FUDWatch: Quick Apply

Quick Apply is a great InDesign feature that was a major productivity enhancer in CS2, and has been significantly expanded for CS3. If you’re not using now, you probably should be.

The purpose of the feature is to enable you to keep your fingers on the keyboard, and not have to search through menus and palettes for commands, styles, etc. that you need to select in order to get your work done. You can assign numeric keypad shortcuts to styles in InDesign, which is a smart thing to do if you’re working with a manageable number of styles.

However, what if:

  1. you work with documents that use dozens or even hundreds of different paragraph and character styles?
  2. you work with documents that use dozens or more object styles?
  3. you work with documents that use a lot of table and table cell styles?
  4. you have dozens or more scripts that you use to automate various tasks?
  5. you can’t remember all the keyboard shortcuts for all those styles and scripts, not to mention all of InDesign’s menu commands?

Keyboard shortcuts are great if you use all of them often enough to commit them all to memory (and InDesign enables you to customize your shortcuts to make it as easy as possible for you to create shortcut sets that make the most sense to you). However, real life intrudes on that way of working when you have more commands, styles, scripts, etc. than any non-savant could possibly commit to memory (true savants should not bother with any user interface at all, and just use InDesign Server, writing scripts on the fly).

Enter Quick Apply. Cmd/ctrl+Return triggers the display of the Quick Apply search window:

To use Quick Apply, all you have to remember is part of the name of a style, script, or menu command. Enter that string of characters into the search field, and InDesign will immediately give you a list of items that match your search string, starting with exact matches, and then partial matches. You can use the arrow keys to move up and down the list to select the item you want to select or apply, then just hit the Return key.

The Quick Apply feature enables you to choose what gets displayed in the list of results in two different ways:

  1. By clicking on the down arrowhead next to the text entry field, you get a list of the different types of items for which you can search. You can turn those types on and off by selecting them in that menu.
  2. You’ll notice in that list menu that the different types are followed by a code enclosed in parentheses (for example, (p:) for paragraph styles); to filter selections on the fly, first enter the code and then the desired search string. Example: if I want to search only for menu commands with the word “guides” in them, I’d enter “m: guides”.

Quick Apply Tips:

  1. Just like applying styles from a palette, adding the opt/alt modifier removes local formatting, shift+opt/alt removes local formatting plus any applied character styles.
  2. When you use the return/enter key to apply a command or style, the window will close…unless you use shift+return/enter, which keeps the window open so that you can find another style/command to apply.
  3. Esc enables you to exit the window without applying a style or command.
  4. cmd/ctrl+enter enables you to open a style to edit it.

2 Responses to FUDWatch: Quick Apply

  1. Mike Perry says:

    You might point that if users add an two-letter abbreviation after a style name, that entry will more than likely jump to the top of the list when the abbreviation is typed.

    For instance, if you have a number of styles named Body something, you’d ordinarily have to type more than four letters to make your entry unique. But if you name them this way:

    Body Text bt
    Body Indent bi
    Body Quote bq

    typing two letters should be enough to put the one you want at the top.

    A suggestion for CS 3.1. Make the filter code for style types work with a semicolon as well as a colon. Since the shift key doesn’t have to held down, it’s a bit faster for slow and clumsy types like me.

    Another suggestion. Make the keep Quick Apply open command toggle in some way. Toggling it open would keep Quick Apply open when Return/Enter is used. Toggle it off would require the present Shift-Return/Enter. That’d make applying numerous styles a bit faster.

    Many thanks for the improved Quick Apply. I’m looking forward to using it with my next raw ASCII to book project. I tell CS2 laggards that it and the much improved Search and Replace will quickly repay the cost of an upgrade in time saved.

    For instance, ID doesn’t allow only part of the text of an index entry to be italicized. But I put book titles and magazine names needing italicized in French quote marks («») inside the index entry. In about 20 minutes I created a GREP search that replaced those marks in the completed index with an Italics character style. The only hitch is that my technique doesn’t work when there is more than one italicized entry in a paragraph. It starts the italicization at the start of the first entry and ends it at the end of the last.

    –Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

    TC: Good tips, Mike. As for your index entry challenge, you should be able to construct a regular expression that would handle multiple instances of text enclosed in French quotation marks. My REGEX guru here at the office offers this to you:


    Find what = «(.+)»
    Or
    Find what = \xAB(.+)\xBB

    \xAB is the « char & \xBB is the »

    Change to = $1
    Change Format = the desired formatting attributes

    Hit change all.

    This won’t work if the French phrase contains carriage returns, but should be OK otherwise. Replace the ‘.’ w/ a \X in the Find what text if you want to include carriage returns as well.

    Check out the book on Regular Expressions by Ben Forta. It’s my favorite REGEX tutorial I’ve discovered so far.

  2. Anne-Marie says:

    Great idea about the 2-letter codes for styles. But it makes me laugh, because it reminds me of MS Word … which has let you do the same for as long as I can remember. (You press Command-Shift-S to highlight the Style field, then enter the two-letter code, then Return.)

    I submitted a bug on Quick Apply a couple days ago … it includes the “Undo” of whatever you last did; and in my opinion, this can’t possibly be intended. 😉 First, why would anyone go to Quick Apply to choose Undo … second, having it there can interfere with its functionality.

    Example: Fill a text frame with placeholder text, then change all the text to uppercase or all caps. Now select a word and use Quick Apply to change its case to lowercase. (Enter “change ca” to get to the command). Hit Return/Enter to make the change. Then select another word elsewhere in the frame that you want to change to lowercase, and open Quick Apply again. You’ll see “change ca” is still the text in the field, but now a *different* command is selected: UNDO Change Case. Argh! You have to press the down arrow key to get to the command you want. So, if you’re used to pressing Command-Return-Return with Quick Apply (ID’s version of an “Again” or “Redo” command), this will drive you crazy.

    Luckily, it only happens with menu commands, as far as I can tell (not styles .. you don’t get an “undo style” the next time you open it after using it to apply a style).

    Anne-Marie Concepcion