For all its complexity and sophistication, Adobe InDesign CS2 is a remarkably simply and intuitive program to use. That said, unless you’re working with it on a regular basis, some of its features may go unnoticed or misunderstood. Some of InDesign’s most important typographic tools are buried away in submenus; some have arcane or intimidating-sounding names; others require little user interaction and are easy to overlook. Here are my favorite type features (in no particular order). Some are not exclusive to InDesign, but most were available there before being adopted by competitors.
Of course, everything in InDesign is in some way related to type, so it’s hard to know where to draw the line. I’ve concentrated on some of the more humble (dare I say more obscure) type features. Most of these features aren’t flashy, but instead do their work quietly, without calling too much attention to themselves—much like good typography itself.
1. The Paragraph Composer
Tirelessly working behind the scenes to determine the best line breaks and optimal word spacing of your paragraphs, the Adobe Paragraph Composer is an option you’ll probably never need to change. Rather than compose your paragraphs on a line-by-line basis, the Paragraph Composer, in partnership with your Hyphenation and Justification settings, evaluates the whole paragraph to achieve the best possible typographic color; that is, the most consistent gray.
Figure 1a and 1b The Justification dialog box Command+Option+Shift+J/Ctrl+Alt+Shift+J and a comparison of InDesign’s two composition methods. Note the poor word spacing in line 3 when the Single-line Composer is used.
The only downside is that it can be confusing if you’re trying to manually break the lines of a paragraph, because the lines before—as well as after—adjust their position. When you edit your type, the Paragraph Composer considers the whole paragraph "in progress" and looks before and after the insertion point of your cursor to figure out how best to adjust the spacing. You can switch to the Adobe Single-line composer, which evaluates a paragraph line by line, but once you know why the Paragraph Composer behaves the way it does, it’s not disturbing to see your text shift as you edit—the results are worth it.