InDesign Help: Speeding Up Formatting and Changes

By LaurenMarie

Setting Up Style Shortcuts
The Help files provided with your Adobe software should be the first place you turn when you are trying to figure out how to do something. Don’t waste time searching through countless websites, trying to figure it out on your own or creating a horrible work around that only actually works half the time.

What Made Me See the Light

Recently I’ve been working on a huge guidebook for a tradeshow, which includes a list of all the exhibitors, their booth number and contact information, along with an icon if they are a “preferred vendor.” I knew there had to be a way to easily format this list with paragraph and character styles and also have the icon be an inline element, so that if I had to go back and modify information at the beginning and the lines shifted, it didn’t leave the icon behind.

This is just the latest example–two examples, really–of just how useful those help files can be! To get to the help files in any Adobe program, simply go to the Help menu and choose (program name) Help or hit F1.

Shortcuts for Styles

I’ve always seen that little shortcut field in the paragraph styles and character styles dialog boxes. I’ve tried to use it a few times but could never get it to take the shortcut I entered. I looked up the shortcuts in the Preferences and I knew they weren’t used by another function. I just couldn’t figure it out! I assumed it was broken in the Windows version of InDesign. Yes, well, we all know what happens when you ass-u-me.

Learn from my wasted time trying to figure it out on my own: read the help files first!

I searched for “Style Shortcuts” and although the title naming could be a little better so I didn’t have to go through each of the 15 results, Adobe returned what I was looking for in the first go (this particular one is under Define Paragraph and Character Styles, step 6).

Setting Up Style Shortcuts

To apply a shortcut for a style:

  1. Click in the Shortcut field on the first tab of the style dialog box
  2. Make sure the Num Lock is on
  3. Use any of the modifier keys (shift, alt/opt or ctrl/cmd) plus a number from the 10-key pad for the style
  4. If the shortcut is currently assigned to another style (as you can see in the image), it will warn you
  5. Now you can select the text and use this newly defined shortcut to apply the style so you don’t have to waste time going back to the Style palette to click it

Ah! That’s what I was missing: you can’t just use any keys, they have to be numbers from the 10-key pad. Unfortunately this means that it won’t work on a laptop, unless you have an extended keyboard.

This sped up the formatting of the list so much. My fingers were a bit tired from stretching so much to hit shift+4, but it was probably 10 times faster than the mouse-based alternative!

Anchored Objects

This one was a little trickier to understand. I knew it would be a bad idea to just place the icons next to the text like a normal image (outside the text box). Inline graphics (non-text objects that would stick with a particular part of the text) would be a better way to do it, so that’s what I searched for. Adobe Help to the rescue again! About Anchored Objects, result number 3, was much more appropriately named.

Help Navigation

Sometimes the results return an overview of what you’re looking for but don’t actually tell you how to do it. When this happens, you can click the next and/or previous buttons at the top of the page to find the “how to” part. That’s what I did here. The next page was on creating the anchored object (I can’t tell you how invaluable anchored objects are!!).

There are quite a few options for anchored objects, but I’ll tell you how I created the one I needed. I have an 8.5×11 (letter sized) book that has two columns of text. The preferred vendor icon needed to appear always on the right hand side of the text box, below the vendor name and booth number, on the same line as the vendor location.

To create an anchored object:

  1. Place the object in the text box on the line you’d like it to appear with
    1. You can do this by placing the cursor in the text box and using the Place function (ctrl/cmd + d) or
    2. Cut (ctrl/cmd + x) or copy (ctrl/cmd + c) the object to the clipboard, put the cursor in the text box on the line you want the object to appear on and paste (ctrl/cmd + v)
  2. With the object selected, go to Object>Anchored Object>Options…

Anchored Object Dialog Box

There are many, many options in this dialog box. I’m fairly confident you can make an anchored object that will fit any of your needs, you just need to experiment with these options. Here’s what I did so that the icon stayed aligned to the right side of the text box:

  1. Don’t check Relative to Spine because you’ll have to make separate styles depending on which side of the spine (left or right page) the object is on.
  2. After some testing, I made the anchored object reference point the upper left corner (perhaps there was a better one?)
  3. I made the position reference point the right box (I wanted it on the right side of the text box) on the middle row (only row I could choose)
  4. The default for X-Relative To is text frame, which is what I wanted. I had to adjust the X Offset to get it positioned just right. Use the arrow keys for this!
  5. The default for Y-Relative To is baseline, also what I wanted. I set up my document so that all the lines align to the baseline. This creates consistency across the book for text alignment. I only had to adjust the Y Offset a bit.
  6. Finally, I checked the Prevent Manual Positioning box so that I couldn’t accidentally shift the icons.

My Desired Formatting

This did take a while to get the hang of, but now when there are changes to the copy in the middle, the text at the end will still be lined up with the icon. The extra time it took to learn this technique will be well worth it in the end because it will save me (and the proofreaders) the time and headache of checking if the icons are with the correct vendors every time there is a change.

And as always, create a style out of this! You can create object styles, just like paragraph and character styles, so that if you do need to make changes, they are easily made throughout the whole document at the same time!

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