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This chapter is from the book

Bullets and Numbering

As the human attention span has grown shorter under the stresses of modern life, lists of one sort or another have come to dominate our texts. Abraham Lincoln could spend several days delivering a single perfect paragraph to an informed audience; we must convey the same information in an executive summary that takes no more than nanoseconds to parse. InDesign aids and abets this diminution of the human intellect by providing the Bullets and Numbering feature, which provides:

  • Bullets.
  • Numbering.

Bullets and Numbering is a paragraph level attribute that applies a bullet character or a numeral to the start of the paragraph. Applying a bullet is straightforward; numbering is a bit more complicated.

Applying Bullets

The simplest way to apply bullets to a selection of paragraphs is to click the Bulleted List button in the Paragraph view of the Control panel (or choose Apply Bullets from the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu of the Type menu). Follow the steps below, and you can control the formatting and position of the bullets (see Figure 4-54):

  1. Select a range of text.
  2. Choose Bullets and Numbering from the Paragraph panel or Control panel menu. You can also Option/Alt-click the Bulleted List button in the Paragraph view of the Control panel. InDesign displays the Bullets and Numbering dialog box.
  3. Choose Bullets from the List Type pop-up menu.
  4. Pick from among the choices in the Bullet Character section, which works very much like the Glyphs panel described earlier in this chapter—the dialog contains a short list of characters, but you can click the Add button to choose characters from any of the available fonts and add them then to the list.
  5. If you want the bullet to be followed by a tab, leave the Text After field set to ^t. If you’d prefer the bullet followed by something else (such as an en space), you can type it in that field or pick from the flyout menu to the right of the field.
  6. You can apply formatting to the bullet character in the Character Style pop-up menu (assuming you have defined a style).
  7. Adjust the position of the bullet in the Bullet or Number Position section. The Left Indent and First Line Indent fields control the indents for the entire paragraph (overriding any other indents you’ve set). To hang the bullet in the margin, you’d want a positive Left Indent and a negative First Line Indent.

    If the First Line Indent is set to zero and your Text After is set to a tab character, the position of the text after the bullet is defined by the first tab stop. If you’ve assigned tab stops already, you can ignore this.

    The Alignment pop-up menu lets you control the position of the bullet at the beginning of the paragraph—Left, Right, or Centered—but it only works when your Left Indent is large enough to allow the character to move (InDesign won’t allow the bullet to fall outside the text frame).

  8. Once you’ve got the inserted characters to look the way you want them to (turn on the Preview option), click the OK button to apply the list formatting to the selected paragraphs.
Figure 4-54

Figure 4-54. Applying Bullets

Default Bullets. If you choose a custom bullet character with the Add button in the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, InDesign remembers that bullet in the currently-open document. If you need that same bullet character in other documents, you can add it to the list of default bullets:

  1. Close all documents in InDesign.
  2. Open the Bullets and Numbering dialog box.
  3. Set the Type pop-up menu to Bullets.
  4. Use the Add button to add your desired bullet character.
  5. If you want this character to be the default bullet (the one InDesign gives you if you don’t specify any other), select it.
  6. Set the Type pop-up menu back to None and then click OK.

Applying Numbering

When Adobe first implemented the automatic numbering feature, we complained that it was anemic and useless. They responded in the next version by adding so many features that its now not only extremely useful but also somewhat overwhelming to use. Fortunately, it’s all logical if you take it step by step and understand which parts of the Bullets and Numbering dialog box you can ignore.

The simplest way to apply numbering to one or more selected paragraphs is to click the Numbered List button in the Control panel (when it’s in paragraph mode), or choose Apply Numbers from the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu, under the Type menu. This gives you a basic numbered list, starting at 1.

Continuing Numbering. Let’s say you have five paragraphs, but the third paragraph shouldn’t be numbered (that is, the section numbered “2” has two paragraphs). The fastest way to accomplish this is to select all five paragraphs, turn on numbering, then select just the third paragraph and turn numbering off.

Alternately, you could assign numbering to the first two paragraphs and then number the last two paragraphs (which will start at “1” again). Then place the cursor in the fourth paragraph (which is currently numbered “1”) and choose Continue Numbering from either the Context menu or the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu, under the Type menu.

Formatting Numbers. The default formatting applied to automatic numbers is dull as rocks: the number—set in the same font, size, color, and styling as the first character of the paragraph—followed by a tab. In order to spice up your numbering, select Bullets and Numbering from the Control panel menu (or Option/Alt-click the Numbered List button in the Control panel). When the List Type pop-up menu is set to Numbers, you can adjust the following settings in the Numbering Style section of the dialog box (see Figure 4-55).

  • Format. You can choose from among normal numerals (such as 1, 2, 3, etc.), Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.), or alphabet characters (a, b, c, etc.) from the Format pop-up menu. Choose None to omit the number entirely, though it’s rare that you’d want to.
  • Number. You can control how the number appears by typing codes into the Number field. The default value, ^#.^t, means type the current number for this list, followed by a period, then followed by a tab. You don’t have to remember the codes—you can use the pop-up menu associated with the field. If you do use a tab character, it has to be the last code in this field.
  • You can type pretty much anything in the Number field. For example, you could type Item No. ^#^_ which means type “Item No.” followed by a space, then the number, then an en dash.
  • Character Style. InDesign applies the character style you choose from this pop-up menu to everything in the Number field.
  • Mode. Use this pop-up menu to specify whether the list should Continue from Previous Number or Start At a specific number.
Figure 4-55

Figure 4-55. Applying Numbering

Positioning Numbers. You can adjust the position of your number in the same ways we discussed positioning bullets. You can make the right edge of the numbers align by choosing Right from the Alignment pop-up menu and setting the Left Indent to a positive number.

Multi-Level Numbering. What if you need a sub-list? For example, after number 4, you might have 4a, 4b, 4c, and so on. Or in a long technical document, you might have sections numbered 1.1.1, then 1.1.2, then 1.1.3, then 1.2.1, and so on. To pull off this kind of numbering, you need to assign levels in the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, then—optionally—adjust the Number field’s codes (see Figure 4-56).

Figure 4-56

Figure 4-56. Multi-Level Numbering

This can get confusing, so let’s focus on that 4a, 4b, 4c example. After you select the paragraphs you want to affect (in this case, the three paragraphs after paragraph 4), open the dialog box and change the Level field to 2. This defines a sub-list inside the main numbered list. Now choose the lower-case alphabet from the Format pop-up menu and change the Number field to ^1^#.^t (which means “type the most recent level 1 number, then the current number in this sub-list, then a period and a tab”). You may also want to adjust the Left Indent in the Position section so that the sub-list is further indented.

Creating Named Lists. Numbering isn’t just for a few paragraphs in a single story. You can create far more complex kinds of numbered lists that continue across multiple text frames, or even across multiple documents in a book. You can also have multiple numbered lists in parallel, for example, figure numbering and table numbering. The key to all these tricks is to define named lists. (InDesign just calls these “lists,” but we call them “named lists” to avoid confusion with the generic “lists” that we’ve been discussing.)

You can define a named list by choosing Define Lists from the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu (under the Type menu) and then clicking the New button in the Define Lists dialog box. Or, if you already have the Bullets and Numbering dialog box open, you can choose New List from the List pop-up menu. In either case, you get the New List dialog box, in which you can type the list’s name and choose whether you want this numbered list to continue across multiple stories (that is, across more than one unthreaded text frame) and/or across more than one document in a book (see Figure 4-57).

Figure 4-57

Figure 4-57. Named Lists

Once you have a named list defined, you can assign it to a paragraph by choosing it from the List pop-up menu in the Bullets and Numbering dialog box.

However, the order in which paragraphs are numbered may be confusing to you. Here are the rules:

  • In general, numbering follows page order. For example, if you have an unthreaded text frame on page 1 and another on page 2, InDesign will number paragraphs on page 1 first—just as you’d expect.
  • If you have more than one frame on a page (and those frames aren’t threaded), numbering in the frames is based on the order in which the frames were created—not the order on which they appear on the page.
  • All the numbers in a single story (including multiple threaded text frames) are numbered at the same time—starting with the first frame in the thread—even if they’re on different pages. For example, if you have a story that jumps from page 1 to page 5, and you have an unthreaded text frame on page 2, the numbered paragraphs on page 5 would be smaller than those on page 2 because InDesign is numbering the threaded story first.

    Even stranger, if for some reason that story was instead threaded from page 5 to page 1, the numbering would start on page 2, then continue on page 5, then end on page 1.

  • Paragraphs inside anchored text frames are numbered along with the story they’re in. Let’s say you’re numbering your figures and some of your figure numbers are anchored inside a text story that spans from page 1 to 100—but one figure number is sitting in an unthreaded, unanchored text frame on page 2.

    InDesign will number all 100 pages, including anchored frames, before it gets around to numbering page 2.

    This means that you should either keep all your text frames anchored or keep them unanchored—mixing and matching will cause you heartache.

If you want a numbered list to continue from one document to the next in a book panel, your named list has to be present in all the documents—fortunately, the book panel’s Synchronize feature can copy named lists for you (see Chapter 8, “Long Documents”).

Removing Bullets and Numbering

To remove bullets or numbering, select the paragraphs in question and then click once on the Bulleted List or Numbered List button in the Control panel (whichever is currently highlighted). Alternately, you could choose Remove Bullets or Remove Numbering from the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu, under the Type menu. Or you could display the Bullets and Numbering dialog box and choose None from the List Type pop-up menu. Whichever you choose, the bullets and numbers are gone, baby, gone.

Converting Bullets and Numbers to Normal Text

To change the characters inserted by the Bullets and Numbering feature to normal text (i.e., text you can select with the Type tool and format using InDesign’s typesetting features), select the paragraphs and choose Convert Numbering to Text or Convert Bullets to Text from the Context menu. You can also find this command in the Paragraph panel menu, the Control panel menu, and the Bulleted & Numbered Lists submenu, under the Type menu. If you select a range of text that contains both bulleted and numbered paragraphs, choose Convert Bullets and Numbering to Text.

Bullets and Numbering in Paragraph Styles

We’ve been talking about applying numbering or bullets directly to paragraphs as local formatting, but in the real world we’d virtually never do this. Instead, we’d first create a paragraph style that includes the bullet or numbering, and then apply that paragraph style to the paragraphs in question. We talk about styles below, but suffice it to say that we often work with two or three paragraph styles for each type of list. For example, in this book, we use a “numbered list” style that includes both numbering and a little Space After; and we use a “numbered list first” (which we apply to the first item in the list) that is based on “numbered list” but also includes a little Space Before. Plus, we use a “numbered list last” (which we apply to the last item in the list), which includes a little Space After.

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