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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, Adobe's print and interactive page layout application, 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.
Sooner or later you're going to have to make a table, and making tables isn't really fun. Well, InDesign offers a number of features that make table-making not fun, but at least pretty tolerable, and sometimes even interesting. The first thing you need to know about tables in InDesign is that they are always anchored inside of a text frame and they flow along with the text in the story. Let's make a table inside of this text frame. Because tables are always inside text frames, you have to use the Type tool to make them. I'll press T to jump to the Type tool and then click inside this frame.
Let's zoom in to 200% with Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows, and we can see that text cursor flashing in here. To make a table, I go to the Table menu and choose Insert Table. InDesign asks me how many rows and how many columns do I want? In this case, I'm going to make a table with four rows and three columns. I'll cover header rows, footer rows, and table styles later in this chapter. When I click OK, you'll see that InDesign makes a table that stretches all the way from the left edge of the frame to the right edge.
The little blue number sign that you see inside each of those cells is an indicator of the end of story. It's just like the symbol you see at the end of a text frame. In fact, each table cell acts like a little text frame, sitting inside of a larger table. So you can type inside of any cell that has that flashing text cursor. I'll type a few things along the header here, like Item Number. Now to jump to the next cell, I could click in it, or I could just press Tab. Tab jumps from one cell to the next.
Now I'll Tab again and type a little bit more. If Tab moves to the next cell, you can guess what Shift+Tab does? That's right. It jumps to the previous cell and selects the text or the content of that cell. This table currently has one header and three rows. If I want to add more rows at the end, there are a couple of things I could do. First, I could click in the last cell and press Tab. When you press Tab at the end, it adds a new row at the bottom. Another option is to open the Table panel.
Let's go and take a look at that. I'll go to the Window menu, choose Type & Tables, and then Table. The Table panel is control central for all kinds of things that I want to do to tables. And the first item at the top lets me choose a number of rows and columns. Let's say I wanted to have 20 rows in here. I would simply replace that 5 with 20, press Enter, and it adds all those rows. Now I want to point out something else that's interesting about tables in InDesign. I'm going to zoom back to Fit in Window with a Command+0 or Ctrl+0, and I'm to go grab my Selection tool.
If I make this text frame less tall, I get an overset. That is to be expected I suppose, because there is more text than can fit into that frame. But what's interesting is that I can thread that table from one frame into another. I'll click on that overset mark with the Selection tool. Then I'll come down here and drag out a new text frame. When I let go, you'll see that the story threads from one frame into the other, and the table itself is threading. That means if I extend the top frame, some of the table from the second frame gets moved back up.
This turns out to be extremely useful when you have very long tables. However, I do want to point out one thing and that's that InDesign will only break a table at a row boundary. You cannot break halfway through a cell for example. I'm going to go ahead and delete this frame at the bottom, we don't need that right now, and I'll make this tall again. Now let's look at a second way to make tables in InDesign. I'm going to select this text frame on the left and zoom in to 200%, scroll down here, and I'll double click inside here to switch to the Type tool.
There are all kinds of ways to format address forms like this, but in this case, I'm going to turn the whole thing into a table. To do that, I'll select all the text in the story with a Command+A or Ctrl+A on Windows, I'll go to the Table menu, and I'll choose Convert Text to Table. InDesign asks me, what should indicate a new column and what should indicate a new row? In this case, I'm going to end up with a table that has just one column and many rows. So I don't really care about the Column Separator, but I do care about the Row Separator.
Right now it's set to Paragraph, which is exactly right. I want each new paragraph to be on its own row. When I click OK, InDesign makes my table for me. Once again it stretches the entire width of my text frame. Each one of these is now a different cell. If I'd click in one and drag down, you'll see that it's actually selecting a cell at a time. Not only can you convert text into tables, but you can also convert tables into text. I'm not going to do that right now, but I did want to point out that you can do it.
Another thing I want to point out about tables is that they can extend past the edge of a text frame. Let me show you what I mean. I'm going to zoom back to 100% mode with a Command+1 or Ctrl+1 on Windows and I'll use my Selection tool to make my text frame smaller. You would think that would cause overset, but it doesn't. The table actually just sticks out the side of the frame. There is nothing wrong with doing it. It just works that way. Now as I said earlier, tables actually flow inside of a text frame, so I could use my Type tool to click inside this frame, then I'll press Return or Enter, and I can start typing some random text down there.
You see how the text follows the table? I'll press Command or Ctrl+Up Arrow a couple of times to jump to the beginning of this story. I'll press Return or Enter again, and then I'm going to start typing at the beginning of the story. Once again, the table follows along, because it's anchored into the text story. Now I know these two tables aren't exactly pretty, but at least we have tables to work with now. The next steps we need to take are to learn how to adjust the rows and column sizes, and then how to format the tables themselves.
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