Posts in Category "Tips"

5 InDesign Typing Rules

When so many users complained about not having a way to save backwards from InDesign CS4 to InDesign CS2, I offered to convert files. Many people have taken me up on this offer. As a result, I’ve been able to see documents people have been working on. Many of the designs have been great, but I’ve seen some sloppy practices. The most egregious error is not using styles for formatting text and objects. I’ll write more on that later.

I also noticed a few common typing errors that should be avoided.

1. Use hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes properly.

A hyphen divides a compound word, such as “post-Colonial.”

An em dash indicates a break in thought—what was I talking about? (Unfortunately, my blogging tool shortens em dashes, so you’ll just have to imagine a longer dash.) An em dash is also used to indicate an open end date, such as “Peter Baxter-McGill [1964—]” or an open-end date, such as “19—.” There’s no reason to create a dash using two hyphens (–) in InDesign.

An en dash is used to indicate a range of numbers, such as “35–44.” It also indicates a link between geographic references and routes, such as the Mason–Dixon Line and Oakland–San Francisco. It’s also used for joint authors, such as “Kvern–Blatner” and for the minus sign. (Unfortunately, it looks like my blogging tool converts en dashes into hyphens. Oh well.)

Some people prefer using the en dash – instead of the em dash – in the middle of a sentence because it looks better than the em dash. If you take this approach, make sure you add a nonbreaking space (Type > Insert White Space > Nonbreaking Space) before the en dash so that the dash doesn’t start a line.

2. Use discretionary hyphens to break words.

If you don’t like the way InDesign composes text and decide to break up a word with a hyphen, use a discretionary hyphen (Type > Insert Special Character > Hyphens and Dashes > Discretionary Hyphen). A discretionary hyphen is also known as a “soft hyphen” or “optional hyphen.” It’s visible only if it breaks the word at the end of a line. If you just add a hyphen, you may end up with “Spam- alot” in the middle of a line.

3. Use quotation marks and prime marks correctly.

Use straight quotation marks (" ") when you’re typing code. The rest of the time use curly quotation marks. In InDesign, you can change a preference setting to determine which quotation marks are used. You can read more about it in the Use quotation marks Help topic.

Use the prime mark (′) to indicate feet, arcminutes, or minutes of time. It looks like a slanted apostrophe. Use the double prime mark (″) to indicate inches, arcseconds, or seconds of time. Some fonts include the prime and double prime marks. Use the Glyphs panel to insert these marks. If the font doesn’t have a prime or double prime mark, insert the straight quotation mark, and italicize it.

4. Use Space After and Space Before instead of paragraph returns.

Novice InDesign users control paragraph spacing using the Enter key. This frequently causes problems, especially with blank lines at the top of a frame. The better approach is to control paragraph spacing with paragraph styles. The Space Before and Space After settings are found in the Indents and Spacing section. You can also use the Control panel to change Space Before and Space After values of individual paragraphs.

5. Watch for widows and orphans.

A widow is the last line of a paragraph that winds up all by itself at the top of a column or page. An orphan is the first line of a paragraph that lands all by itself at the bottom of a column or page. Designers sometimes also refer to the single-word last line of a paragraph as either a widow or an orphan. Some people call this a “runt.”

InDesign offers several methods to avoid widows and orphans. See the Ways to control paragraph breaks and Control paragraph breaks using Keep options Help topics.

Did I miss anything?

Bookmarks and Text Anchors

When the InDesign programmers revamped the interactivity features in CS4 to include cross-references, they made a subtle change that requires every bookmark to have a text anchor attribute. This change has caused some confusion in at least two areas — linking buttons to pages, and automatically generating bookmarks for a PDF document. Here are the problems and workarounds in both instances.

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Saving Backwards from InDesign CS4 to CS2

Being able to save backwards multiple versions has been an ongoing frustration for some InDesign users, especially those who don’t upgrade with each version. The process for opening a CS4 document in CS3 is fairly straightforward. Export the CS4 document to INX format, and then open the INX file in the updated version of InDesign CS3.

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4 Help Tips

We made some big changes to the CS4 Help experience from previous versions of the suite. First, Help is now on the web (there is a stripped down version of Help on your hard drive, but that appears only if you’re not connected to the web). Second, the default page that appears when you choose Help > InDesign Help is the Help and Support page, not the main InDesign Help page. Third, searches in Help can include community content.

As I’ve been looking at survey results and getting feedback from customers, it’s clear to me that a lot of people aren’t happy with all of these changes. While we have some major improvements to Help coming down the pike for the next version, there is only so much we can change for CS4. Here’s what I recommend to make the current Help experience more productive.

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Top 7 Favorite Minor New Features in InDesign CS4

When I have to go back and work in InDesign CS3 for testing purposes, I miss the big new CS4 features like cross-references, Flash export, and Live Preflight. But I may miss these little features even more.

1. Dragging to place an image

When I place a file, I no longer need to click and then rescale the large frame that often extends beyond the view. Instead, I can drag the place gun (ahem — loaded graphics cursor), and the frame and image are scaled automatically.

2. Smart guides

Perhaps this should be considered a major new feature. Regardless, I love the hints that appear when I’m creating, moving, and transforming objects. Why, yes, I would like the rectangle to the same size as that other rectangle — thank you for asking!


While I have never wanted to turn off smart guides, I realize that some people want to. You can turn off the Smart Guide options in the Guides & Pasteboard section of the Preferences dialog box. And if you don’t want tooltip-like feedback to appear when you’re scaling or resizing, turn off Show Transformation Values in the Interface section of Preferences. Help topic for smart guides is here.

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Adding nonbreaking spaces to avoid wrapping problems

Someone mentioned in a user forum that he thinks en dashes surrounded by spaces ( – ) look better than em dashes (—) in sentences. That’s a matter of personal taste, but if you do go with the en dash, be aware that the en dash may wrap incorrectly when text reflows.


To avoid this problem, insert a hard space (Type > Insert White Space > Nonbreaking Space) before the en dash. A nonbreaking space essentially joins the dash with the preceding word.