Why Adobe InDesign CS6 Is Now the Best Desktop Typesetting Program
Ole’s tale: “Late night. The pale glow from the monochrome monitor of my Compugraphic phototypesetter. The smell of the office standard ‘French Vanilla’ coffee—warming, now, for several hours and resembling nothing so much as battery acid. The gentle snoring of one of the staff writers, who is curled up in the warmth of the unit that holds the filmstrips containing the fonts I’m using to set his story.
“These are the things I think of when I hear the word ‘typesetting’—they’re memories from my job at Seattle’s free rock and roll newspaper The Rocket, circa 1982. Desktop publishing didn’t exist yet, and digital (as opposed to photo) typesetting systems—with their WYSIWYG displays—were rare. The codes and characters I saw on my screen wouldn’t look anything like type until they were printed, one character at a time, on a strip of photographic film and developed. I could set just about any kind of type using that machine, provided the characters would fit on a piece of film not more than seven inches wide, and provided I didn’t need to use characters from more than six fonts.”
When desktop publishing appeared, we found that it couldn’t do everything Ole could do with his Compugraphic—but that being able to see what our type would look like before we printed it more than made up for any deficiencies. These days, page layout programs are far more capable than Ole’s trusty EditWriter. Does that mean, however, that there’s no more room for improvement? For surprising new features? Is typesetting “done”?
Not a chance—InDesign offers a number of improvements and surprises in the area of typesetting. It’s an evolutionary product—not a revolutionary one, but, on its release, InDesign became the best desktop typesetting program, and raised the bar for its competition.
In this chapter, we’ll walk through InDesign’s typesetting features. We’ll start with character formatting (font, point size, kerning, and baseline shift are examples of character formatting), move on to paragraph formatting (indents, tabs, space above and below, and composition), and then dive into formatting using character and paragraph styles. Along the way, there may be a joke or two.
Selecting and Formatting Text
Generally, when you want to change the formatting of some text, you have to select it with the Type tool. However, there are two caveats to this statement. First, because paragraph formatting (which we’ll discuss later) always applies to an entire paragraph, you don’t have to select every character in the paragraph before applying it.
Second (and more interesting) is that you can apply text formatting to text frames you’ve selected using the Selection tool or the Direct Selection tool. When you do this, InDesign applies the formatting to all of the text in the text frame, including any overset text. InDesign won’t let you use this method to apply formatting to text frames that are linked to other text frames. Tired of using the Type tool to select and format every photo caption on a page? Use the Selection tool to select them all and apply your formatting—it’s easier, and it’s quicker (see Figure 4-1).
Figure 4-1. Formatting the Text in Text Frames
The ability to apply formatting with the Selection tools is very powerful, but it’s also slightly dangerous. Let’s say you set a single character to Zapf Dingbats somewhere in your text frame. If you select the text frame using the Selection tool and then apply a new font, every character—including that dingbat—gets changed.
The only warnings that InDesign gives you that some of the text in the selected text frame uses a different font are: the Font field in the Character panel is blank, and the Font submenu (under the Type menu) has hyphens next to each font.