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In this series, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción, co-hosts of the web's top resource for InDesign tips and tricks, InDesignSecrets.com, share some hidden and sometimes surprising workflow tips that will make working in InDesign more efficient and more fun. The course covers built-in timesaving features such as Quick Apply and auto-expanding text, but also little-known tricks, such as using the eyedropper to copy and paste character and paragraph text attributes and making accurate selections by selecting through or even into objects.
New techniques will be added to the collection every other week, so check back early and often. Find more tips and tricks at indesignsecrets.com.
David Blatner: I thought this numbered list look pretty good, but Anne-Marie told me otherwise. She wants all of these little decimal points to line up. Can you do that in InDesign? Sure, but it's not at all obvious how to do it. Let me show you. First, let me go ahead and zoom in here and now I'm going to open my Paragraph Styles panel because all of these are set up as a paragraph style. In fact it's called the numbered list paragraph style and you too it should be using paragraph styles. Make sure that whenever you make a list, make it as a paragraph style. Much easier to edit later.
So I'll right-click on numbered list and I'll choose Edit and we can see that the dialog box opens up over here. I'll click on Bullets and Numbering and now I am going to focus down here at the bottom of the dialog box in the Bullet or Number Position area. The obvious thing to do is to change the Alignment pop-up menu to Right. That should make all of those will right aligned and align up all those decimal points, right? But even though the Preview checkbox is turned on, you can see that nothing happened at all. Why? Well the key is the Left Indent feature.
It's set to zero picas. That means that its right up against the left edge of the text frame and InDesign has a rule: you cannot push anything outside the text frame. Well technically you can. In some situations you can get it out there. But in this situation with a numbered list you cannot do it. It will not let you push those numbers outside the text frame. So what we need to do is increase the Left Indent number. Let's bump this up to let's say to 2 picas. Press Tab and you can see that because the Preview checkbox is turned on, it updates automatically in the background and look at that. All the decimal points are aligned.
It pushed the Left Indent in 2 picas and that gave those numbers room to move back, to be right aligned. Notice that InDesign also added a tab here at three picas. That's why all of these words are lined up exactly at the 3 pica mark. But there's a problem. When we get down here to a paragraph that has more than one line, it's not indenting properly. What is going on? Well, the Left Indent was set to 2 picas and then the Tab brought us over to the 3 pica mark, but then the other lines reverted back to the 2 pica mark.
So what we really need to do is create a hanging indent and a hanging indent is created in InDesign when you have a positive Left Indent and a negative First Line Indent. So what I am going to do is bump this Left Indent up to 3 picas and then bring the First Line Indent to -1 pica. So there we go, that positive Left Indent and a negative First Line Indent gives me enough space so that all the decimal points are lined, but also sets it up so that the multi-line paragraphs indent properly.
By the way, you'll also notice that when you do set up a hanging indent, the tab position field blanks out. It doesn't need the tab anymore, because it knows that you're using a hanging indent. You'd think that Adobe would just make the Right Align numbers feature work the way you'd expect, without all this extra dialing in of the numbers and stuff. But no such luck. And until they get it figured out you're just going to need to take the extra minute or two to get these all lined up correctly.
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