InDesign tip : #30

adding automatic page numbering to your InDesign document is easy. just create a text frame on your master page and then hit cmnd-opt-shift-N or choose this from your Type menu :
screen grab of insert special character flyout menu
you can style the page number the same way as you would any other text. if you type in “page ” before the page number, your master page will look like this :
screen grab of master page with basic page numbering
and your document page looks like this :
screen grab of document page with basic page numbering
but you probably already knew that.

you’ll notice that in the insert special character flyout menu there are a few other markers including one called ‘section marker’ which we’ll talk about in a moment. but there’s no marker for ‘total pages’ — so how do we get automatic numbering in this format? :
screen grab of extended page numbering on document page

well, it’s a bit of a mystery why adobe decided to put that particular functionality in a different place. but here’s where you’ll find that second special character from the Type menu :
screen grab of text variables flyout menu

ok, now, you can also add a ‘section marker’ from the insert special character flyout menu. on the master page it looks like this :
screen grab of master page showing complete numbering line
just to make things clear, that’s : {section marker}+” ~ page “+{current page number marker}+” of “+{last page number text variable}

then you need to specify what you want the section marker to say — under your numbering and section options :
screen grab of numbering and section options

which will render your document page thus :
screen grab of document page showing complete numbering line

so far so good.

the last page number text variable is just a tad clunky — even in CS6. so far we’ve been looking at page two of this document :
screen grab of pages panel showing six pages in two sections
six pages with a two-page section followed by a four-page section. and the text variable has been used with these options :
screen grab of last page number text variable options
notice that the scope is set to ‘section’. so we get ‘2 of 2’ because there are only two pages in the section.

but, if we change the scope to ‘document’ we don’t get ‘2 of 6’ :
screen grab of page numbering showing '2 of 4'

why? because the text variable is for ‘last page number’ (4) not ‘total page count’ (6). your challenge is to come up with even one scenario where you’d want to number your pages in that fashion.

you’d have to agree that that’s pretty crap. at the very least, InDesign should offer the option to use absolute page numbering for that text variable — maybe one day.

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InDesign tip : #29

adobe’s prerelease program is a brilliant way to contribute to the development of future software releases. this is what adobe has to say about the program :

“The goal of a Prerelease Program at Adobe is to solicit early feedback on new features and bugs in order to produce a unique and a bug free product that can deliver maximum results.”

it’s not something you can just sign up for — you have to apply, giving your areas of expertise, years of experience, etc. and if adobe think you may have something to contribute you’re in. you can apply to be part of adobe’s prerelease program here

if you get accepted into the program you get a sneak-preview of some of the cool stuff currently in development — some of it is just tweaks to existing tools — some of it doesn’t make the cut because it just doesn’t work, or whatever — but some of it is truly awesome — like this new menu that’s in the very early stages of development :
screen grab of beta design menu
(apologies, the conditions of the prerelease program forbid showing screen grabs of the actual functionality)

the top few menu items are pretty clunky at this early stage and will probably only be useful to talentless desktop publishers in the first few incarnations of this menu. but the basic concept is sound and there’s already quite a bit of evidence from the beta-testing that one day these will be really powerful features of InDesign.

the last two menu items are the ones with immediate application for designers. as you can probably guess, these allow for quickly testing different colour sets and font sets throughout a document. these rely on the user correctly assigning swatches and type styles onto which the test colours and fonts can be temporarily mapped. if you’re happy with the results, just confirm your choice and all your swatches and/or type styles are updated accordingly. a cool thing about this functionality is the capability to switch between up to three different colour sets and font sets — giving you all the experimental scope you need.

adobe keep things pretty tight, so it’s hard to know if this menu will make the cut for CS7. there is a positive vibe on the review forums, but there’s also a lot of concern about some of the more obvious bugginess — so it might be a bit longer before we see this menu released for real.

if you’re excited by this kind of future functionality, then you’re exactly the kind of person that adobe needs to help with testing and reviewing. so apply for the prerelease program and have your say.

keep grunting

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InDesign tip : #28

with a little bit of effort you can turn poor typography into ok typography in your body copy. unfortunately, InDesign doesn’t really allow for great typography — but that’s something we’ll touch on in a moment. this post is about automatic kerning, justification and hyphenation.

the first thing to check when you’re working with a particular font is what result you get with each of the automatic kerning options — metrics and optical. which one of those is best for a particular font depends on how good the type designers were at doing their job.

when you choose metrics you are using the mathematical settings created by the typographer. a well created font will have metrics for all the most common character pairs — specifying, for example, the amount of space that should appear between ‘AB’, which will (at least, should) be different from the amount of space that appears between ‘AV’. these metrics are generally known as kerning tables.

when you choose optical you are asking InDesign to override the typographer’s kerning tables and space the characters more or less visually based on the shapes of the characters.

here are a couple of screen grabs showing the same portion of text using the two different automatic kerning methods :
screen grab of text set with metric automatic kerningscreen grab of text set with metric automatic kerning

as you can see, neither of these methods is perfect. ‘his’ and ‘and’ are undoubtedly better using metrics kerning, but ‘winston’ and ‘musing’ are better when using optical kerning — the metrics don’t come up to scratch. and this for a font called Adobe Garamond Pro — you would think we should expect better from the metrics.

and here’s why InDesign doesn’t allow for great typography and why, in at least this one aspect, Quark shits all over InDesign. with Quark you have the option to correct dodgy metrics by editing the kerning tables. so, with Quark we could get in there and fix that diabolical ‘mu’ combination in the kerning table and then it would be corrected for every instance throughout the entire document. InDesign allows no such finessing — we are stuck with the shitty kern-pairs that come with the font or we take our chances with optical kerning.

so, when working with a new font, always check both automatic kerning methods to see which will give you the least disappointing results.

ok, now on to justification. the default justification settings that come with InDesign are simply insane and lead to this kind of abomination :
screen grab of poorly justified type

this is because the default justification settings look something like this :
screen grab of poor justification settings

those numbers are invariably going to lead to shit results. all the adjustments to a line of text happen between the words — none between the individual characters — and those adjustments range from 133% word spacing (big gaps) down to 80% (words running together).

settings which make just a little more sense look something like this :
screen grab of better justification settings

… and will lead to better results — not perfect, but better :
screen grab of better justified type

right, last we have hyphenation and, again, the defaults are ludicrous :
screen grab of default hyphenation settings
just the fact that automatic hyphenation is turned on by default is silly enough — because InDesign is not that great at deciding where a hyphen should appear within a word. but the rest of those settings will, AGAIN, invariably lead to shit results — like this :
screen grab of text using default hyphenation settings
four hyphens in the first seven lines and the very first word on the page is the second half of a word from the previous page — just atrocious.

most jobs do not require automatic hyphenation — you should add your own (discretionary) hyphens, where appropriate, as you set the text. if you really must use automatic hyphenation (eg. you’re laying out vast tracts of text like a novel) then you should uncheck all those check boxes and adjust the other settings to something more like this :
screen grab of better hyphenation settings

the improvement to the type is simply indisputable :
screen grab of text using better hyphenation settings

but wait, there’s more …
once you come up with a bunch of settings which suit your sensibilities you can make them your very own defaults — just the same as you can change so many of InDesign’s default settings. just make sure you have no documents open then adjust the justification and hyphenation settings through the paragraph panel (under the type menu) :
screen grab of paragraph panel and dropdown menu
those will be your new defaults for every new document from now on.

keep grunting

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InDesign tip : #27

ok, so, here’s the deal with ruler guides … there’s probably handy stuff you don’t know yet …

let’s start with the basics. you click-drag a guide from a ruler (if your rulers aren’t showing, hit cmnd-r). if you want a horizontal guide, drag from the top ruler. if you want a vertical guide, drag from the left ruler. BUT if you accidentally drag from the wrong ruler, just hold your option key before you let that button go and your guide will change orientation. cool.

if you want your guide to only traverse the page, you drop it on the page. if you want it to extend across a complete spread or across the pasteboard, drop it on the pasteboard. simple.

you can also drag a horizontal and vertical guide at the same time — hold your cmnd key and click-drag from your origin (these guides always traverse the spread/pasteboard) :
screen grab of two guides being dragged from origin

to select a guide, just click on it. to select a bunch of guides, click-drag over them. to lock your guides so they can’t be selected (and moved or deleted) go view > grids & guides > lock guides. to lock individual guides (rather than the whole lot) just select and lock them the same as you would an object — object > lock — or cmnd-L.

and you can lock all the guides on a particular layer by double-clicking the layer in the layers panel and then checking the lock guides box in the layer options window that appears (notice you can show/hide guides on a particular layer here too) :
screen grab of the layer options window

an active (selected) guide is the same colour as the active layer. so, if you’re having difficulty seeing a guide as you drag it because the guide is the same colour as the background, just change the colour of the layer or choose a different layer to drag the guide on to.

the colour of a placed (deselected) guide is determined by your ruler guides settings. find this under your layout menu. setting the colour here only affects the guides you create from here-on-in. already existing guides maintain their original colour. change an existing guide by selecting it and then choosing ruler guides (which you can also access with a right-click once a guide is selected). go crazy.

screen grab of document with multiple guide colours

this is also the place to set the view threshold of a guide — that is, the magnification level below which the guide will no longer be visible (unfortunately this isn’t terribly accurate — eg. in CS6, guides with a view threshold of 100% don’t disappear until 55% — you just have to get over it). if you want the guide to be visible at every magnification level — set the view threshold to 5% (the minimum magnification in InDesign) :
screen grab of the ruler guides window

to quickly hide or show all guides use cmnd-; (also see the difference when you just hit ‘w’ — making sure your text cursor isn’t active at the time, of course — this is called preview mode).

to delete all guides on a spread right-click (or cntrl-click) a ruler and choose that command from the dropdown. this can also be accessed through view > grids & guides (this does not affect locked guides) :
screen grab of ruler contextual menu

but you might prefer to do it entirely from the keyboard — select all non-locked guides with cmnd-opt-g and then just hit delete.

to delete all guides throughout an entire document you need a tiny little script which you’ll find all the way back in InDesign scripting : lesson 01

if you just love precision (and don’t we all) you can use your control panel to place and distribute guides exactly where you want them. this screen grab shows what the control panel might look like with four vertical guides selected :
screen grab of control panel with guides selected

and now for tricky guides …
if you double-click the top ruler you’ll get a vertical guide in that position (left ruler gives you a horizontal guide, of course) — this is a great way to get a bunch of guides on the page quickly, before dragging them into exact position.

but the tricky guides are the ones you get if you use this method with the option key selected. they are partially protected guides. you can’t select them with the cmnd-opt-g method and they won’t be deleted when you choose delete all guides on spread. but these guides can still be selected and moved with your mouse and they can be deleted once they are selected. tricky — and handy.

note that the default view threshold of the tricky guides is the same as the magnification level at which they were placed. to change it, simply select the guides and right-click to access the ruler guides window.

but wait, there’s more …
if you want to place a whole bunch of guides in a regular pattern you can use create guides under the layout menu. this not only lets you create the familiar looking columns but also the less common but still-quite-functional-really rows :
screen grab of the create guides window
screen grab of document with guide grid in place
rock on

and there’s still even more …
if you like to work by placing items on a page and then dragging guides to match the edges or centres of your placed items then you really should play around with the AddGuides scripts (both applescript and javascript) that come with InDesign. select your item/s and double-click the script in the scripts panel (window > automation > scripts OR window > utilities > scripts) and you’ll get a dialog box something like this (the javascript version is a little different) :
screen grab of Add Guides script window
automatically placing as many guides for as many objects as you want :

and we haven’t even started on guide preferences, snap to guides and smart guides — but you probably already know all about that stuff.

keep grunting

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InDesign tip : #26

data merge — ooh, that sounds scary as hell — I’m not even going to think about looking at that.

… well, you probably should — there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a use for it sometime. like scripting, data merge is just another way of automating a tedious, repetitive task. we’re going to use business cards as our example. first set up a file so it looks the way you want — this will be your basic template :
screen grab of business card layout

this artwork has a few elements that will stay the same across all cards and a few that will change for each card — a perfect job for data merge.
data merge relies on a well-constructed text file. the one for this job started as a spreadsheet that looks like this :
screen grab of spreadsheet of business card details

notice the top line has a label for each type of data element — this is important. that file was exported to a csv file, so it now looks like this :
screen grab of data from spreadsheet in csv form

back to InDesign now … open the data merge panel (in CS6 it’s under window > utilities >) and choose select data source from the dropdown menu to create a reference to your text file :
screen grab of data merge panel with dropdown menu

the data merge panel will now have a bunch of tags corresponding to the labels you created in your text file. add these tags to the relevant positions in your artwork. the easiest way to do this is to select the placeholder text in the artwork then click on the appropriate label in the data merge panel.
screen grab showing how to add tag to artwork
screen grab showing after tag is added to artwork

the preview check box will show you what the first completed card will look like. now you just need to save your template file then click the create merged documents button at the bottom of the panel. you’ll get a window like this to experiment with at your leisure :
screen grab of data merge options window

this will generate a new InDesign file with all your data in place — automatically creating as many pages as required (this example had seven lines of data in the csv, so seven pages were generated in the finished file) :
screen grab of one of the finished cards

but that’s not all…
this method is great when it comes time to run out the next batch of business cards too. the text file appears as a link in the links panel of the template file. you can open, edit and update that file the same way as you would any other link :
screen grab of text file in links panel

then click create merged documents again and you’ve got yourself a whole new bunch of cards.

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