Real World "Apply Next"

I answered a question the other day that came from the newspaper sector. The answer is worth repeating for the rest of the world, because it involves what I think is an under-used InDesign feature.

The question:

Is there a way to reduce the number of steps required to create a caption and go from raw text like this:

to a formatted frame and set of paragraphs like this?:

Trying to set this up using Nested Styles is far more trouble than it’s worth. You can’t create the appearance of different justification settings within a single paragraph without a fair bit of time consuming trickery that isn’t too practical in a setting where productivity is a priority.

Fortunately, InDesign’s Object Styles feature enables you to format both the text frame and the text inside of it at the same time. You can format both by simply applying the object style.

If you open an object style, you’ll see that one of the properties you can specify is the paragraph style to be used on the text in the frame. You’ll also notice, however, that there’s an additional option sitting there under the paragraph style drop down menu called Apply Next Style.

This option enables you to leverage the Next Style setting in a paragraph style.

In this example, I’m using two different paragraph styles: photo credit, and caption. In the style definition for photo credit, I select caption for the Next Style setting.

When you do this you tell InDesign that if you’re entering text with the style photo credit applied, when you hit the Return key, InDesign automatically switches the paragrah style to caption for the next paragraph you enter.

Creating this Next Style setting also enables me to apply multiple styles to paragraphs in a text frame via an object style. Because I’ve set caption as the Next Style in the defintion for my photo credit paragraph style, if I select photo credit for the Paragraph Style setting in the object style, I can then use the Apply Next Style checkbox to automatically apply the caption paragraph style to the second paragraph in that frame.

This is a great little feature to use to speed up the formatting of text frames that contain text that is formatted in a structured manner. In this example I can format both paragraphs in the photo credit and caption frame by just applying the object style to the frame.

This next example shows a text frame of ad copy in which three different paragraphs are formatted with different paragraph styles applied via an object style:

In this example there are three different paragrahs that require three different paragraph styles to be applied, one of them with some creative nesting of character styles as well.

By using the Next Style settings of a paragraph style in tandem with the Apply Next Style feature in an Object Style, I can–with one click–style all the ad copy and make it look like this:

Any time you have a series of styles that are applied in the same order, stepping from one style to another in a way that you can describe using the Next Style settings for paragraph styles, you can leverage the Apply Next Style feature to dramatically speed up your production.

Stimulated by David Blatner’s comment on this post, here’s some added detail about this last example:

The text in this frame is styled using 3 different paragraph styles applied in succession via an object style. Also notice that the decimal point in the number disappears. As David mentions, one of the ways to do this is to create a character style that’s applied via a nested style and both sets the character width to 1 percent, and the stroke and fill to “none.” Depending on the situation you could also apply a kern value as well.

Here is how the nested styles were set up for formatting the product price in the ad: