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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.
InDesign offers incredible precision when it comes to placing objects on your page, but there's one aspect of a layout that is still a pain. It's hard to position one object in exact distance away from another one. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. Fortunately, there are a couple ways to do it. I'm going to show you two. The first is using math. That's right. We're going to do math in InDesign. It's not too hard, don't worry. I'm going to zoom in here so we can see this a little bit better and I want to put exactly 1 centimeter of space between these two objects; that text frame and this graphic frame.
To do that, I'm first going to select the text frame, go up to the Control panel, and set the reference point to be any of these points along the bottom part of the Reference Point Icon. When I do that, the Y value in the Control panel reflects the bottom of that text frame, where that bottom is. So I can select that value and copy it to the clipboard. Now I'm going to move this graphic frame up by first selecting it, going back to the Control panel, and choosing any of the top points in that Reference Point Icon.
I choose one of the top points, because I want to tell InDesign where the top of that frame should be. I want it to be not this crazy value in the Y field here. I'm going to delete that. Instead, I want it to be wherever the bottom of this text frame is, which is whatever is on the clipboard, right? So I press Command+V or Ctrl+V on Windows. That pastes in the value that I just took out for the other one, and then I'm going to say +1cm. I'm doing math inside the field there. When I hit Return or Enter, it does the math for me and figures out that this should be exactly this position in order for there to be 1 centimeter of space between these objects.
So that's great, but if I had to do math every time I wanted to position two objects, I would just give up. So instead I'm going to show you a much easier way using the Align panel. To get the Align panel, I'll go to the Window menu, choose Object & Layout, and then choose Align, and move this over to the side so we can see it a bit better. Now I'm going to select the two objects that I'm trying to control; in this case, this text frame and this other graphic down here. Once again, I want to put 1 centimeter of space between them. Of course, it seems strange to use the Align panel in order to control space, but that is what we're going to do.
We're not using any of the align features at top here or even this middle section, the Distribute Objects. We're going to be using the Distribute Spacing section. Now you might not have a Distribution Spacing section or you might not be seeing one on your copy of InDesign. That's okay. If you don't see it, choose Show Options from the panel flyout menu. Sometimes it's hidden, like that, but if you choose Show Options, it shows up. It's a great feature to have open. I don't know why Adobe sometimes hides it like that. To control the spacing, you have to turn on the Use Spacing check box and then you type in the value that you want.
How much space you want between those objects? I want 1 centimeter, so I'll just type in 1 cm, and then finally, click on the Distribute vertical spacing here, and voila! It's done. We now have exactly 1 centimeter of space between the text frame and the graphic. The thing that's kind of cool about Distribute Spacing is you can use this over and over again. So for example, let's just grab this image and drag it down randomly down here. If I want to set this to be the same thing, 1 centimeter away from that, simply select that, and that, and click on the button one more time and it just snaps to 1 centimeter away.
This controls the spacing between those objects. I'm going to pan down here to show you one other trick having to do with spacing. Sometimes you need to control not the spacing between two objects but the spacing between an object and the first baseline of a text frame. For example, in this catalog, my art director may have told me that I need a space between the bottom of this graphic and the first baseline and the first line of text here to be exactly 5 millimeters. Can I do that? Sure! I'm not going to use math and I'm not going to use the Align panel.
I'm going to use a secret trick. First, I'm going to snap the text frame to the graphic frame, just drag it up until the top of the text frame is in exactly the same place as the bottom of the graphic frame. Then I'm going to go to the Object menu and choose Text Frame Options. I'll choose Baseline Options and this lets me choose the First Baseline Offset. First Baseline Offset is another way of saying, where do you want that first baseline, the first line of text, to be from the top of the text frame. Ordinarily, it's set to Ascent, but we're going to change it to Fixed.
Fixed is great because we can specify exactly how far down from the top of the text frame we want that line to be. How far do we want it? Well, the art director said 5 millimeters, so I'll type that right into that field, press OK, so now we know that that first baseline is exactly 5 millimeters from the top of the text frame and the top of the text frame is exactly lined up with the bottom of the graphic. So we've achieved the goal. The baseline is exactly where the art director wanted it. Of course, InDesign does have one tool in the Tool panel that seems like it should let you control the space between objects.
It's called the Gap tool. Unfortunately, even though that lets you control the gap between objects, there's no way to set it to a specific distance. It's all just fuzzy, drag it until it looks right. I'm really hoping that Adobe is going to change that in some future version.
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