Favorite InDesign Student Tips

June 16, 2004 - 1:00am ||| 1 Comment | Add new

When I'm in the middle of a software training session, I love how student's questions about and experiments with neglected corners of the program often lead to new discoveries.

I've been doing a lot of InDesign training lately. Here are a few of my favorites tiplets discovered by students during these sessions:

Change the Default Font

Tired of how Times 12/Auto is the default font every time you create a new text frame? Since InDesign lacks a "Normal" Paragraph Style or Character Style, it appears there's nothing you can modify to change that.

Ah, but there is, as my very first InDesign student inadvertently proved to me last summer. (His question was, "I accidentally changed the default font to MarkerFelt, how do I get it back to Times?")

To change the default font for an active document, deselect everything (Command/Ctrl-Shift-A) and choose a different typeface from the Control palette (you'll need the Type tool selected) or the Character palette with any tool selected. From then on, all new text frames you create will default to that face.

To make it the default for new text frames in every document, do the change with no InDesign documents open.

There's tons of stuff you can access in InDesign with no documents open, by the way, such as Text Frame Options and Stroke and Fill settings for the Shape and Line tools. Any change you make gets saved in your application preferences file as the new default for that tool, dialog, or palette field.

Images in Type Outlines

You probably already know that you can convert selected text to outlines in InDesign (from the Type menu), and you may already know that those outlines can be used as a clipping path/custom-shaped frame for an image. (Place the image into the outlined type, or copy the image from elsewhere in your doc, select the outlined type and choose Paste Into.)

All this can be done in QuarkXPress as well via the Text to Box command in the Style menu, which converts a selected line of text to a picture box.

But InDesign has a feature that Quark doesn't have: It can paste a single image into two or more lines of outlined type objects, while Quark limits you to single line. It's perfect for when you have, say, a three-line headline into which you want to paste one continuous image.

The student discoverer was a talented Adobe Illustrator whiz who was bored with the Pen tool stuff his fellow InDesign training colleagues were working on, and was just poking around the menus during the session.

To turn multiple lines of outlined type into a single image frame in InDesign:

1. With the Type or Selection tool, select the lines/instances of text you want to convert and choose Type -> Create Outlines. (If there's other text in the same frame that you want to keep live, make your selection with the Type tool, then hold down the Option/Alt key so your selection is converted to outlines in a new frame. The construction technique doesn't work while the outlined type is an inline frame in a text flow.)

2. If you end up with two or more lines of outlined type in a single text frame (as in a three-line headline), those are also acting as inline graphics. You'll need to get them out of the frame. Use the Selection tool to select the first line, then Cut and Paste so it's a "stand-alone" instance of outlined type. Do the same to the others, and delete the empty text frame when you're done.

Note: If you started with multiple text frames, each with one line of type, you won't need to do this step.

3. If necessary, use the Selection tool to realign the instances of outlined type, making sure they're near enough to each other to show the full image.

4. Shift-click or drag a selection rectangle around all instances of outlined type to select them all, and choose Object -> Compound Paths -> Make; or Object -> Pathfinder -> Add. As long as the paths aren't touching or overlapping, their appearance remains the same after this action. It's like a geek version of the Group command.

That's it. Now when you File -> Place an image into any of the outlined type instances, all the ones you "grouped" act as a single image frame. Use the Direct Selection tool as usual to manipulate the image inside of the paths.

If you want, you can also cut or copy your new artwork with the Selection tool, switch to the Type tool and paste it into a live text frame, so your compound-outlined-image-thing flows with the text as an inline frame. Heh … that'll really freak 'em out down in pre-press!

Clever grasshoppers will realize that Step #4 can be used to unify all sorts of InDesign objects to contain a single image, not just blocks of outlined type.

Disappearing Side Handles

When you make a text frame fairly shallow — less than an inch or so tall — the In Port and Out Port squares (used for threading text frames) which are also located on the sides can hide the frame's side handles. I used to zoom in very closely so that the frame "grew" large enough that the side handles were revealed, allowing me to drag on them change width without changing height.

So the other day I'm in a training session, walking around coaching people while they're working on a project, and notice a designer is in the same situation, trying to widen a short text frame (a footer) without the benefit of side handles. I was just about to suggest she zoom in to reveal the handles, when she just up and dragged with the Selection tool on the right-hand Out Port, and bloop! it obligingly resized.


Dragging on the ports when you *can* see the side handles doesn't do anything. It only works when necessary, when they're the only side handle-like things you've got.

Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 May 17, 2011 - 1:18pm by John Wood (not verified):

I came to this page trying to work out how to change the settings applied to the ‘Basic Paragraph’ In CS5. I don’t think (unless I’ve missed it) that these instructions are for doing that but in playing around with a mixture of what’s here and what I already know I found the answer so if anyone else is in the same position here it is:

- With no document open in InDesign, press ‘Command/Ctrl + Return’ and a Quick Apply box appears.

- Select ‘Basic Paragraph’ and the current settings for this paragraph style appear.

- Make your changes and click enter.

This seems to make the basic paragraph whatever you want it to be so when you import text/set any text to this style it will pick up the settings.

Perhaps someone with a bit more technical know-how can double check I’ve got this right. And feel free to edit/delete as appropriate if I’m talking absolute garble!


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