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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.
We've learned how to format tables in some detail. But if you had a lot of tables to format it would be really tedious to go through this process for each and every one of them. Fortunately, InDesign has table styles, which let you apply a lot of table formatting with a single click. Let's see how it's done. First, I'll zoom in on this table so we can take a look at it. Next I want to open up my Cell Styles panel. So I go to the Window menu, choose Styles, and then Cell Styles. You might be tempted to start with table styles but don't do it.
Always start with your cell styles first. Looking at this table I see that we have several different types of cells. We have header cells, we have this Total cell and we've got different cells on the left column and the right column. They don't look different right now but if I turn on Preview Mode, we can see that they're actually slightly different, sort of mirrors of each other with different lines on either side. So let's make our cell styles. To do that I'm first going to double- click to switch to the Type tool and click on any of these center cells.
These are what InDesign calls the body cells, the ones that make up the body of the table. To create a new cell style just choose New Cell Style from the panel menu. Let's give it a name. I'll call it body cells. Notice that because the cursor was flashing inside one of those cells, all of that cell formatting was pulled in here. The stroke weight, the background color and so on. We could override the settings for the cell styles in here in these panes, but we don't need to because it's all pulled in here.
The one thing we do need to do however is assign a paragraph style for it. I'll choose a paragraph style that I've already created called table. When I choose a paragraph style here in this pop-up menu, whenever I apply this body cell style, the paragraph style will be applied as well. I'll click OK and let's move on to the next one. I'll click in the header up here and make a header cell style. Instead of choosing from the panel menu this time I'm going to Option or Alt+Click on the New Cell Style button. This is going to be my header cell.
Once again all the cell styling is pulled in here, so the only thing I really need to do is change the paragraph style, which I'm going to choose table bold for the heading. Click OK and let's see what else we have. Let's click in the left column here and make a cell style for that. Option or Alt+click, give it a name, and then apply a paragraph style. All of these are going to have the same paragraph style as the body cells. Right column as well.
The only other cell that's different in this table is Total down here at the bottom, so I'll go ahead and click in that and make a total cell style. The paragraph style here is going to be the table total paragraph style that I've already created. Once you have finished setting up your cell styles, it's time to set your table styles. Here I click anywhere inside of one of my body cells and Option or Alt+Click on the New Table Style button. Up comes the New Table Style dialog box where I give it a name.
Again, because my cursor was flashing in that table that I've already formatted, all of that formatting shows up here in the Style Settings. Otherwise, I'd have to go through one pane at a time and set those settings. Now I don't need to do that. But what I do need to do is assign my cell styles in the General pane. All those cell styles that I just created can be entered here by pulling them out of a pop-up menu. For example any header rows in this table style should automatically get the cell style called header cell.
All the body rows, which make up the bulk of the table, should get the body cell style. Now in many table styles that's all you really need, but in this case because the left and the right column are slightly different we're going to choose left column and right column out of these pop-up menus. I'll click OK, I'll click on the table style to actually assign it to this table, and now let's try it out. I'm going to zoom back here and draw out a new text frame below this one using my Type tool. Now I'll go to the Table menu, insert a table, fill out the rows and columns, and click OK.
Let's zoom in on this. This table is obviously completely unformatted but we'd like to format it quickly with a single click. Let's see if it works. I'll click on the new table style that we created and we see that all the formatting came across, except the header row. Right up here where I'm typing header you can see it's not formatted like a header. Why? Because for some strange reason, there is no way to tell a table style that the first row of a table should be a header. Is that strange? It's very frustrating.
So the table style defines what to do if it does find a header but it won't define the header for you. In other words, you have to select the row that you want to be a header, go to the Table menu and choose Convert Rows > To Header. As soon as you do that, you can see the formatting takes effect. There's actually a bunch of other things that table styles can't remember. For example, if I make this column wider the table style can't remember that. In fact table styles can't remember the width or height of rows or columns at all.
It can't even remember the size of the table. Clearly table styles are far from perfect. They just don't remember all the things you want them to. So you end up still doing a lot of work manually, but even so they can still shave hours of work off a project.
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