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Style Sheets

Get Rid of the Plus Sign (Local Formatting)


I applied a style sheet to some text, but some or all of the text didn't change to match the paragraph style. And there's a “plus” symbol after the style sheet name.


The plus symbol means that the text has local formatting (manual formatting) “on top” of the formatting applied by the style sheet. (Note: The plus symbol only appears when such locally-formatted text is part of a text selection, or your insertion point is blinking within it.) InDesign retains local formatting even when text is linked to a style sheet because it thinks that's what you want.

To clear local formatting from a selected paragraph, returning the paragraph to its base style sheet, Option/Alt-click on the Paragraph Style name. It's an all-or-nothing proposition, though. You can't use this method to clear out local formatting you don't want, but retain local formatting such as occasional bolded or italicized type that you do want.

In InDesign CS2 you have a bit more control: To remove all local formatting, click once on the Clear Overrides in Selection button in the Paragraph Styles or Control palette. To remove just the local character formatting (leaving any local paragraph formatting), Command/Ctrl-click on the Clear Overrides button. To remove just the local paragraph formatting (leaving the character formatting), Command-Shift-click/Ctrl-Shift-click on this button.

By the way, the same thing applies to Character Styles, if you see a plus symbol next to a Character Style name. To return selected text to its base Character Style, Option/Alt-click on the Character Style name. That will only “clear out” the local formatting applied to that selected text. Your paragraph may have other instances of text linked to a Character Style, with local formatting also applied to it, that you'll have to hunt down.

Really Remove All Formatting


Okay. Following the instructions above, I Option/Alt-clicked on the paragraph style name, but I'm still seeing some instances of text in the paragraph with different formatting! And there is no plus sign next to the style sheet name.


Elementary, my dear Watson: Some characters in the paragraph have Character Style sheets applied. (Even if you didn't create Character Styles, they might have been applied in the word processor and imported with the text when you placed it. Microsoft Word is notorious for this.) InDesign doesn't define character styles as local formatting, so the paragraph style name has no plus sign after it.

To clear just Character Style links —but not local formatting — from a paragraph, select all the text in the paragraph and Option-Shift/Alt-Shift-click on [No Character Style] in the Character Styles palette (or click once on “[None]” in CS2). To clear all local formatting and any character style formatting from a selection, returning it to its base paragraph style formatting, Option-Shift/Alt-Shift-click on the paragraph style sheet name.

Reformat Text to [No Paragraph Style]


To start fresh, I'd like to strip out any and all formatting that's been applied to my text; whether by style sheets or local formatting. With the text selected I click on [No Paragraph Style] in the Paragraph Styles palette, expecting to see the text revert to InDesign's default formatting. But that's not what happens, is it. The text doesn't change at all!


All that happens when you click on [No Paragraph Style] in InDesign CS is that the paragraph style definition gets turned into local formatting. Text tagged with character styles maintain its link. Very often that's exactly what you want to do. Okay, not so often, but it's nice to know you can do it.

In InDesign CS2, Adobe took away the [No Paragraph Style] option in the palette. However, they added a feature called Break Link to Style in the Paragraph Styles palette menu which does the same thing.

To break the link to all user-defined style sheets — Paragraph and Character ones — and remove all local formatting from the text in one swoop, select the text and hold down Option-Shift/Alt-Shift as you click on [No Paragraph Style] (or [Basic Paragraph Style] in CS2). There you go, your text is as fresh and innocent as a newborn babe (Figure 3-13).


Figure 3-13 You can return crazy formatting to normalcy by selecting the sickly paragraphs and holding down Option-Shift/Alt-Shift while clicking on [No Paragraph Style] (or [Basic Paragraph Style] in CS2).

Dreaded Pink in Imported Files


Our publication gets Microsoft Word files from various authors that we have to place into our layout. On occasion, chunks of text appear “pinked out” and in the wrong font. What's going on?


Pink is InDesign's way of telling the designer that it can't find the font specified and is using a substitute font instead. Perhaps the writer applied a font that you don't have, or applied a character style that calls for a font you don't have or that doesn't really exist (like Symbol Italic). You could turn off the Highlight Substituted Fonts checkbox in the Composition panel of the Preferences dialog box, but that doesn't help fix the problem.

Place the text cursor in the pink text and check the Character Style palette to see if there's a character style applied. If so, change the style definition to reflect the proper font. If no character style is applied, then use Type > Find Font to change the font.

Plus Signs on All Imported Text


I've imported a Word DOC or RTF file, but the formatting is all wrong and when I try to apply one of my paragraph styles, the wrong formatting doesn't go away.


If you place the cursor in the text and look at the Paragraph Styles palette, you'll probably see a plus sign next to the style name. That means there's local formatting on top of the underlying style definition. The most common reason for this is that the writer or editor selected a bunch of text in Word and applied local formatting (like changing the font and size to something more pleasing to them) rather than redefine the underlying style definitions in Word (which is what they should have done).

Unfortunately, this kind of massive “plus-symbol infestation” can be complicated to get rid of. One solution is to place the cursor in the offending paragraph (or select a string of similarly-styled paragraphs) and Option/Alt-click on the style name in the Paragraph Styles palette. This strips away all local formatting but leaves applied character styles. If you use Option-Shift/Alt-Shift-click, it strips away both local formatting and character styles.

Yes, you have to do this once each time the style changes in your document. And yes, you lose the italic or bold formatting that you were hoping to keep. Sigh.

Here's a better option: Figure out what local formatting the Word-user applied and get rid of it — either in Word or in InDesign.

  1. To see what local formatting has been applied in InDesign CS2, hover the cursor over a style in the Paragraph Styles palette that sports a plus sign. The “tool tip” that appears after a moment shows the local formatting the plus sign refers to.

    If you're using CS, Option/Alt-click on the New Paragraph Style button in the Paragraph Styles palette. Then look at the Style Settings section of the New Paragraph Style dialog box; the stuff after the plus sign is the local formatting. Click Cancel to close the dialog box without saving this style.

  2. Now select the text and apply the “proper” local formatting. For example, if the writer had applied Courier to all the text but InDesign's style definition calls for Palatino, then apply Palatino on top of the Courier.

As soon as the text formatting equals the style definition, the plus sign goes away.

Then, go shake some sense into the writer or editor, explaining carefully that local formatting is a no-no except in case of national emergency. Bold and italic local formatting is fine, but only when there is no other local formatting on the text. They should change style definitions instead.

Save Your Bold and Italic Text


Sadly, I've been reduced to the Option-Shift/Alt-Shift-click method of removing an author's unwanted formatting. But I'm losing all the italic text showing emphasis, and the editors are yelling at me. I hate it when they yell.


InDesign CS2 has a clever little feature that lets you remove all the paragraph formatting from text while leaving the character formatting. So if you're trying to get rid of paragraph formatting such as indents, you can Command-Shift/Ctrl-Shift-click on the Clear Overrides button at the bottom of the Paragraph Styles palette. Unfortunately, the chances that the author only applying local paragraph formatting to text is about the same as pigs flying to the moon.

Which leaves us with the problem of being able to retain the author's correct use of local bold, italic and bold/italic text.

Here's one solution:

  1. Create a character style for each kind of local formatting you want to hold on to. For example, one character style that makes text italic, another for bold, and so on.
  2. While you're looking at your Character Styles palette, select and delete any unwanted styles that were imported from the Word file that you didn't already have in your InDesign template (you can identify them by their disk icon). When you delete a Style Sheet, text that is formatted because of it retains the same formatting, but it's now defined as local formatting. (InDesign CS2 asks you if you want to replace the deleted style with another one; in this case, you want to replace it with “No Paragraph Style” and leave the “Preserve Formatting” option on.)
  3. Open the Find/Change window from the Edit menu. Click the More Options button to reveal the Find Format and Change Format areas.
  4. In Find Format Settings, click the Format button and specify the local formatting that matches one of the author's local formats you want to keep (that you created a character style for). For example, choose Times Bold in the Basic Character Formats section.
  5. In Change Format Settings, click the Format button and choose the name of the Character Style that you created for this instance.
  6. Run the Find/Change so that all instances of the author's local formatting gets the appropriate character style applied. Do this for each character style you created in Step 1, then close the Find/Change window.
  7. Now apply your paragraph styles to each paragraph in your document, but hold down the Option/Alt key held down as you click on the style name.

Result: All stupid local formatting is stripped except for the stuff you want (the stuff that had character styles applied).

Plus Signs in Word Files Revisited


I've tried removing the local formatting from imported Word documents; I've tried redefining my styles. I only have a few strands of hair left and I've emptied my bottle of aspirin. The plus sign won't go away.


Okay, try this one on for size. Unfortunately, InDesign sometimes chokes if Word's paragraph styles are based on the Normal style, or character styles are based on Underlying Paragraph Properties. Redefining Word's style definitions before importing the file into InDesign can often help:

  1. Open the original Word document in Microsoft Word.
  2. Choose Format > Style, and in the resulting Style dialog box, change the List popup menu to “Styles in Use.”
  3. Click each style in turn and look at the Description area in the dialog box. If you select a paragraph style and see the phrase “Normal +” in there, or if you select a character style and see “Default Paragraph Font +”, click the Modify button.
  4. If it's a paragraph style, the Based On Style popup menu in the Modify Style dialog box will read “Normal.” Change “Normal” to “(no style)” (it's at the very top of the popup menu; Figure 3-14).

    Figure 3-14 Changing a Word document's based-on styles to “no style” (in Word's Format > Styles dialog box) before placing the file in InDesign often fixes “plus sign” woes.

    If it's a character style, the Based On Style popup menu will read “Default Paragraph Font.” Change it to “(underlying properties).”

  5. When you've updated all the style definitions, close the Style dialog box and save the file under a different name.

Now when you place this Word doc into your layout, see if the plus signs go away.

Too Many Styles Are Imported


When I import a Word document into InDesign, I get a bunch of unwanted paragraph and character styles — all kinds of stuff that isn't actually applied to any text but appears in the palette anyway.


Often these paragraph styles appear because some other paragraph style references them. For example, if you have a “Ahead” style in Word that is based on “Heading 1,” then when you import a file that has an “Ahead” paragraph, the “Heading 1” style will appear, too, even though it's not applied to any paragraphs. The best thing you can do is go back to Word and redefine those styles so that they're based on “No Style.”

If you're using InDesign CS2, you should check to make sure that the Import Unused Styles checkbox is not turned on in the Microsoft Word Import Options dialog box. When this feature is on, you'll always get all those unused styles.

If you have a lot of unused styles in your Styles palettes that you want to get rid of, choose Select All Unused from the Paragraph Styles palette and click the Delete Selected Styles button at the bottom of the palette. Now repeat with the Character Styles palette.

Base a Paragraph Style on a Character Style


Before we moved to InDesign, we usually based most of a publication's paragraph styles on one or another “root” character style. To quickly change the text specs of a related group of paragraph styles, all we had to do was edit the single Character Style they were based on.

However, in InDesign's Paragraph Style Options dialog box, I can't find a place to specify the Character Style sheet.


Sorry, but you might as well stop looking. It's not there. Character specs are always individually spelled out in each and every paragraph style. The only thing you can base a paragraph style on is another paragraph style.

There is a sneaky way to get what you want, though. Add a Nested Style to your paragraph style that applies the Character Style you want. For a stop character, enter something that doesn't exist in the normal text flow of any story, such as “Section Marker” or a single bizarre character like the infinity symbol.

Since InDesign never encounters the stop character, the Character Style is applied throughout the entire paragraph.

Adding the same sort of Nested Style to a group of related paragraph styles results in the “Based on Character Style” function that you're looking for. That is, editing the single Character Style sheet results in all the paragraphs which “nest it” to be updated with the new character specs.

If you ever need a particular paragraph or two to use its “real” character formatting instead of the nested one, just insert the special character “End Nested Style Here” (Type > Insert Special Character) before the first character of the paragraph.

Import a Subset of Style Sheets


The “Load Paragraph Styles” command in the Paragraph Styles palette doesn't give me the opportunity to choose which paragraph styles to import from another InDesign document. All of them come over, even if I need just a couple.


To bring over just a few style sheets from another InDesign document, try one of the following:

  • In the source document, select some text that's styled with the style(s) you want to import; copy it to the clipboard, and paste it into the target document, perhaps in a text frame on the pasteboard. Any styles applied to that text are added to the current document's Styles palettes. You can delete the text you pasted; the style sheets remain.
  • In the source document, drag a text frame containing styled text to an InDesign library (File > New > Library). To “import” those styles to any other document, just drag the library item into the layout, wait a second while the Styles palettes update, then delete the frame from the layout.
  • Use InDesign CS2. The Load Paragraph Styles from the Paragraph Styles palette menu (or Load Character Styles from the Character Styles palette menu if you want character styles) lets you choose which styles you want. In CS2, if you want all the styles, then you have to choose Load All Styles from the palette menu.

Edit a Style Sheet Without Applying It


When I'm working in a text frame and want to modify a style sheet that's not the active one — for example, I'm working in some body text and decide I need to tweak the subhead style — I always forget that double-clicking that style sheet in the palette will apply it to my paragraph. Very annoying!


Deselect All first (Edit > Deselect All; or Command/Ctrl-Shift-A). Since nothing is active, there's nothing InDesign can affect. Unfortunately, because nothing is selected, this also sets the document's default style to the one you edited, so every new text frame you create from now on will get that style applied to it (if you forget to click on the default style when you're done). Dang.

Here are two better ways to edit styles: Hold down Command-Shift-Option/Ctrl-Shift-Alt while you double-click the style sheet. Or right-click (Control-click with a one-button mouse) on the style sheet name and choose Edit “[name of style sheet]”. Neither of these methods will apply the edited style to the active selection or change the default style for that document.

Get What You Expect When Placing Text


Sometimes when I place a text file into an existing frame, it takes on a very strange formatting. For example, the whole story might get one of my character styles applied to it.


The problem has to do with default styles. Text frames can have a default style (such as if a style was applied to the master page text frame). Try clicking inside the empty frame with the Type tool and take a gander at the Paragraph Styles and Character Styles palettes. Both should have [No Style] selected by default. (In InDesign CS2, the Paragraph Styles palette should have [Basic Paragraph] selected and the Character Style palette should have [None] selected.)

If some other style is chosen, click on No Style/Basic Paragraph/None, and try placing the file again.

If you still have the problem, your document might have default styles. Deselect everything (Command-Shift/Ctrl-Shift-A) and look at the two style palettes. Make sure No Style/Basic Paragraph/None are chosen here, too.

Of course, the weird formatting may be appearing because that's how the text was formatted in the originating application, and you've elected to retain the formatting. If you want to strip out all formatting, choose that setting in the Import Options dialog box when you place the file.

Re-Sort Style Sheet List into Alpha Order


I just noticed that the paragraph style names in my Paragraph Styles palette aren't in alphabetical order. InDesign has no “Sort” command for style sheets, nor will it let me rearrange them myself by dragging, like I can in the Swatches palette. I have a ton of styles here and it's really cramping my style!


This is a known bug with some InDesign 2 files converted to InDesign CS. The fix is simple: Double-click any of the style sheets, make a single change to any of its settings (even the name), and click Okay to save your edits. The list of style sheets re-sorts into alphabetical order. You can go back and reverse your change now if you want.

Add a Keyboard Shortcut to a Style Sheet


None of the keys I press in the Shortcut field (the one in the Style Options dialog box for style sheets) will “take.” No matter what combination I try, all I get is my computer's error beep.


InDesign is fanatically picky about which keys you can use in this field. It has to be any combination of your modifier keys (Shift, Option or Command on a Mac — the Control key won't work; or Shift, Alt or Ctrl on Windows) and one number from your keypad — the numbers running across the top of the regular keys won't work.

If you're using these keys and it's still not working, check your Num Lock key on your keyboard and make sure it's turned on. That should do the trick.

Then, if you really want your shortcut to be something like Command-Option-Shift-R, you can use a macro program like QuicKeys to map this shortcut to the keypad shortcut.

Note that the Quick Apply feature in InDesign CS2 has radically reduced the need for applying shortcuts to styles. Just press Command-Return/Ctrl-Enter and type a few characters from the style name. For example, Quick Apply is smart enough to know that if you type the number 2, it should display styles named “2Head”, “Head2”, “Body2List” and anything else with 2 in it. Use the Up and Down Arrow keys on your keyboard to select the one you want and press Return/Enter to select it. Very fast, very efficient.

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