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#26 Setting Tabs

You're no doubt familiar with tabs from your typewriter days—if you had them—but they're even more important in a page layout environment. To align text horizontally, it's important to use tabs rather than spaces for precision alignment. Unlike characters on a typewriter, the width of characters and spaces in fonts can vary, making it impossible to align text.

InDesign provides default tab settings at every half inch, but you're not stuck with those. You can override the default tabs and customize each tab stop by specifying how text aligns with it and adding leader characters ( Figure 26a ).

03_26a.jpg

Figure 26a This text is divided into three columns with three different tab stops. The first tab stop is left aligned with a dot leader; the second tab stop aligns to the decimal point in the prices; the third tab stop is left aligned again.

Tabs are paragraph formats, so they apply to selected paragraphs rather than individual lines within a paragraph or characters. To set tabs:

  1. Choose Type > Show Hidden Characters to view tab characters in text. They look like double arrows.
  2. Select the Type tool.
  3. Highlight the paragraphs you want to set tabs for.
  4. Choose Type > Tabs to open the Tabs palette.
  5. Click one of the alignment buttons at the top left to specify how text aligns with the tab stop: left-justified, center-justified, right-justified, or align to decimal. If you click align to decimal, you can actually specify any alignment character, such as a comma, in the Align On field at right.
  6. If you want to fill the white space created by the tab with a character, you can enter up to eight characters to repeat in the Leader field. For example, if you want periods to lead the eye from a table of contents entry to its page number, enter a period in the field. For more space between the periods, enter a period and a space.
  7. Click the ruler where you want to place the tab. The X field displays the position. Once you set a tab stop, all the default tab stops to the left of it are cleared.

To modify a tab stop, click its icon on the tab ruler and change any of its settings (for example, click a different alignment button). To delete a tab stop, drag its icon off the ruler. To delete all tab stops, choose Clear All from the Tabs palette's menu.

InDesign provides a "Right Indent Tab," which forces text over to the paragraph's right-indent value. The Right Indent Tab is particularly useful for positioning an "end of story" character or an author's initials ( Figure 26b ). To insert it, choose Type > Insert Special Character > Right Indent Tab.

03_26b.jpg

Figure 26b To automatically align an "end-of-story" character with the right-indent of the paragraph, insert a Right Indent Tab rather than a standard tab.

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