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One of the most difficult design challenges is representing a lot of data clearly. It's easy to throw a bunch of numbers and dates on a page, but to make them readable, you typically need to format it all as a table. InDesign offers a number of features that make table making, well, not fun, but at least pretty tolerable, and sometimes even interesting. My friend, Diane Burns, has done a whole title on making cool looking tables here in the lynda.com Online Training Library. You should definitely check that out. But in the meantime, I am going to show you the essentials; what you need to get up and running with tables quickly.
The first thing you need to know about tables in InDesign is that they're always anchored inside of a text frame, and they flow along with the text in the story. I have my catalog document open here, and I'm going to zoom down on the bottom part of this page. And all these guides are a little bit distracting to me, so I'll go to the View menu, and choose Grids and Guides, and turn off my Guides. Now I am going to make a text frame. I'll simply grab the Text tool, and drag out of frame. To create my table, I'll go to the Table menu, and choose Insert Table.
The Insert Table dialog box lets me choose the number of Rows, and Columns, and also specify Header, and Footer Rows. I'll talk about those in just a little bit. I'll click OK, and you can see that now I have a table. It's a very basic table, but it does let me type data into it. So I can just type some words, and I hit Tab to jump to the next field, and jump to the next field, and so on. When I get to the end of the row, I hit Tab, and it starts over at the line. In general, you're not going to be creating your own tables from scratch; it's just too cumbersome.
The table data will probably come from somewhere else, like Word, or Excel, or Database. So let's get rid of this table, and start with a new one. You can delete a table just like you would delete text. In fact, a table is anchored in the text. So if I click down here at the bottom of the text frame, you'll see that the text cursor is placed immediately after the table. In fact, I can start typing some gibberish here, and you'll see it's just text in a text frame. To delete that table, I simply drag over it, and hit Delete. Again, it's just like a character in your text story.
Now let's bring in some data. I'll go to the File menu, choose Place, and from my exercise folder, I am going to grab this roux_catalog_data.txt file. I'll click Open, and in comes all the data from this text file. That's definitely not pretty, so let's turn it into a table. I am going to select all the text by pressing Command+A or Control+A, go into the Table menu, and choosing Convert Text to Table. InDesign is going to ask me, what's in between each row and column? In this case, the columns are broken down by tabs, and the rows by paragraphs.
So I'll go ahead and leave this at its default settings, and click OK. As you can see, we have a table really quickly. Now, I remember seeing just a moment ago, there's a lot more data than I can see in this table. If I look in the lower right corner of this text frame, I can see the text frame is overset. The table is too long to fit in here. I'm going to zoom back to 100%, with a Command+1, or Control+1 on Windows, scroll over here, and with my Selection tool, I can make my text frame longer. When I do that, you can see you get more data, but it's still overset.
So I'll click on that little overset marker; that loads my place cursor, and now I'm going to come over to the next page, and click, and drag. As you can see, tables can thread from one frame to another. If you have a really long table like this one, it could go on for pages. The one thing InDesign cannot do, however, is break a cell in half. So, for example, this cell up here always has to stay together. I can't put the first line on page 1, and the second line on page 2; it always gives your cell whole on a page.
The other thing I am noticing that's kind of interesting here is that this table is wider than the frame itself. This is one of the few instances in InDesign where things can actually hang outside of a text frame. I am going to talk about how to change the size of a table by adjusting its rows and columns later on in this chapter, but for right now, I want to point out that each of these cells is like its own little text frame. If I double-click on it, it switches to the Type tool, and you can see, I can select all the text in there, and if I drag too far, it actually selects the whole cell itself.
Drag over more than one cell, and you can see, I am actually multiple cells. Now, I know this table isn't exactly pretty, but it least we have a table to work with. In the next few movies, I am going to explain how to adjust the rows and columns, and then start formatting these cells.
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