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InDesign: tips and tricks session

Apply Colors Quickly
To apply a color quickly, drag a swatch onto a frame, stroke, or table cell. This is also the easiest way to colorize a gray-scale TIFF or PSD image.

Keep Tabs on Preflight Errors

Look in the lower-left corner of InDesign's document window to see whether you have any preflight errors. If the error number starts creeping up, go to the Preflight panel for more information.

Dynamic Rotation Cursor

In InDesign CS5, you can forever eliminate trips to the Tools panel to choose the Rotate tool. Hover just beyond any object's corner with the Selection tool, and the cursor switches to a rotate icon. If you've selected multiple objects, they all rotate together -- no need to group them.

Bring Hidden Characters to Light

Hidden characters (also called invisibles) indicate the presence of non-printing characters, such as spaces, tabs, and paragraph returns. Most of the time, you don't need to see these, but when you do, Choose Type > Show Hidden Characters. The characters will be in the same color as layer they're on. When that's light yellow, for example, the hidden characters may be hard to see even after you choose Show Hidden Characters. In that case, just change the color of layer in the Layers panel.

No More All-Caps in Panel Names

When text is in all-caps, it can be difficult to read. Why then are the names of InDesign's panels in all caps? To change that, create a new, empty folder and name it "noallcaps". Place that folder in the InDesign application folder. The next time you restart InDesign, all panel names will be the more-pleasing upper/lowercase!

Add Tabs to Table Cells

To jump from cell to cell in an InDesign table, just press the Tab key. Handy, right? But to insert an actual tab character in a cell, you'll have to go to Type > Insert Special Character > Other > Tab.

InDesign Six Small Things, Six Big Results

The big, flashy features of InDesign seem to get all the attention. But for long work sessions, it's the little things that make InDesign a pleasure to use. Here are six favorites.
You can use these six techniques in InDesign.
1. Single-click on field labels
Many InDesign users know that you can double-click on a value in a palette field to highlight the value. But you can do the same thing with half the effort by simply clicking once on the icon or text to the left of any numeric or text field in any palette or dialog box (Figure 1). The entire field value will highlight, so you can easily type the new replacement value.
Figure 1. InDesign, click once on the "W" to highlight the entire field value to the right. Same goes for any numeric or text field in any palette or dialog box. To see a larger version of this screenshot, click on the image.
2. Do the nudge…the power nudge!
No, this isn't a new dance step. The little up and down arrow buttons to the left of all numeric fields are called "nudge buttons" (Figure 2). Clicking these buttons lets you quickly move the numeric value up or down in small increments. Add the Shift key when you click and you do the "power nudge," increasing or decreasing the value in larger increments. Figure 2. My cursor is pointing at the down arrow, which I can turn into a power nudge by Shift-clicking on it.
You can also nudge with the cursor (arrow) keys on the keyboard. Just highlight the field value (see the above tip), then use the up and down arrow keys to nudge, or Shift+up and down arrow keys to power nudge the field value.
3. Sneaky access to options
Many of the icons in the Control Palette have a hidden back door that will display preferences or options related to that icon. To open the door, just Option- or Alt-click an icon. For example, Option/Alt-click on the superscript button to display the Preferences panel for superscript and subscript size. Option/Alt-click on the number of columns icon to display the Text Frame Options dialog box, where you can designate column width, gutter, and text inset for the frame. Option/Alt-click on the rotate field to display the rotation options dialog box, where you can rotate the content of a box independent of the frame. Spend some time Option/Alt-clicking in the Control palette,and you'll discover many ways to speed up your work (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Option/Alt-click any of the icons highlighted above to display options related to that icon. To see a larger version of this screenshot, click on the image.

4. "i" is for inches
Do you prefer to work in inches, but the default measurement system is in picas or millimeters? Sure, you can change the measurement system in Edit> Preferences> Units & Increments, but the nudge buttons function with more precision when you leave the measurement system in picas or millimeters. Here's how to maintain that precision while still entering a measurement in inches: Just enter an "i" after the value. As soon as you hit the Tab key to move out of the value field, InDesign automatically converts the measurement from inches to the default measurement system.
5. Let InDesign do your math
Did you know that InDesign can "do math" in any numeric field in palettes and dialog boxes? To see for yourself, type one of the following symbols and the appropriate numbers, just like your elementary school math homework:
+ (addition)
- (subtraction)
* (multiplication)
/ (division)
This ability is particularly useful when you're mixing measurement systems. Need an image to be one-third the existing size? Enter 100%/3 in the scale field of the measurements palette. Need to subtract two and a half picas from a 5.125" margin? Enter 5.125" - 2p6. Need to make a 39p6 frame three times larger? Enter 39p6*3 in the width field of the measurements palette.
6. Keyboard shortcuts for palettes
In InDesign, "focus" refers to where text will appear when you begin to type. To move the focus to the first field of the Control palette, press Command-6 (Mac) or Ctrl-6 (Windows). If the first field is the typeface field, you can then type the first few characters of the typeface you want to quickly select it. Once the focus is on the Control palette, you can also tab from field to field.
To move the focus from the current page to the last-used palette field, press Command-Option-` (Mac) or Ctrl-Alt-` (Windows). To toggle between the paragraph and character modes in the Control palette, press Command-Option-7 (Mac) or Ctrl-Alt-7 (Windows).

Create a support structure for InDesign users

Before you start training QuarkXPress users how to use InDesign, you should develop a support structure for your InDesign users. A good first step is to put together a group of in-house InDesign experts. Make them the first group to receive training). After they’ve been trained, ask them to evangelize the benefits of switching to InDesign and the relative ease of learning the pro¬gram, as well as to provide on-demand training and support. Designate your top InDesign users as the resident experts and task them with collecting and distributing information about product and plug-in updates, common problems, tips and tricks, frequently asked questions, and so on.
In-house support can also include:
• A library of InDesign reference books. Several titles are available, including:
Adobe InDesign Classroom in a Book from Adobe Press (available for purchase at
Real World Adobe InDesign CS by Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner (Peachpit Press).
InDesign CS for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickStart Guide by Sandee Cohen (Peachpit Press).
Moving to InDesign: Use What You Know About QuarkXPress and PageMaker to Get Up to Speed in InDesign Fast! by David Blatner, Christopher Smith, and Steve Werner (Peachpit Press).
InDesign for QuarkXPress Users by David Blatner (Peachpit Press).
Adobe InDesign CS One-on-One by Deke McLelland (Deke Press).
How to Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS by David Bergsland (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media). Adobe InDesign for Dummies by Deke McLelland and Amy Thomas Buscaglia (Hungry Minds).
• Subscriptions to the InDesign Talk mailing list. This free e-mail discussion list, hosted by OmniPilot Software, Inc., lets you post and reply to messages about InDesign. If you have a question or encounter a problem, you can post a message to the list, and you can search the list archives to see if your question has already been discussed. To subscribe, unsubscribe, and search the list’s archives, go to the list’s home page at

Other support resources
In addition to the in-house support resources you provide, you can also point InDesign users to support options available on the Adobe website:
• Adobe CustomerFirst Technical Support offers two pay-as-you-go support options: (1) Per minute. Pay $2/minute. The cost is charged to your phone bill. For the Windows version of InDesign, call 900-555-2200; for the Macintosh version of InDesign, call 900-555-3300. This option is available only in the U.S. (2) Flat fee. Pay $25 per incident. For the Windows and Macintosh versions of InDesign, call 206-675-6126. Adobe CustomerFirst Alliance support plans let you purchase one year of toll-free support. Several options are available. For informa¬tion, call 800-685-3652.
• The Adobe InDesign Support page on the Adobe website (
includes links to top support issues, tutorials, support-related announcements, and user forums. You can also subscribe to an InDesign RSS (Really Simple Syndication/Rich Site Summary) feed to receive current support information.
• The Adobe Support –User to User Forums home page at
includes links to user forums for all Adobe products. These forums let you share questions, suggestions, and information with other Adobe software users around the world.
• InDesign User Group chapters have formed in major cities throughout the United States. The InDesign User Group home page at
has links to each of the InDesign user group chapters, as well as a link for meeting topic archives. The archives include meeting notes, presentations, and documents. The home page also includes links to other InDesign-related resources, including news and events, tips and techniques, and services and support.
Leveraging your legacy documents
Although InDesign can open some QuarkXPress documents, the recommended best practice for ad agencies with legacy documents is to rebuild them using InDesign. Attempting to convert a potentially corrupted QuarkXPress document and then making it the foundation for years of future work can lead to unexpected results and other problems. After years of use, QuarkXPress documents can become bloated with unused and unnecessary fonts, colors, and style sheets, as well as other unneeded objects and information. Building new documents and templates with InDesign is a good way for new users to learn the program and ensures that you’re starting out with clean, correctly constructed files.
Opening a QuarkXPress document with InDesign isn’t the only way to move content between the two programs. Here are some other options:
• Save Page as EPS. If you need to use a single page of a QuarkXPress document in an InDesign document and you don’t need to modify any of the page’s content within InDesign, you can use the Save Page as EPS command (File menu) in QuarkXPress to save the page as an EPS file, and then use the Place command (File menu) to import the file into an InDesign document.
• Export Document as PDF. If you would rather work with PDF files than EPS files, you can use the PDF export feature in QuarkXPress to create a PDF file of the pages you want to place into an InDesign document.
• Copy and paste. If you need to move text from a QuarkXPress document into an InDesign document and you don’t need to retain the formatting, you can use the Copy and Paste com¬mands. You can also copy and paste pictures, but in most cases you shouldn’t use this method because the link to the original graphic file is not maintained. Use copy and paste only for pictures that have no disk file (for example, screen captures).
• XML. You can export XML from QuarkXPress and import the XML file into InDesign.
Converting versus recreating QuarkXPress documents
If you’re thinking about converting QuarkXPress documents into InDesign documents, you should begin by doing some experimenting. In general, the longer and more complicated a QuarkXPress document, the more likely you are to discover differences when you open the document in InDesign. If possible, it’s best to recreate your QuarkXPress documents using InDesign. In addition to being an effective way to learn to use InDesign, recreating documents eliminates the possibility of conversion-related problems.
If you choose the conversion option, keep in mind that the process of converting everything in a QuarkXPress document—text formatting, graphics, character and paragraph styles, master pages—is not an exact science. While the programs are similar in many ways, there are also many differences. At best, a QuarkXPress document that’s opened with InDesign is a starting point. You may discover that you need to modify the InDesign document to make it match the original QuarkXPress document. In some cases, you may find it easier to recreate a document than to find and change all of the differences.

Determine hardware and software requirements

Before you install InDesign and begin to use it at your site, you should evaluate your current hardware and operating system software and determine if upgrades to either or both are neces¬sary. (For example, InDesign CS2, as well as the entire Adobe Creative Suite, is not compatible with Mac® OS9. All Adobe Creative Suite components run only under Mac OS X.) You may find that upgrades aren’t necessary but are nonetheless desirable. That is, InDesign may run perfectly well on your current computers with your current operating system, but the program will run even better on a newer, faster computer with the latest operating system. (For a complete list of InDesign system requirements for Mac OS and Windows®, go to the Adobe InDesign System Requirements page at
Regarding hardware, the faster the computer, the faster any software, including InDesign, will run. And the more RAM you have, the better all of your programs will run and the more programs you can run simultaneously. It’s worth noting that the performance of InDesign has improved significantly since the first version was released in 1999.
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