Creating a document in Adobe InDesign can be as quick as in your regular word processing software like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages — draw a text frame, drop in text, change the font style, add images and print. But when working on a multi-page, recurring project and sharing it with other designers and editors, it’s worth remembering that InDesign offers a plethora of tools to design a free-flowing, no-hassle, semi-automatic, non-destructive documents.
Below is s a non-exclusive list of tools and functions in InDesign I try to employ when designing bigger documents like books, brochures, catalogues or annual reports. So when next time the document is opened to make changes, it’s only the content to be taken care of and the design just adapts because it has been properly set up.
I will just briefly explain what each function does and I suggest checking the official Adobe InDesign help page for detailed instructions.
Master pages can hold both static and dynamic content that you want to have on multiple pages.Examples include margins, rulers, backgrounds, graphical elements, text frames, automatic page numbers or chapter names. You can have many Master Pages with different content. Set it up once and apply to document pages and the content from a Master Page automatically appears. Cmd+Shift+Click (Ctrl+Shift+Click) to unclock any element from a Master Page. Just remember, the more elements from a Master Page is unclocked, the more work afterwards, if you want to make global changes in the document, so it’s worth making effort when setting it up.
Paragraph and Character Styles
A must-have in any document. Set up fonts, leading, spacing before and after the paragraph, hyphenation, justification and many other rules. Having two or three column layout for text but want your headings full width of the page? Use Span Columns setting. Drop caps? No problem. You can even target and style specific content within a paragraph (a telephone number or a price) by using advanced settings like GREP. Definitely worth checking for large projects. Another time-saver is using Character Styles for bold or italic text and assigning it a shortcut. Set just a bold font style from a list (without setting up a font family or any other attribute) and attach a shortcut key. I use Cmd+Num Key 0-9 and when I need to make the text bold I just select it and press the key combination.
Often forgotten, Object Styles can save time and make global changes a breeze. Set up number of columns and default paragraph text in a basic text frame, so next time you add it it will be ready to just paste in text. Set up the look of all images, e.g. borders, rounded corners and other effects. Set up anchored object placement, so when you place it in text, just apply the style and it will jump to a specific spot on the page, always following the text.
Table and Cell Styles
A no-brainer if you work with an annual report or a catalogue project using tables. If you set it up properly, you should be able to just copy-paste a table from Excel, apply a Table Style (with a shortcut key) and it will magically style itself.
Table Of Contents
When working on a book project or anything that needs a table of contents, remember that it also can be fully automatic. Just apply Paragraph Styles to headings, use them in your TOC Style and voila. So when an article jumps to another page, just update the TOC and all the page number will update too.
Imagine setting up a catalogue with lots of images. You insert the text and manually place the images around it and partially within the text using text wrap setting on forty or fifty pages. On the final set of changes from the client the worst thing happens — you need to add one page and move all the images with the content. But if you used all the images as anchored objects, you wouldn’t need to worry about anything.
Set a textual variable and reuse somwhere else. I mostly use Running Header variables for repeating document title or chapter names in pagination. Used on a Master Page with Paragraph Style applied to the title, it copies it to the text variable, so the next time the title is changed, it’s reflected automatically in pagination. There are many more types of text variables, e.g. current date, last page number or image captions. They are worth checking out as can be useful.
There are many more useful features of InDesign you can use—cross-references, conditional text, data merge to name a few. It’s worth familiarise yourself with all of them because they csan save you and others a lot of precious time.
Let me know in the comments what features of InDesign you use.