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InDesign Tips

The Space Bar – A Bit of Background

Back in the days before computers and desktop publishing, typists created space between words by hitting the space bar on their typewriters once (typically with their thumb). The standard practice of that time said that two spaces were to be used at the end of a sentence. But that was back in the day, for typists who were creating documents on a typewriter. Typewriters were crude instruments for putting text on paper. They only had one typeface (until interchangeable “daisywheel” typewriters came along) and that one typeface was in only one size. Besides that, all the letters, numbers, and symbols were monospaced. That means that every character took the same amount of space, no matter if it were a capital M or a lowercase i.

Those rules and limitations never applied to professional typesetters. Typesetters have always had access to several typefaces in various sizes, and their type was proportionally spaced. Typesetting was a realm far beyond the humble desktop typewriter. The greater control that their tools gave them (especially the proportionately spaced type) made typesetters’ documents look drastically better than anything a typist could do on a typewriter.

But things are different now.

Instead of dumb typewriters, we use something called computers. The great thing about computers is that they let average people do things really well that they couldn’t do at all without a computer. Typesetting is just one example of that. With the average computer, we have access to far more typefaces, in an infinite number of sizes, than any professional typesetter from days gone by. And while there are a few typefaces that are intentionally monospaced to mimic typewriters from the past, it’s safe to say that every font that you’ll ever use is proportionally spaced, as well.

Different Tools Mean Different Rules

Let’s start by dispelling the “two spaces at the end of a sentence” practice. In the world of proportional spacing, it is no longer required. Your computer compensates. Using two spaces will make your text look gappy. Most people today don’t like that look. If you persist in doing it, people will think that your document was created by a secretary from the 1960s.  But you be the judge. The first paragraph below uses one space after periods. The second paragraph uses two. Which do you prefer?

InDesign spacing examples

What about the single space, though? Well, software compensates for that, too. While there is a “standard” amount of space when the space bar is used, that space is adjusted (without any action on the part of the user) to accommodate several different conditions:

  • Spacing between “wide” and “thin” letters (think “s” and “i”) need to be adjusted to make the text more readable. The letter “i” obviously isn’t as wide as the letter “s” but a little more space is required between two of them or they are difficult to read. Similarly, two of the letter “s” require a little less space between them.

Spacing Differences between Ss and Is

  • InDesign proportionally changes spacing to accommodate line endings and margins.
  • If full justification is used, it provides even more proportional changes. You can see from the first two lines in the example below that the pink text, which is justified, has spread out the text slightly. InDesign accomplishes that not by changing the size of the letters, but by adding little bits of white space between the words and/or characters.

Aligned Text Example

There’s More to White Space than the Space Bar
There’s more ways to get white space than hitting the space bar. Near the bottom of the Type menu, you’ll find the option “Insert White Space.” Click it and a plethora of options become available.

InDesign Type - Insert White Space Menu

I’ll give you the technical definition of each but a picture is worth a thousand words, right? The image below illustrate the differences in the white spaces. I’ve included a guide to make the difference more clear.

InDesign Insert White Space Options

That, my friend is the power of inserting spaces.

How can you tell what kind of space has been used? By checking out the hidden characters. The following image is the same as the previous one except that we have toggled “show hidden characters” on (^Alt I or Type > Show/Hide Hidden Characters).

Illustration of InDesign Hidden Character for White Space

The hidden characters are the faint blue dots and dashes indicating the type of white space used. A simple dot represents a space bar space.

What’s it all mean? Here’s the detail, taken directly from Adobe’s help site.

Em Space: Equal in width to the size of the type. In 12‑point type, an em space is 12 points wide.

En Space: One‑half the width of an em space.

Nonbreaking Space: The same flexible width as pressing the spacebar, but it prevents the line from wrapping or being broken at the space character.

Nonbreaking Space (Fixed Width): A fixed width space prevents the line from being broken at the space character, but does not expand or compress in justified text. The fixed width space is identical to the Nonbreaking Space character inserted in InDesign CS2.

Third Space: One‑third the width of an em space.

Quarter Space: One‑fourth the width of an em space.

Sixth Space: One‑sixth the width of an em space.

Flush Space: Adds a variable amount of space to the last line of a fully justified paragraph, useful for justifying text in the last line. (See Change Justification settings.)

Hair Space: One‑twenty‑fourth the width of an em space.

Thin Space: One‑eighth the width of an em space. You may want to use a thin space on either side of an em dash or en dash.

Figure Space: Same width as a number in the typeface. Use a figure space to help align numbers in financial tables.

Punctuation Space: Same width as an exclamation point, period, or colon in the typeface.

Why would you ever use them? You will find wildly differing “rules” about when to use these various spaces – so wildly differing rules that the most important one is that you follow your own style guide consistently. Here are some guidelines we use:

  • Never use regular spaces to align text. Use tabs. Occasionally you can use En or Em spaces.
  • For a line or two you might violate the above rule and use an En or Em space at the beginning of the line to indent the first line of text. Standardize on using tabs, paragraph indents and/or first line paragraph indents, but the occasional Em or En space sometimes simplifies things. Remember – occasional.
  • You might use En or Em space to separate a subhead that appears within the first line of a paragraph (typesetters call it a “running head”). It sets the headline off a bit from the rest of the paragraph.
  • A little space on either side of a slash improves the look of headlines. I typically use thin spaces on both sides of the slash as shown below. The first line has no spaces, the second line uses thin spaces, the third line uses regular spaces.

Using White Space around Slash in InDesign

  • Most rules say there should be no spaces on either side of an em dash. I think that looks really crowded and usually use regular spaces (for run-of-the-mill documents). For fancy documents (e.g., poetry, invitation, expensive coffee table books) or in headlines, I often use a sixth space.

InDesign White Space Around Em DashSpacing is highly subjective. InDesign offers you many options to obtain the look you want. Pick a look you like and stick with it. Adding special spaces into your document takes a bit more time, but used judiciously they can make your document much more readable and attractive.

PageUp/PageDown keys
One of my biggest gripes with InDesign has always been that the PageDown and PageUp keys no longer move the document a full page up or down. Why? Why? Why? It worked in PageMaker. And it’s just intuitive. So why change it?

Beats me, but they did and they never changed it back. So are there better ways to navigate through a long document in InDesign? Yes, there are! Thank you for asking.

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Most folks know these first two shortcuts but for the newbies among us we want to share them:
    • Regain that true PageUp/PageDown capability by adding the Alt key. So Alt-PageUp will take you to the previous spread and Alt-PageDown will take you to the next spread.
    • You can skip to the first page of your document by pressing Shift-Ctrl-PageUp, and to the last page by pressing Shift-Ctrl-PageDown.
  • To jump to any page in your file, Ctrl-J will open up a page number dialog box. Enter the page number that you want to jump to and it will take you right there. (Think J for Jump)
  • Want to go back to the page you just jumped from? Use the Go Back command (Ctrl-PageUp) and Go Forward (Ctrl-PageDown) to jump back and forth between the page you’re on and the page you just jumped from.

Mouse Shortcuts

I understand that if you don’t use them all the time, keyboard shortcuts are almost impossible to remember. Just using the mouse would be a better option for the occasional user or for those who just don’t like keyboard shortcuts. Adobe has built in a very good resource for mouse users, but they’ve cleverly hidden it in plain sight.

On the bottom row of your InDesign document window, on the same row where the horizontal scroll bar is, there is a tiny navigation panel on the left side of the scroll bar that you can operate with your mouse.

INDD Page Navigation Bar with Callouts

You may have noticed that the page number of the page that you are viewing appears there. Besides just telling you which page you’re currently on, this miniscule panel does a bunch of nifty mouse-able navigation tricks:

  • Use your mouse to highlight the page number, then type in another page number and hit Enter. It will jump you directly to that page.
  • To the right of the page number in this little navigation panel is a down arrow. Clicking on it will open up a scrollable drop-down window that will let you select any page that you want. Even better, if you are using one or more Master Pages with this document, it will allow you to go directly to any of them as well. All of the Master Pages are grouped at the bottom of the list of document page numbers.
  • On either side of the little page number navigation box are a pair of arrows, facing left and facing right. If your entire spread is being shown in your document window, clicking on the left arrow to take you to the previous spread and clicking on the right arrow will take you to the next spread. But if you are zoomed in to any degree before you use these arrow buttons, they will take you to the previous or next page instead of spread. (Tt actually takes you to the previous/page at the same zoomed-in area.)
  • Just beyond the left and right arrow buttons are buttons that show an arrow with a vertical line. As you may well have guessed, these buttons will jump you to the first spread or the last spread of your document.

Good stuff, eh? So while the PageUp and PageDown keys on your keyboard will still frustrate you, it’s good to know that there are other options that InDesign has provided and then completely forgotten to tell you about.

But then, that’s what we’re here for.

There are four types of guides in InDesign:

  • Margin guides (which aren’t really referred to as guides in Adobe literature, but they look a whole lot like things that are called guides, so I’m including them in this list)
  • Column guides
  • Smart guides (which I often find to be more annoying than smart, but they do come in handy sometimes)
  • Guides (also called layout guides, ruler guides or ruling guides)

In the following video, I show you how to create and change the settings for column guides, smart guides and layout guides.

Calendar for 2014
Need to create a calendar for 2014? Check out Sandee Cohen’s blog on She’s written about scripts and templates for creating 2014 Calendars that are available InDesign. Sure, there are lots of calendar programs that will print out a calendar for you, but that calendar will undoubtedly lack design and you may not be able to print it in the format you’re looking for. Find a script or template that will meet your needs in Sandee’s blog.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the heavy lifting?

There’s always more than one way to accomplish a task in InDesign. This video blog demonstrates 4 ways to underline text. Sure a simple underline works when that’s all you want, but in this blog you’ll learn the more advanced methods of underlining text or paragraphs. Watch the tutorial by clicking on the video below or use this link to view the tutorial in YouTube.

We are HUGE fans of keyboard shortcuts. Studies have proven again and again that you save a ton of time when you type commands from your keyboard instead of moving your hand to your mouse then moving the mouse pointer to the proper place on your screen to implement a command.

Of course you only save time if you know the keyboard shortcut. Otherwise you’re losing time while your brain searches it’s various nooks and crannies to find the illusive info.  I hate it when my brain heads into nooks and crannies! Much time is lost there. So, here’s our tips for learning keyboard commands:

  • Only learn the ones you use most commonly. The most common keyboard shortcuts are consistent across most Windows programs. Start with those.
  • Use alliterative mnemonics to help remember commands whose keyboard shortcut begins with the same letter as the command.  For example, Ctrl+P is the keyboard command for “Print” and Ctrl+S is the keyboard command for “Save.” Remember, “P” stands for “Print.”
  • Use associations to learn similar commands. For example:

Paste: Ctrl+V
Paste Into: Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste in Place: Shift+Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste without Formatting: Shift+Ctrl+V

  • When neither of the above exist, create your own phrase that foolishly reminds you of a shortcut. Back in our first year of business – which, by the way would be 25 years ago next month – we were reading a software manual (yes, we did that in those days) and came across the sentence: “Remember: Control-J stands for help!” It struck us as so foolish we still remember it (and we remember that it was in the seminal word processor, WordStar). So create your own phrase to remember shortcuts that have no alliterative mnemonic or association to help hang onto. One I’ve created is a bit cumbersome but it has helped me learn a keyboard shortcut that I use all the time. The keyboard shortcut to toggle typographical quotes is Ctrl+Alt+Shift+’. That’s quite a shortcut! I toggle typographical quotes many times a day, sometimes many times in an hour and I struggled to learn this command, so I’ve created this foolish memory aid: “To toggle my quotes, I’ll need to lose control and alter my shifts.” Foolish, meaningless, but I was able to remember it. Remembering it leads to using it which leads to auto-pilot, finger-memory desktop publishing.

So how do you learn what the commands are?

Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

Click on Keyboard Shortcuts from the Edit menu and you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Keyboard Shortcuts

The drop down menu from the Product Area mirrors the menus at the top of the InDesign screen, so you can find keyboard shortcuts associated with each menu item. The lower part of the screen shows the keyboard command associated with the menu command. This image shows that Export is accomplished with the keyboard command Ctrl + E.

Download the List

See the “Show Set…” button in the above image? When you click on it, it will open a complete list of the keyboard shortcuts in *.txt file in Notepad. That file looks like this:

A List of Keyboard Shortcuts

It’s not pretty, but it can be quite helpful. It identifies all the commands available through the top menu row of InDesign and provides the shortcut associated with the command (if there is one). You can search through the document (using the FIND command in Notepad) for specific InDesign commands, or save the file to Word or Excel and make it more useful. Once in Word or Excel you can sort the data in a way that is meaningful to you.

Yes, it takes a little work to learn the shortcuts, but learning them will save you lots of time in when working on that hot deadline project. Don’t forget to download our TIPCards with the most commonly used keyboard shortcuts.

While writing a post about Adobe Indesign keyboard shortcuts, it occurred to us that a second InDesign TIPCard would be in order. Our newest TIPCard provides shortcuts for file opening, saving, and document setup as well as general editing shortcuts.

Click below to download a TIPCard that puts these shortcuts at your fingerTIPs.

[button_round color=”blue” url=””] InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts TIPCard [/button_round]

Watch for tomorrow’s blog with tips for learning and using InDesign keyboard shortcuts.

Creating interlocking letters in InDesign is easy – if you know the secret of the Paste Into command. We’re here to give you the secret.

We’re going to use our initial, DDP, to go from bland text on top of each other to pizzazz interlocking text.

Step 1 – Type the text in three text blocks and properly align them. They will overlap one another but not be interlocking. Our goal is to turn the overlapping letters into interlocking letters.

Step 1 in creating interlocking text in InDesign.

Step 1 – Type the text into 3 separate text blocks and align them properly. Notice that they are overlapping, but not interlocking.

Step 2 – With the Selection Tool, select the red D. We’re going to paste a portion of the red D over the green D.

Step 3 – Copy the letter to the clipboard (^C). You can’t paste it if you haven’t copied it. This is the step I am most likely to forget because I’m already thinking about step 4.

Step 4 – With the Rectangle Tool, draw a small rectangle over the area of the red letter that you want to be on top of the green letter. The blue bounding box in the image below shows the rectangle I’ve drawn.

Step 4 of creating interlocking text in InDesign. The blue square shows the rectangle drawn to indicate where you want the red D to appear on top of the green D.

Step 4 – Draw a rectangle where you want the red D to appear on top of the green D.

Step 5 – With the rectangle you just created still selected, from the Edit menu select Paste Into (^-alt-V). Voila! You have now interlocked the two Ds. You’re half done.

Step 5 of creating interlocking text in InDesign. We have interlocked the first two letters.

Step 5 – After pasting the red D into the rectangle, the two Ds are interlocked.

Step 6 – Repeat Steps 2 through 5 to interlock the D and the P. Here’s the finished product:

After repeating the process we have created interlocking text in InDesign.

Step 6 – Finished – fully interlocked letters!

Easy, easy, easy when you know how. Now go have fun with it!

(By the way – the embossed effect on the letters were also created in InDesign.)

One of the biggest tipoffs that your document was created by a less-than-professional desktop publisher is the use of straight quotes. In this video, you’ll learn the secret to creating typographical (sometimes called “smart”) quotes as well as copyright, trademark and registered trademark symbols. The video also references our TIPcards that provide the codes for the most commonly used special characters. You can download the TIPcard and then have access to these codes at your fingertips.

Docking Panels for Efficiency (And to Lower Your Frustration Level)

Adobe® InDesign®® is a power-packed program. So power packed that there are layers and layers of menu options. Adobe has organized these menu options and made them available as panels that can be docked on your screen – available quickly and conveniently as you work. Even better is that you can customize your workspace so that only the panels you want easy access to are docked in your workspace. And then you can save your workspace.

Learn all about it in this video blog.