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Character and Paragraph Formatting

Use the Keyboard to Jump to Text Format Fields


One of the things I do most often in InDesign — choose a typeface from the Control palette popup menu — has no keyboard shortcut.


Oh yes it does! Press Command-6/Ctrl-6 to select the first field in the Control palette. If the palette is currently showing Character formats — as it likely will be if you're editing text in a frame — that means you'll be highlighting the Font field.

Then, type the first few characters of the font's name, or use the up and down arrow keys to browse through the active fonts, or do a combination of both. Press Tab to jump to the next field (font style) and use the same keyboard tricks to choose Bold, Compressed, etc. Finally, press the Return or Enter key to put the focus back on your text frame, and continue typing (in your new typeface, of course).

To access the Paragraph formatting commands in the Control palette when it's currently showing the Character format fields (or vice versa), press Command-Option-7/Ctrl-Alt-7, which toggles the two modes. When the Paragraph mode is active, Command-6/Ctrl-6 selects its first field, which is Left Indent.

You can use these shortcuts even if you've selected a frame (or multiple frames) with the Selection tool. After they're selected, just tap the “T” key (to switch to the Type tool) so the Control palette shows Character or Paragraph fields. Your frames will still be selected and any changes you make to the formatting fields (via the keyboard or mouse) will be applied to all the text in the selected frame(s). Très cool!

Here's a second way to skin the cat, which you might find a little faster, depending on the circumstances. Press Command/Ctrl-T and the Character palette will open with the Typeface field highlighted. Choose a face and style using the keyboard as described above. To close the Character palette, press Command/Ctrl-T again.

Consistent Leading, Including the Last Lines


If I'm reading a publication and notice that the leading changes from line to line in a single paragraph — most often, the last line is different from the rest — I know immediately the publication was created with PageMaker or InDesign. (QuarkXPress never did this, though it had its own dead giveaways). Why does this sometimes happen?


InDesign, like PageMaker, assigns leading on a character-by-character basis by default; while in QuarkXPress it's a paragraph setting. However, in actuality, InDesign has line leading: The character with the largest leading in a line of text sets the leading for the whole line. So, if a paragraph contains even a single character, space, or non-printing character that has a larger leading than the rest of the characters, the leading will be thrown off in the paragraph (Figure 3-7).


Figure 3-7 Dreaded last line leading problem

You can avoid the problem by doing three things:

  1. Avoid the default autoleading. If the leading amount appears in parentheses, autoleading is in effect. Instead, set your own absolute leading for everything (except perhaps paragraphs that contain an inline frame and nothing else).
  2. When you want to adjust leading, select the entire paragraph first. But don't select it by swiping all the characters; it's too easy to miss the trailing Paragraph marker (choose Type > Show Hidden Characters to see it) which is the cause of the dreaded “last line leading looniness” problem. Instead, click four times in quick succession inside a paragraph. This selects the entire paragraph, including the paragraph marker, even if it's not visible. Then change the leading.
  3. If you're tired of quadruple-clicking, turn on the “Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs” option in the Type panel of the Preferences dialog box. Now you can apply leading to a single character (or even with the cursor just flashing between characters) and InDesign applies the leading to the whole paragraph. However, turning this on does not affect paragraphs that might already have mixed leading; just paragraphs you change from now on (well, until you turn it off again). And even with the option turned on, changing the size of selected characters in an autoleaded paragraph will result in mixed leading.

Stop Vertical Justification from Spacing Out


I like to vertically justify my text frames by choosing Object > Text Frame Options and then setting the Vertical Justification popup to Justify. But sometimes InDesign adds a ton of white space between every line messing up my leading. All I want is for the first paragraph to start at the top, the last paragraph to end at the bottom, and the remaining paragraphs to be equally distributed between them.


Did you notice the field next to the Vertical Alignment popup menu called Paragraph Spacing Limit? It's set to 0p0 by default. If you enter in a larger amount, InDesign will add space between the paragraphs in the frame (up to the amount you specify in the field) first, to see if that vertically justifies the text. If it hits the limit and still has empty space after the last paragraph, it also increases the leading — “the white space between the lines” — until the text is justified.

To prevent InDesign from adding any leading to vertically-justified text frames, set a huge measure in the Paragraph Spacing Limit. Try the height of the frame itself if you want to be sure.

Change the Default Font (and other formatting defaults)


Our magazine uses Bauer Bodoni Book for its body face. I've created a paragraph style for “body” which changes the default Times face to Bodoni when I apply it, but it would be nice if I could just drag out a text frame, start typing, and the font used by default would be Bauer Bodoni Book.


You can make any active font the default font in the document by first making sure that's nothing's selected in your document (Command-Shift-A/Ctrl-Shift-A), then choosing the font you want from the Type > Font submenu or in the Character palette. All new text frames you create from then on in the document will use your new default font. If you change the default font without any documents open, that will be your new default font for all new InDesign documents you create.

Use the same method to customize other text formatting defaults in the active document or the application itself. For example, you could set your Body paragraph style to automatically be applied to text added to an empty frame by selecting it in the Paragraph Styles palette (instead of the default “No Paragraph Style” in CS or “Basic Paragraph” in CS2), you could turn off Hyphenation (normally on by default), change the leading to an absolute measure instead of auto, change kerning from Metrics to Optical, and so on. Even with nothing selected in your document (or no documents open at all), InDesign lets you access almost every text-related menu, palette or dialog box setting.

For more information about setting application defaults in InDesign, see the sidebar on page 9.

Kerning Drop Caps


Some capital letters in certain fonts don't left-align properly when they're set as a drop cap, especially I and E. Their left edges don't touch the left edge of the frame; instead there's some white space on their left. They sort of look centered.


InDesign always aligns the left edge of drop caps to the left paragraph margin; but some fonts have overly-large side bearings (white space) built into the character design itself. To fix the problem visually, set the drop cap to two characters (in Paragraph settings) instead of the default single character. Insert a space in front of the first character so InDesign considers that space to be the first of your two-character drop cap; then apply a negative kern between the space and the real drop cap so it moves to the left, crossing over the space, until it touches the left edge of the frame.

Wrapping Drop Caps


Why can't InDesign wrap text around a drop cap? For example, when the letter A or W is the drop cap, I want the adjacent body text to hug the right diagonal. InDesign always forces a square bounding box around the drop cap and I can't seem to adjust it.


The same issue of side bearings is the cause of InDesign not being able to wrap text along the right edge of character shapes; instead it wraps to the character's always-vertical right side bearing. Don't bother trying to embed the drop cap as an inline graphic to create a manual wrap in InDesign CS, because CS doesn't support text wraps around inline objects. (CS2 does, though; we'll get to that in a minute.)

The best you can do in InDesign CS is to place the drop cap on your page as a separate frame (Figure 3-8):

  1. Place a text frame containing only the drop cap on top of the paragraph in the position you want.
  2. Select this drop cap frame and turn on Wrap Around Bounding Box in the Text Wrap palette. The paragraph text will wrap around the drop cap's frame (but not the character itself).
  3. Set the wrap offset values to -2 pt (or some other small negative value) in the Text Wrap palette.
  4. Now you can zoom in on the drop cap frame and use the Direct Select tool to reshape the text wrap boundary. Remember that you can add or remove points from the text wrap boundary with the Pen tool, including Bézier curves.

Figure 3-8 When you place a drop cap character in its own text frame, you can customize its text wrap to be any shape you want with the Direct Select tool. If you use InDesign CS2, you can anchor this frame into the text flow, too.

The only problem with this technique is that the drop cap won't flow with the text. So save this procedure until you don't expect any further copy changes.

However, if you're lucky enough to be using InDesign CS2, you can go one better and anchor the drop cap frame into the text flow.

  1. Select the drop cap frame you just made and choose Edit > Cut.
  2. Place the text cursor at the end of the previous paragraph and paste the frame in. Now it's an inline object, but it's in the wrong place. (If there is no “previous paragraph,” then create a blank paragraph at the top of the text frame.)
  3. Click on the inline drop cap frame with the Selection tool and choose Object > Anchored Object > Options.
  4. In the Anchored Object Options dialog box, choose Custom from the Position popup menu. Click OK to close the dialog box without any further changes.
  5. Use the Selection tool to drag the inline object (now technically called an “anchored object”) to its original position (where you want it to be sitting).

Since your custom-wrapped drop cap is an anchored frame, it will flow with the paragraph text, but the text after it will wrap around it.

Copy/Paste Text Formatting


One feature I really miss from QuarkXPress is the ability to copy text formatting (not the text itself, just how it's styled) from one paragraph and apply it to other paragraphs in the same text box. I looked through InDesign's online help manual and keyboard shortcuts, but it's not mentioned anywhere. Oh well.


The keyboard shortcut you're looking for is “I”. That selects the Eyedropper tool (I…Eyedropper…get it?), InDesign's powerful tool for doing just what you ask and much more.

Click any paragraph with the Eyedropper tool to pick up its formatting. You'll know you've got it when the eyedropper cursor “fills up” with a mysterious black liquid. If any text was selected when you clicked with the Eyedropper tool, then whatever formatting you clicked on is applied to the selected text, even if it was in a different text frame.

You can also squeeze out drops from the tool — that is, apply the formatting to other text — by clicking on any other paragraph in any text frame (drag over text to also apply character formatting), even if it's a paragraph in another document in InDesign.

The Eyedropper tool can pick up and apply many more attributes than text formatting, or you can set it to just pick up certain aspects of text formatting (just character, and not paragraph formats, for example). To adjust what the eyedropper picks up and applies, double-click the Eyedropper tool to turn attribute checkboxes on and off before you use it.

Strip Formatting in Copied Text


I copied some text from an email, and when I pasted it into my InDesign document it appeared in the same font and style as the existing text in the frame. Normally that's what I'd want, but for this text, I'd prefer that it remember its original formatting. How do I control whether formatting is applied or not?


InDesign handles text slightly differently depending on whether the text came from another application or from within InDesign. When the text is coming from somewhere else, the relevant control is “Preserve Text Attributes When Pasting” in the General panel of InDesign's Preferences dialog box. This setting is off by default (text copied from other programs is stripped of formatting when it's pasted). Turn it on to keep the formatting around. In InDesign CS2, this preference is called When Pasting Text and Tables from Other Applications.

Note that InDesign can't retain formatting in text copied from some programs, (e.g., it doesn't work with QuarkXPress text), but most work fine.

When it comes to text from another InDesign document, the Edit > Paste feature always retains the formatting. If you want to strip out the formatting (leaving the pasted text in the same style as the text where your cursor is), you'll be a lot happier if you use CS2 because it has a Paste Without Formatting feature in the Edit menu. However, if you use InDesign CS, you'll have to strip the formatting manually: Select the text in the source document that you want to copy, then hold down Shift-Option/Shift-Alt while clicking No Paragraph Style in the Paragraph Styles palette to completely strip the selection of all paragraph and character formatting other than the default. Copy the selection to the clipboard and then Undo (Command-Z/Ctrl-Z) to restore the formatting in the source document.

Now your clipboard contains unformatted text, ready for pasting in your current document without baggage.

Fix Leading Problems Due to Baseline Grid


I get too much spacing between my body text and subheads when I turn on the Align to Baseline Grid paragraph format. Sometimes all the leading goes screwy, even if it's hard-coded into the paragraph style sheet.


Feature-not-a-bug alert! Think about it. The purpose of Align to Baseline Grid is to ignore any “hard coding” of leading and instead, to force all baselines to sit on the nearest baseline grid increment you set in Preferences > Grids. Nearest to what? To whatever “real” leading you've specified for that line of text.

So if your baseline grid increment is set to 14 pts., and the first line of body text after a subhead is supposed to fall 18 points below that (per the leading and space above/below paragraph settings you've applied to the text), InDesign will push the body text so it starts at 28 points (the next 14 pt. increment) below the subhead. Baseline grid allows text to skip increments, but never allows partial increments.

Solutions? You could turn off Align to Baseline Grid for the subhead and/or the body text. Or you could adjust your grid increment (try halving the amount) so InDesign has more increments to play with — though this affects the entire document, not just that paragraph or story, in InDesign CS.

If you only need the first line of the text to snap to the baseline grid, after you turn on Align to Baseline Grid, select Only Align First Line to Grid from the Control palette or Paragraph palette menu.

In InDesign CS2, you have another choice because each text frame can have its own baseline grid. You can change a frame's baseline grid setting by choosing Object > Text Frame Options. However, if each frame has its own grid, then it's pretty much the same as no frame having a grid. No?

Come Back to the Baseline, My Commas


For some reason, all the commas and numerals in my text are floating way above the baseline, even though the Baseline Offset field is set to 0.


Odds are you selected all the text and turned on the Fractions feature for your OpenType font (in the Character palette menu) or the same feature's being applied via a style sheet. Fix it by turning off the Fractions option in the OpenType submenu (in the Control or Character palette menu) for the text. Your commas and numerals will return to earth (Figure 3-9).


Figure 3-9 Symptom: Mysteriously floating numbers and commas. Diagnosis: Someone doesn't know how to use the OpenType “Fractions” option.

From now on, when you want to format a fraction using the OpenType feature, select just the unformatted fraction and apply the feature either from the Character palette menu or from a Character style.

Typographically Correct Underlines


I don't like how underlines cross the descenders of text. It looks like the text was set on an IBM Selectric.


Select the characters with descenders and apply a paper-colored stroke to them. Since underlines appear in back of characters, the thin white stroke makes the underline appear to “skip” the descenders (Figure 3-10).


Figure 3-10 Adding a paper-colored stroke to characters with descenders (the p, g, and y in the word above) prevents an underline from marring their beauty.

Too tedious for you? You can use Find/Change to speed it up:

  1. Enter the same lowercase descender character in both the Find and Change fields.
  2. Turn on Case Sensitive to restrict InDesign to using the lowercase character.
  3. Turn on More Options and in the Find Format area, turn on Underline; in the Change Format area, turn on Underline and a Paper stroke.
  4. Run the Find/Change All.
  5. Do this for each character that's affected by your underline. (Cheat sheet for most typefaces: g, j, p, q, and y.) You can leave the Format area as is, just change the character it's searching and replacing.

Shade a Paragraph, Shade a Line


It boggles the mind why InDesign can't apply a screened background behind a paragraph or a box around it or whatever, while MS Word has been able to do these sorts of things for eons. Putting a shape behind the text doesn't help because I have to keep adjusting its position as I edit the text.


Select the text in the paragraph —but not the final invisible carriage return character — and convert it into a one-cell table (Table > Convert Text to Table). The table can be stroked and/or filled and flows along with the rest of the text.

You can put a screened background behind any text selection, by the way, by applying the Underline character format to it and then customizing the underline (Figure 3-11).


Figure 3-11 You can underline text and change the line's color, width and shade in Underline Options so it completely encompasses the characters. The modified underline is permanently attached to the text so as you edit, it sticks with the text, just as any normal underline would.

Prevent Runts (Too-Short Last Lines of Paragraphs)


I wish there were a setting in the Paragraph palette menu's Keep Options dialog box that would force a minimum number of words or even characters on the last line of a paragraph. Seeing a final line with a single short word, or worse, the second half of a hyphenated word, is just bad form, guv'ner.


Complete agreement here, bloke. If you're using InDesign CS2, head immediately for the Hyphenation dialog box (either in the paragraph style definition or from the Paragraph palette menu) and turn off the Hyphenate Last Word checkbox. That will avoid the worst Offenders by refusing to break the last word of a paragraph.

If you're using CS (or if the offending runt spreads more than one word), select the last word or two in a “runting” paragraph and choose No Break from the Character palette menu. InDesign will recompose the paragraph so that the two unbreakable words are either sucked up into the penultimate line or appear together, by themselves, on the last line. We like to assign a keyboard shortcut to No Break to apply this faster.

Override Curly Quotes for Foot and Inch Marks


I just got yelled at by the Art Director because the parts catalog I created in InDesign has “curly” inch and foot marks for all the product specs. I completely spaced on this. How can I prevent it from happening again?


As you've found out, InDesign automatically substitutes typographically correct opening and closing apostrophes and quotes (the “curly” ones) when you enter the regular single and double quote keys from the keyboard. You can turn off the substitution with the “Use Typographer's Quotes” checkbox in the Type panel of the Preferences dialog box. Note that you can turn this preference on or off on the fly while you're typing by pressing Command-Option-Shift-"/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-".

But that only lets you enter new straight quotes, it doesn't change existing curly ones to straight. To do that, you'll have to run a couple Find/Changes (see the solution, “Find/Change Straight Quotes to Curly Ones” on page 96).

Understand How the Kern/Track Increments Work


When I select some 12 pt. text and track it in by “-5” I expect to see the characters snuggle up to each other. But in InDesign (unlike QuarkXPress), -5 barely makes a dent.


As you've discovered — as have ex-Quarkers around the globe —kern values and their default increments are not standardized across the board, like type size is. In general, you have to enter much higher values in InDesign to achieve the same effect in QuarkXPress (or MS Word for that matter). That's partly why the default kern increment used by the keyboard shortcut in InDesign is “20” (Option/Alt-Left or Right Arrow) instead of Quark's “10” (Command-Shift/Ctrl-Shift-Left or Right Bracket).

But since the two programs define the smallest kerning increment differently, InDesign's “20” is technically not twice the amount of Quark's “10.” In InDesign, one increment is .001 of an em space; in Quark, one increment is .02 of an em, or twenty times more than InDesign's. And that's probably why InDesign's default kern increment is “20.” It's the same as QuarkXPress's “1.” Sort of.

There's one more twist; and that is the two programs define an em space differently. No need to go into details; sufficeth it to say that after you take it into account, the ratio is reduced by half, roughly.

Thus a quick tip to help you make the transition from QuarkXPress to InDesign is to multiply the kerning amount you would normally apply in QuarkXPress by ten and use that number in InDesign. Example: To track in a selection by Quark's –5, in InDesign you'd track it in by that amount times ten, or –50.

You might also find it helpful to reduce the default Kern increment from 20 (1000ths of an em) to 5 or 10 in InDesign's Preferences. That way you have much finer control over kerning and tracking from the default keyboard shortcut of Option/Alt-Left or Right Arrow. When you want to make larger adjustments (five times the default increment), add the Command/Ctrl key to the shortcut.

Fake a Missing Type Style


This document needs an italic box character, but no version of any of my dingbat fonts has an italic style.


You didn't hear it from us, but to fake an italic or oblique character (one that will actually print), set the character in its normal upright face, select it, and apply a 20- to 25-degree Skew in the Character palette.

To fake a bold font, apply a thin stroke to the character in the Swatches palette. To fake an outline font, fill the character with Paper (from the Swatches palette) and apply a colored stroke (quite handy for creating hollow checkboxes from ZapfDingbats; Figure 3-12).


Figure 3-12 Add a stroke around a solid square dingbat and set the color of the character's fill to transparent and you've got a checkbox.

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