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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, the print and interactive page layout application from Adobe, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
Whenever you have two or more objects on your page, you need to think about the relationship of those two objects. Stacking order is one kind of relationship. That is which is in front of the other. Another kind of relationship is aligning or distributing objects on a page. For example, how do I make my objects align along their left edges? Let's take a look. I am going to scroll over here. I would like to put this object here right underneath this flower and I want it to align perfectly. Let's go ahead and zoom in here to get a little better view of it. There we go.
I am going to start dragging this over. As I move it, you'll see a series of green lines flashing on and off the screen. Those green lines are among the best ways to align anything on your InDesign page. They are called Smart Guides. Smart Guides look at every other object on your page and try and help you align the object you're dragging to them. So for example, if I drag down to the left I see two vertical green lines. That tells me that this text frame is aligned along the center and left edge of that flower.
That's great, but it's a little bit too low. So, I am going to start dragging up. You'll see some other green lines. Right now, the bottom of the text frame is aligned to the center of that rose on the right. Drag it little higher and now I can see I have it perfectly positioned. The green lines show me that this text frame is aligned with the caption on the left and the flower above it. Let go and I have confidence that it's in exactly the right place. Smart Guides also look at the distribution of objects on your page. So for example, as I drag this image over next to it, you'll see some Smart Guides appear that have double-headed arrows in them.
When you see a double-headed arrow, it means that InDesign recognized a similar distance in one part of the page as another. For example, here the space between the images on the left equals the amount of space between the image and the caption on the right. That doesn't actually help me in this situation, but it's a good thing to pay attention to. I'll move this a little bit closer to the left. Now I see some Smart Guides to the left of my image that I am dragging that show me that the amount of space to the left between these two images equals the amount of space between that image and the line on the left.
So, Smart Guides give you a lot of good feedback when you are laying out your page. Let me scroll down a little bit further and move my caption over, because I want to point out one other kind of Smart Guide that appears, and that is a Smart Guide that aligns to the page. When I drag this text frame over, I see a very tall magenta or pink Smart Guide that appears right down in the middle of the page, and that's telling me that the center of this text frame is exactly in the center of the page itself. If that's what I want, then great.
Otherwise, I can move it around to try and snap it to some other object. So Smart Guides are awesome, but there are other ways to align and distribute objects on your page as well. Let's zoom back to Fit Page in Window with a Command+0 or Control+0 on Windows, and I would like to align all these objects in this column and there's just too many of them to worry about using Smart Guides. So I am going to use the Align panel. I get that by going to the Window menu, scrolling down to Object & Layout and choosing Align.
The Align panel is a great way to align objects when you've got a lot of them. First, I need to select all those objects, so I'll just drag a marquee over them with the Selection tool. Anything that that selection marquee touched got selected, so that's great. Now, I am going to align them along their left edges. I'll do that by clicking on the Align > Left Edges button in the Align panel. One click and they are all perfectly aligned. Of course, I could also align along their centers or the right edges or along the top edges, center or bottom edges.
So you have a lot of controls in here. There is also controls for distributing objects. When you have three or more objects selected, you can distribute them. That is, have an equal amount of space between them. If I click on the first button that's distribute across the top edges, it doesn't look right but it is doing something mathematically correct. The top edges of each of these frames have exactly the same amount of space between them. That's not what I wanted however. So, I might try some of these other distribute options. For example, distribute among the centers. Now, the center of each frame has the same amount of space between it.
In this case, what I'm really looking for is to place the same amount of space between each of these objects. So before I do that I am going to make sure that the top frame and the bottom frame are exactly where I want them. That means I need to move this bottom frame down until it snaps to the lower margin. Now I'll select all of these objects again and I am going to tell the Align panel to put exactly the same amount of space between each object. To do that, I need to press the Distribute Spacing button, there we go. The same amount of space between each object. That's so easy.
The Distribute Spacing feature lets me specify exactly how much space I want in between two or more objects. For example, I'll select these two frames here and let's zoom in to 200%, so we can see this really well. Just press Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows. I would like there to be exactly let's say 2 millimeters of space between those objects. To do that, I have to turn on the Use Spacing checkbox. Then tell InDesign how much space I want. I'll type 2mm. Now, that I've done that, I can click the Distribute Spacing button and it figures it out.
First, it converted it to points, which is the default measurement in this particular document. Then it uses that measurement to place the spacing between the objects. I love InDesign because it gives me incredibly precise control over every object on my page, which is exactly what I need to build high-quality documents.
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