InDesign Tips and Tricks: Become a Power User!

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02Oct, 2018
Adobe InDesign is a fantastic software application that is used to create all sorts of layouts including books, magazines, posters, business cards and much much more. It’s a massive program with many features and panels and the following InDesign tips and tricks will help to power up your usage!

Use InDesign to Calculate For You

Did you know that Adobe InDesign can add, multiple, divide and convert? Well, in this short InDesign tip I’ll show you how. Within the Control panel or Transform panel you can do simple calculations when working with objects or entering certain values. For instance, if you have a rectangle selected and wish to add a certain amount to its width or height, there’s no need to do the maths in your head. Simply place the cursor after the current value and type + (plus key) then the additional amount and hit Return. Or, if you wish to subtract an amount just type – (hyphen key), then the amount and then hit Return. This handy trick even works with X and Y Locations—great if you would like to move an object by an exact amount. You can also use * (Asterisk key) to multiply and \ (Backslash) to divide.

Now, let’s say that you wish to enter a value that is not set as the default—for example, you want inches when the Ruler units are set to millimetres. Easy! Just type the number followed by the measurement abbreviation, such as ‘in’ for inches, and InDesign will convert it for you. You can enter any measurement system—‘pt’ (points), ‘p’ (picas), ‘mm’ (millimetres) , ‘cm’ (centimetres), and so on.

indesign tips: indesign can calculate for you screen capture


Frame Fitting Options

Don’t waste your time resizing images when you first place them into a document. Instead, try this InDesign trick: frame fitting options. You can find these options by selecting a Frame (any but a text frame) and then choosing Object>Fitting >Frame Fitting Options. You’ll now be able to specify fitting options for this frame such as content fitting, alignment and crop amounts. When an image is placed into the frame the settings will be applied, allowing you to automatically resize and position images.

Obviously to do this to each frame before you place an image would be time consuming and no quicker than manually adjusting an image once it’s placed. However, here is where the power is, for frames that are positioned in the same area on each page place them on a Master Page. You can also specify these settings when creating an Object Style, but my favourite is to create default fitting options for the Rectangle Frame Tool.

To create this, make sure you don’t have any documents open, click on the Rectangle Frame Tool in the Tool panel and choose Object>Fitting>Frame Fitting Options. Now specify some default settings— I like to Fill the Frame Proportionally, Align from the centre Reference Point and add a 0.25mm Crop amount to all sides. From now on whenever you draw a Rectangle Frame in a document these fitting settings will be automatically applied.

indesign tricks: frame fitting options screen capture


Compound Path Image Frames

It’s common knowledge that you can place an image into a single frame, but what about making a cool indesign effect by placing the image across multiple frames? Here’s how it’s done. Using either the Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon or Pen Tool make several frames on the page.

Now using the Selection Tool, Shift-click each frame to select them together and choose Objects>Paths>Make Compound Paths from the main menu to convert the frame into a new compound shape. With it still selected, choose File>Place, select an image, make sure Replace Selected Item is checked, click Open and image will be placed across the multiple frames.

compound path trick screen capture


Preview Fonts for Easy Selection

Can’t quite decide on a font for a heading and getting sick of manually choosing different ones from the font menu? Highlight the entire heading, hit Command+6 (Mac) or Control+6 (PC) to highlight the current Font in the Control panel and then use the up and down cursor keys (arrow keys) to preview the text in different fonts.

indesign tips and tricks: preview font screen capture


Copy Effects

If you plan to use a certain effect, or combinations of effects on multiple objects, you make an Object Style. However, if you want to repeat an effect quickly, here is a great hidden trick.

Select an object that contains the effect that you want to copy, then from the Effects panel, drag the little ‘fx’ icon onto other shapes that you wish to apply the effect.

copy effects tip screen

About The Author
Matt Smith is a graphic designer and principal lecturer with expertise in print media and web design. He has over 20 years of experience under his belt and has dedicated much of his career to educating others. He founded Edgee in 2014 with the aim of providing quality education for new and experienced graphic designers. With ‘hands on’ experience and qualifications in graphic design, along with a Bachelor of Education in Adult Vocation, Matt combines his passion for design, typography and teaching with his expertise in Adobe Creative Suite to develop eBooks, tutorials and informative articles aimed at helping designers of all levels improve their skills and knowledge.