synchronize your book files, follow these four steps.

    Read Article
  45. Using the Articles Panel is an easy way to define and order content in a layout when exporting to HTML or EPUB. Text, images, and graphics can all be defined as articles.

    Read Article
  46. Master Pages are used for common graphic elements that will appear on multiple pages throughout the document, such as page numbers. By default, there is always an A-Master page which can be modified at will.

    Read Article
  47. Multi-state objects can be created with any kind of frame, including text frames. In this example, captions will be added to a multi-state object slideshow.

    Read Article
  48. Special characters, such as bullet symbols, or ®s and ©s, need to be used in dialog boxes on occasion. For instance, when using Find/Change, or when creating a nested paragraph style. In many cases, commonly used special characters will be listed in menus in the dialog boxes, but not always. The first example below shows where to access a commonly used special character in the Find/Change dialog box. The second example demonstrates how to use a special character as a marker when creating a nested style.

    Read Article
  49. Clipping paths are silhouettes around portions of images. They can be used to mask out opaque white backgrounds, as well as create contours around portions of an image for text wraps to follow. Clipping paths are often created using Photoshop, but InDesign can do it too, when there is enough contrast between the image edges and the background.

    Read Article
  50. With many InDesign projects, it's necessary to zoom in and out repeatedly, as well as navigate through the pages. The Zoom Tool and Hand Tool can be used, but there are more efficient methods you can use.

    Read Article
  51. InDesign displays placed images and graphics in low resolution by default, but this can be changed in just a few easy steps.

    Read Article
  52. There are various kinds of color swatches that can be created in Adobe InDesign; process color, spot color, mixed ink, tint, and gradient. In this example we'll create a process color swatch.

    Read Article
  53. Many workflows involve content that has been written in Microsoft Word for use in InDesign layouts. There are a lot of variables to think about, such as whether text frames have already been created for the content in the layout and how lengthy of a Word file it is. It's also helpful to know if the text has been formatted in Word using styles, and if so, whether you want to bring those styles into the InDesign file. I'll be walking through different scenarios in other tutorials, but for now, let's start with a basic example.

    Read Article
  54. Just like Paragraph and Character Styles, Object Styles can greatly improve workflow by capturing commonly used attributes for frames. They can be used for text, image, and shape frames alike, and can also be loaded between various InDesign files.

    Read Article