InDesign CS3 – From Tab Text to Formatted Table in Less Than 30 Seconds!

Everybody who enjoys the copious amount of tweaking necessary to make tabular data look beautiful in a page layout application, please raise your hand. If your hand is up, skip to John Nack’s blog.

Everybody else, read on, because I’m about to show you how to make short work of formatting tables in InDesign CS3. In fact, we’ll do it in less than 30 seconds.

Ugly Duckling Text

Take a peek at this tab-delimited text file placed into InDesign CS3. Very plain, not a good fit, U for ugly.

Not to worry, we’re going to end up with a gorgeous table, formatted like the image below in only a few seconds, complete with colored and styled text, perfectly aligned columns, and alternating rows of gradient color.

First, let’s watch a movie that shows how it’s done. Then I’ll give it to you step by step so you can try it.

Have a gander at this QT movie. (This opens a new window.)

How’dja Do That?

Prior to turning the tabbed text into a table and formatting it as shown in the movie, I prepared for the process by setting up the following:

  1. First, I created two paragraph styles. One for the city names, called “City,” and one for the numbers, called “Temp.”
  2. In the Swatches palette I created two gradient swatches for the alternating fills in the table.
  3. In the Cell Styles panel I created two cell styles, one for the left column, called “City” and one for the body cells, called “Temp.” In the cell style options I set the inset for the cells (0p2) and applied the paragraph styles from step one.
  4. Finally, I created a table style and designated the City cell style for the left column, and the Temp cell style for the body cells. Then I chose alternating fills and selected the two gradient swatches made in step two.

To transform the text as shown in the movie, do this:

  1. Put your cursor into the tabbed-text and do File > Select All.
  2. Choose Table > Convert Text to Table.
  3. In the dialog box, choose the table style from the pop-up list.
  4. Hold down the Shift key and drag the right edge of the left column to widen it while keeping the table size intact.
  5. Put the cursor at the top of the second column until a downward facing arrow pops up. Click to select the column, then drag to select the next three columns on the right.
  6. Right-click (Control-click) and choose Distribute Columns Evenly.

That’s it! Have fun playing with the table styles in ID3, and don’t forget you can load them into other documents to reuse them. It’s a simple matter of choosing Load Table and Cell Styles from the Table Styles panel. Don’t forget to load the paragraph styles, too! :-)