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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.
Let's make these two tables look a tad bit better. First I'm going to start with the table on the left. Now it's tempting to select that table with a Selection tool to try and format it, but it won't really work. Instead, you need the Type tool. So I'll double-click to switch the Type tool and click inside the table. Now I'm going to zoom in to 200% so we can see this little bit better and I'll go to the Table menu and I'm going to point out Table Options and Cell Options. These are the two main places that you're going to be paying attention to when formatting your tables. Let's start with Table Options.
There are five different features underneath the Table Options sub-menu, but actually they all go to the same place. They are just different tabs of the Table Options dialog box. Now the Table Options dialog box lets me control the table as a whole. Some of these features are redundant with the Table panel that we've seen earlier, such as the number of rows and columns. The main thing I'm going to pay attention to in this table is the Table Border. The Table Border controls a stroke around the outside of your table. Right now, it's set to 1 point.
I'm going to make it thinner. How about a half a point? Of course you can also change its type and its color, but we are going to leave it set to black for right now. When I click OK, it's hard to see that anything's changed and one of the reasons for that is I have my frame edges showing. Generally when you're trying to format tables, it's a good idea to be in Preview Mode or at least have your frame edges turned off. I am going to come up here to the View menu, choose Extras, and then choose Hide Frame Edges. That way I can still see my guides and so on but I'm not distracted by the frame edges, which sit on top of my actual rows and column dividers.
I can immediately spot a problem here. The outside edge is only half a point thick but the inside rules are a full 1-point thick still. So to fix that, I need to adjust the Cell Options. Cell Options only affect the cells that I have selected in the table. So I'm going to select all the cells in this table by going to the Table menu, choosing Select, and then choosing Column, or in this case Table. Now that they are selected I can go to the Table menu and choose Cell Options and then Text. Once again, there are three other options here but they all go to the same place.
Different tabs within the same dialog box. Let's take a moment to look at some of the options in this dialog box. The first thing I want to pay attention to is Cell Insets. These work just like the text insets in the Text Frame Options dialog box. You can control how far from the edge of the cell the text should sit. Right now it's set to 4 points on all sides. There's also a Vertical Justification setting, again just like the Text Frame Options dialog box. I'm going to set this to Align Bottom and you can see that all the text dropped to the bottom of the cell.
Now I'm going to come up here and adjust the bottom, because that's a little bit too close to the bottom. So I'm going to use my Up Arrow keys to bring that up, just a point to about 5 points. It looks much better there. There is a number of other options in this dialog box but I'm going to the Strokes and Fills tab to take a look at how I can control these dividers between each of the cells. This diagram with the blue lines is a very important diagram when it comes to formatting cells in a table. You're going to see this time-and-time again and it's important to know how to manage it.
The lines in this diagram represent each side of a cell that's selected. InDesign is showing me the top line of the top-most cell, the bottom line of the bottom-most cell, and all the dividers in between are represented by this line here. You can turn these on and off simply by clicking on them. Click once and it turns gray. That means it's no longer selected. If I click two times that whole segment becomes deselected. So in this case I want to select once in the middle because I want to change all the horizontal lines between the cells.
I'll change it from one point to a- half a point to match the outside frame. The Cell Options dialog box also lets me change the fill color of each of these cells, but in this case I'm going to just leave it set to None. So when I click OK and then deselect simply by clicking inside one of these cells, you can see that all of my lines are now of the same thickness. Let's scroll over here to the second table and do some formatting here. First I'll click inside one of these cells and go to the Table menu and choose Table Setup. For this table I'm not going to worry about the outside table border. I'm going to jump right to fills.
The Fills tab of the Table Options dialog box lets me set an alternating pattern for this table. For example, I could say every other row should be either black or let's pick a different color. How about blue? 20% of this blue color swatch. It starts with the first row and then skips every other one. If I wanted this to be two different colors I could choose my second color from this popup menu. But I'm going to leave it set to None. Now I'll click OK and take a look. I don't much like those black lines, so let's get rid of them.
I'm going to select the entire table by pressing Command+Option+A or Ctrl+Alt+A on Windows. Now I'm going to change the color of those lines. I can do that in a couple of places but the easiest is right up here in the Control panel. Look at that, a very similar icon shows up here. In this case I also have a vertical bar, which is currently deselected, because it's gray, and that represents all of the inside vertical lines in my table. If I want to turn off all the lines in my table, I'll select everything in that little icon, come over to the stroke control, and say None.
When I click off, it's hard to see this because it's all selected, but when I click inside one of the cells to deselect the whole table you'll see that all of those rows and column dividers are gone. Well, they are there. They are just invisible. They are stroked with none. Now I'm not sure I like this. I think I'd like to put in the vertical lines between the columns again. So I'm going to select the whole table again, Command+Option+A or Ctrl+Alt+A. I'm going to triple-click on the outside of this icon which turns off the outside and then I'll also turn off that one horizontal divider.
Because all I really want to control is the inside column lines, the one that are inside between these three columns. Now I'll set that to some color, perhaps this blue color and maybe a tint of that, about 50%. Click off and we can see it looks pretty good. I've got vertical lines running down the columns and I have alternating fills every other row. The last thing I want to do on this table is change the formatting of this header. Each one of these cells acts like its own little text frame, but the cool thing is I could select all of these cells at the same time by hovering my cursor over the left edge.
Just little left of that first row until I see that little black arrow. When I click, it selects the entire row. When you have more than one cell selected, you can change the formatting for all the text in all of those cells at the same time. In this case I'm going to apply a different paragraph style to all that text. So I'll go to the Paragraph Styles panel, scroll down here, and I see that I've got a paragraph style called table bold. There we go. Now it's hard to see that because this particular paragraph style makes the text white on a dark background and it's currently highlighted so you can't see it.
But that's okay, because the next thing I'm going to do is change the fill color of those cells. So I'll come to the Swatches panel, I'll make sure the fill icon is on top, and then I'm going to pick a dark color. Like perhaps this darker blue at 100%. Of course the other place I could change that is up here in the Control panel. Anyway now when I deselect that by clicking inside one of the cells you can see that I've changed the formatting of the text and I've changed the fill color of those three cells. If I go to the Type menu and turn off Hidden Characters, I can see that the table is really coming along well.
But there is one problem,. When this table is so long that it stretches across two or more pages you won't be able to see this header up here on the other pages. Well, InDesign does have a feature that fixes that and it's called header rows.
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