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Monthly Archives: December 2011

…if you don’t understand this nuance!

We frequently package a project and keep on working. While packaging is typically an “end of the project” kind of activity, here are two reasons that you might want to package in the middle of the development process:

  • To ensure that all images remain with the document. If you find yourself pulling images from other projects, this is particularly important.
  • To separate all pieces associated with a specific document if you’ve been working on similar documents in the same folder.

For basics of packaging, see this blog.

We’ve found, though, that InDesign’s package feature has a nuance that can lead to errors if not managed properly. When you use the package feature, InDesign creates a copy of the InDesign file and all it’s linked files and places them in a new folder that you create. The file that remains open on your screen, however, is the original InDesign file, not the newly created packaged InDesign file. That means any changes you make after packaging will be made to your original file, not to your new packaged file. If you want to work on the InDesign file that is part of the package you just created, you must close the currently open file and then open the file in your package folder. Make this a habit to ensure that all changes you make to a file are reflected in your final printed document.

To our way of thinking, when we package a file, it’s because the project is reaching near-completion and we want to ensure that it will print properly and that all images are located with the file. It’s the “package” that we will eventually send off to the printer. So if you think the same way we do, and after packaging the file you notice something wrong on the page on your screen and quickly make the correction…that correction won’t appear in the packaged file you send off to the printer. Again, after packaging a project, ALWAYS close the open file then open the packaged file before hitting another key. You’ll be glad you did.

Desktop publishing is the process of combining many pieces and parts into a single finished product. To finish even the smallest project, you’ll have text files, photos or other images, perhaps some line drawings and even a spreadsheet. You might have mulitple drafts each with slightly different photos or other graphic elements. And at some point you’ll want to get all the final files associated with your project to a printer.

Packaging is the answer! InDesign’s packaging feature does a great job of finding all your pieces and parts and putting them in one place. It also goes through a process of evaluating your file to look for problems that might be encountered when printing. We’ll save that discussion for another tip.

Here’s how to package a document:

With your file open, do the following:

  • From the file menu, select “Package…” (or use the keyboard command Ctrl-Alt-Shift-P)
  • A “Printing Instructions” dialog box will appear. This will create a small TXT file from the information you provide.

> For the “Filename”, enter the name you want for the TXT file, not the name of your InDesign file (unless of course you want them to have the same name).

> Enter your contact name and information.

> Provide any instructions you might have for the printer. We typically want to communicate instructions via e-mail or using the printer’s forms, so we use this area to provide the very basics along with information about where to find more complete instructions.

> Click on “Continue” after completing your Printing Instructions form.

  • InDesign is now going to “package” your InDesign file and all linked files into a single subdirectory. The first dialog box will allow you to identify a location and provide a name for the new folder (subdirectory) the files will be placed in. You can navigate to anywhere on your computer or network as you would when saving any file.

Options to Select:

We always recommend selecting the following options when packaging unless there is a compelling reason not to:

> Copy Fonts (you’re allowed to provide your document’s fonts to your printer, but please don’t violate font copyright laws by making free copies for all your friends)

> Copy Linked Graphics (that’s the primary purpose of the exercise, right?)

> Update Graphics Links in Package (this means that when you open your InDesign file from the package folder, the pieces and parts will be linked to the graphics in the newly created “links” folder under your package folder)

Two Cautions:

  • The packaging process does not copy/save images that are on the pasteboard. If you need to keep an image on the pasteboard, you will need to temporarily place the image on a page of the document or manually copy it to the newly created subdirectory.
  • Be careful. Packaging can lead to a version control nightmare if not used properly. Read this tip for more info. You can thank me later.

Have you ever wanted to calculate while working in an InDesign file? Instead of getting out paper and pen to do the math manually, you can let InDesign do it for you, using any numeric field in the appropriate palettes and dialog boxes. Try it out, using the symbols below:

+ to add
– to subtract
* to multiply
/ to divide

This is really handy when mixing measurement systems. For example:

  • To decrease the size of an image by half, enter 100%/2 in the scale field of the measurement palette.
  • To triple the size of a frame that is 31p3, enter 31p3*3 in the width field of the measurement palette.
  • To subtract 1-1/2 picas from a 4.75″ margin, enter 4.75″-1p6.

It’s great for easy measurement adjustments, but it won’t calculate columns of numbers like a spreadsheet program. Use Excel for that!

Versions: CS3 through 5.5

Is there a dialog box that you use occasionally, but have to go on a safari to find each time you need it?

Docking is the answer!

Let’s use the Align function as an example, because it’s a very useful tool that is inexplicably buried in

Window > Object & Layout > Align.

Once you have this dialog box open…

  •      Click on the gray Align tab at the top of the dialog box and
  •      Drag it over to the docked menus on the right side of your screen.

It will always be available to you from there.

Or in this example, learn that Shift-F7 = the Align dialog box — and if you already know that, you are a power user!

Versions: CS3 thru 5.5

A feature I always liked in Microsoft Word is the variety of “breaks” that you can insert into your document – special commands that cause a page break or a column break. Those breaks and many more are now available in InDesign.

With your text cursor at the point in your document where you want to make the break, bring up the breaks menu by selecting:

Type > Insert Break Character

You’ll find seven different types of breaks.

What could be easier?

Well, knowing the keyboard commands are easier once you’ve learned them. Knowing them will also make you more productive:

Paragraph Break: Enter

Forced Line Break: Shift+Enter

You should use a forced line break instead of a paragraph break when you want to force the text to go to the next line but you are not at the end of a paragraph. Why? Forcing a line break keeps the same interline spacing as used in the paragraph. Using the paragraph return will add the paragraph spacing before and after identified in the paragraph style.

Column Break: Enter from the number keypad

Frame Break: Shift+Enter from the number keypad

Page Break: Cntrl+Enter from the number keypad

Don’t memorize all of them unless you’re into mental exercises for the sake of the exercise. Otherwise, just memorize those you use most frequently.

Versions: CS3 through 5.5

Drop caps are a breeze with InDesign.

With your text cursor anywhere within a paragraph press…

Ctrl-Alt-R (Think “R” for “Really big caps”…or maybe for “dRop caps” if you’re a more visual person)

A dialog box will appear that allows you to select how many lines high you want your drop cap to be, how many characters to apply the drop cap style to (you can apply a drop cap to more than the first character), and what Character Style you would like to apply to it. If you want to apply a Character Style, you will have to define it before creating the drop cap.

For more about Character Styles, check out this tip.


Versions: CS3-5.5

Tired of seeing crummy, low-resolution representations of your beautiful graphics in your InDesign layouts? Change the graphics viewing resolution by going to…

View > Display Performance > High Quality Display

Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Alt-H (think “H” for “High resolution”).

Is the high quality display of your graphics (from above) slowing you down you move through your layout? (If you have an older computer or a very large document, the answer is “yes.”)

Go back to the crummy, low-resolution (but speedy) view of your graphics by selecting…

View > Display Performance > Typical Display

Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Alt-Z (think “Z” for “Zippy documents”).

Versions: CS3 through 5.5

Bulleted or numbered lists are just a couple of mouse clicks away in InDesign.

  • Use the Text Tool to select one or more paragraphs. You don’t have to select the entire paragraph – any portion of it will do.
  • On your Control Bar go to the Paragraph Formatting Controls.
  • Toward the right end of it are two small icons, one for Bulleted List and the other for Numbered List.
  • Click either one to apply the effect.
  • Click the icon again to remove the effect.

Version: CS3 through 5.5

The Align dialog box seemed to be lost when Adobe went from PageMaker to InDesign. We’ve uncovered the treasure!

The Align dialog box still exists, you just need to know where to find it. 

For reasons we really can’t explain, the Align function dialog box is inexplicably buried here:

Window > Object & Layout > Align

If you use it a lot, you’ll want to learn the keyboard command: Shift-F7 — and if you already know that, you are a power user!

And if you really use it a lot, you’ll want to add it to your palettes. Here’s how.

But I used to be able to evenly distribute selected options from the Align menu. Where did it go? 

Well, you still can, and it’s still available from the Align dialog box, you just have to dig a bit deeper. If “Distribute Spacing” options aren’t visible when you open your Align dialog box (remember, Shift-F7), click on the top right flyout menu arrow, then click on “Show Options.” The “Distribute Spacing” functions appear at the bottom of the Align dialog box.

Versions: CS3 through 5.5

Sometimes you need ’em, and sometimes they’re just in the way. Toggling back and forth between showing and hiding gridlines, guides and margin lines, and frame outlines is a snap if you learn the keyboard commands. And when you’re ready for a true print preview, use a simple menu option. These commands are real time savers.

Toggle grid lines: Ctrl-‘ (control and apostrophe keys)

Toggle guides and margin lines: Ctrl-;  (control and semicolon keys)

Toggle frame outlines: Ctrl-H

For a full preview without grid lines, margins, frame boxes, and even the pasteboard, go to

View > Screen Mode > Preview

Combining this Preview mode with the High Quality Display mode will give you an excellent indication of how your document will look when it prints.

To revert to your regular working environment, select

View > Screen Mode > Normal.

Oh, and if you’ve lost the “Align” dialog box, check out this tip.