You may know InDesign for its transparency effects
and its tight integration with the other programs
in Creative Suite 3, but InDesign’s text and typography
features are the best in the business. Here we
explore some of the typographic gems, as well as
some of the gotchas.
Sometimes text doesn’t seem to want to do what you
want it to do. There’s always a reason; of course,
sometimes it’s just not obvious.
Stubborn last line
Has this ever happened to you? You reduce the
point size of text in a paragraph, and the last line
refuses to move up to match the other lines in the
paragraph (figure 1).
The reason? You wouldn’t think a paragraph
return symbol deserves its own leading, but, by
default, leading is a character attribute, not a paragraph
attribute. And the return constitutes a character
(albeit an invisible one). If you’re using auto
leading, and you’ve neglected to reduce the size of
the paragraph return itself, it carries its own, larger
leading value, and acts as a cork to push the last line
away. There are several solutions:
1. Be sure to select the entire paragraph before
changing text size; quadruple-click in the paragraph
to select the whole shebang, including the return.
2. Display the hidden characters (Type > Show
Hidden Characters), select the pesky return symbol
and set its leading to the same value as the remainder
of the paragraph.
3. Use paragraph styles, which apply the same
size and leading to all text in a paragraph, including
4. Change the Type preference to apply leading
to entire paragraphs (Mac: InDesign > Preferences >
Type; PC: Edit > Preferences > Type). But this only
helps if you choose a definite leading value, rather
than using auto leading. If the leading value is displayed
in parentheses, it’s auto leading. Highlight
the leading value and type a replacement value.
Even highlighting and retyping the same leading value will render it hardwired rather than automatic.
Auto leading—by default, 120 percent of the text
size—is what InDesign uses if you don’t manually
enter a leading value.
What’s causing that goofy formatting?
Suddenly, every text frame you create is using an
enormous heading style. Where did that come from?
When you choose a setting—such as a swatch, a
font, a paragraph or character style—without selecting
text or an object in the page, InDesign assumes
you want that to be a default. This could save you
some time, but usually it happens unintentionally:
You think you’ve selected some text, and you select
a paragraph or character style. Then it’s as if you’ve
dipped your paintbrush in the wrong color, and you
can’t seem to clean it off.
The fix? Deselect everything by switching to
the Selection tool (black arrow) and clicking on
empty space. Then, press Option + Shift and click
on the Basic Paragraph style (PC: Alt + Shift click).
The Option/Alt gets rid of manual formatting,
and the Shift button deletes any formatting from
character styles. Essentially, this move purifies formatting
to that of the default Basic Paragraph style.
New text frames will now use that style, rather than
the formatting you picked up accidentally. To clear
unwanted object formatting, deselect everything;
open the Object Styles panel; and then Optionclick
(PC: Alt-click) on the Basic Graphics Frame
object style name.
Oops—I HAD THE CAPS LOCK KEY ON
Inspired, you’re blindly typing compelling copy at
an incredible speed (thank goodness you took typing,
eh?). But you look up to realize that—doh!—
the Caps Lock key has been on for quite some time.
That’s OK: InDesign offers a quick fix. Select the
text, pick Type > Change Case and choose the correct
approach from the submenu that appears. You
can pick from UPPERCASE, lowercase, Title Case
and Sentence case. The options are even displayed in
the appropriate style, as a hint of what will happen
to the selected text.
If you’re accustomed to QuarkXPress, InDesign’s
approach to text wrap (InDesign’s term for runaround)
may confuse you. In QuarkXPress, a box
causes runaround only if it’s above text in stacking
order. In InDesign, text wrap behaves like oil and
water: A frame with text wrap affects text above and
below, regardless of stacking order or layers.
This allows you to place a graphic behind text,
yet still cause text wrap, which is pretty nifty. But
what if you want to place text above this, such as a
pull quote? At first, it seems hopeless: The text wrap
from the underlying object flushes text out of your
topmost frame. Don’t fret: There’s an easy solution.
Select the affected frame, choose Object > Text Frame
Options, and check Ignore Text Wrap option in the
lower left of the dialog box (figure 2). Then the pull
quote will not respond to the text wrap underneath.
Alternatively, you can set InDesign’s preferences
to behave like QuarkXPress: Choose InDesign >
Preferences > Composition (PC: Edit > Preferences
> Composition) and check the option for Text Wrap
Only Affects Text Beneath. This may put you in
more familiar territory, but you’ll lose some flexibility
as a result.
InDesign has fabulous typographic tools which
enable us to set beautiful type with little effort.
Notice how smooth body text looks, almost devoid
of ugly white rivers: You can thank InDesign’s
Paragraph Composer engine for that. Let’s look at
some additional tools for finessing typography.
If you feel the urge to painstakingly tweak the kerning
of display text, make it easy on yourself—try
optical kerning. It’s overkill for body text but an
elegant time-saver when setting headlines (figure 3).
What does optical kerning do? It allows InDesign
to base kerning on the appearance of letterforms,
rather than the built-in font metrics.
To invoke optical kerning, select a range of text
and choose the option from the kerning field drop-down in the Control palette above the document
(figure 4). The default choice is Metrics (meaning
built-in font metrics); just switch to Optical. You
may still wish to tweak some spacing, but it’s a great
If you think you’ve seen justified text, try optical
margins. This option subtly moves small details—such as serifs and hyphens—slightly outside the text
frame, creating the optical illusion of a straighter
edge. Try it and squint: Suddenly the edges of
regular justified text don’t look quite even, and text
using optical margins looks much better.
It’s a great feature, but it’s accessed by an unintuitive
menu command: Type > Story (figure 5). I suppose
it’s because optical margins affect an entire story
(the option can’t be limited to a single paragraph or
text frame), but I confess it’s a personal gripe of mine
that there’s plenty of room in the drop-down menu
to list “Optical Margin Alignment” instead.
Glyphs and glyphs sets
Have you ever needed a snowflake? Did you type
the entire alphabet, then change the font to Zapf
Dingbats to find that pesky snowflake? Then you’ll
love the Glyphs panel. Just place the cursor in text,
and choose Type > Glyphs. Choose the desired font
family and style from the small drop-down menu
at the bottom of the dialog (it’s easy to overlook),
scroll until you find the elusive snowflake and then
double-click; the glyph is inserted at the cursor position.
You can even magnify the display of glyphs by
clicking the little mountain icons at the lower right
to enlarge or reduce the display size.
InDesign stores the 20 most recently used
glyphs in the top row of the dialog. But if you’re
using lots of glyphs, your favorite may get flushed
out. You can create custom glyph sets to store glyphs you frequently use. Just choose New Glyph Set
from the Glyphs panel menu, and name the set. To
add glyphs to a set, select the desired glyph, then
Control-click (PC: right-click), select Add to Glyph
Set and choose the set from the menu that appears.
You can also choose Add to Glyph Set from the
Glyphs panel menu.
Unfortunately, the Glyphs panel (figure 6)
doesn’t provide a direct method for saving glyph
sets, and they could be wiped out if you reset
InDesign preferences. But if you want to back up
(or share) a glyph set, you can find the set by its
name in these locations:
1. Mac OS: Users/[username]/Library/
2. Windows XP: Documents and Settings\
3. Windows Vista: Users\[username]\AppData\
A glyph set is stored as an XML file—to install
a set, just drag it into the proper location. Restart
InDesign for the added set to be recognized.
You can string paragraph styles together for easy
formatting of multiple paragraphs (figure 7). A catalog
item description might always consist of an item
name in bold, larger text, followed by body text
and finally by a SKU/price line in red. As part of a
paragraph style definition, you can specify a “Next
Style,” which will kick off a new style when you hit
the Return key and embark on a new paragraph. For
example, the “Item Name” style would be followed
by the “Body Description” style, which would be
followed in turn by the “Price” style. You’d open the
paragraph style options for “Item Name” and set its
next style to “Body Description,” and so on.
This works splendidly when you’re typing text,
but what if you import or copy/paste text? InDesign
makes this easy; set up the styles and establish the
style relationships. Then, select part of each paragraph,
Control-click (PC: right-click) on the name
of the first style in the Paragraph Styles panel, and
choose “Apply [style], then Next Style.” By the way,
a common mistake is to just click in one paragraph
and wonder why the “Apply Next Style” option isn’t
available. You must select all or part of at least two
successive paragraphs to invoke the next style trick.
InDesign is full of text-handling niceties and
typographic riches, and I could go on and on. Until
next issue—when we cover some of my favorite plugins—have fun exploring the possibilities.