Learning GREP with InDesign
Illustration by John Hersey

GREP styles vs. nested styles


From:

Learning GREP with InDesign

with Michael Murphy

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Video: GREP styles vs. nested styles

If you're familiar with, or have used Nested Styles, which have been around since InDesign CS, you may be wondering what the specific advantages of GREP Styles are versus Nested Styles. Nested Styles are powerful and very easy to use, but they do have certain limits and once you reach those limits and need to do more, you need to use GREP Styles. Let's take a look at the basic differences between one and the other. In this document, there are a number of Embassy listings and for each there is a phone and fax.
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  1. 1m 33s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
    2. Using the exercise files
      29s
  2. 7m 56s
    1. What is GREP?
      1m 53s
    2. Text searching vs. GREP searching
      2m 35s
    3. Working with GREP and InDesign
      3m 28s
  3. 46m 4s
    1. Using metacharacters, the building blocks of GREP
      6m 37s
    2. Escaping out metacharacters
      2m 49s
    3. Building with wild cards
      9m 9s
    4. Understanding undocumented wild card "opposites"
      3m 11s
    5. Specifying locations
      7m 4s
    6. Learning the undocumented location metacharacters
      4m 45s
    7. Using repeat metacharacters and defining the shortest match
      5m 45s
    8. Specifying exact matches and ranges
      2m 52s
    9. Finding content that doesn't exist with zero functions
      3m 52s
  4. 43m 26s
    1. Creating "or" conditions
      5m 24s
    2. Building subexpressions
      5m 52s
    3. Using character sets to create custom wild cards
      7m 3s
    4. Using negative character sets
      3m 2s
    5. Finding around text with lookbehind and lookahead
      8m 1s
    6. Building with modifiers: Case sensitivity
      4m 0s
    7. Building with modifiers: Single-line and multi-line
      3m 10s
    8. Using InDesign-compatible Posix expressions
      6m 54s
  5. 49m 18s
    1. GREP styles vs. nested styles
      6m 10s
    2. Styling specific words or phrases
      3m 18s
    3. Describing inconsistent text
      6m 59s
    4. Describing and styling prices
      6m 55s
    5. Applying multiple character styles to the same text
      6m 8s
    6. Describing and styling email addresses
      10m 48s
    7. Dynamically fixing orphaned words with GREP
      9m 0s
  6. 33m 30s
    1. Adding more to the mix: GREP Find/Change
      1m 41s
    2. Understanding queries
      8m 20s
    3. Using formatting and styles as Find/Change criteria
      5m 20s
    4. Preserving and recalling using subexpressions
      7m 49s
    5. Backreferences in search queries
      3m 8s
    6. Cleaning up text with GREP
      2m 45s
    7. Creating a GREP-based text cleanup script
      4m 27s
  7. 43m 45s
    1. Describing imported spreadsheet data
      6m 56s
    2. Rearranging imported spreadsheet data
      7m 17s
    3. Applying styles and formatting with GREP
      11m 14s
    4. Describing and standardizing phone numbers
      9m 20s
    5. Inserting anchored objects with GREP
      8m 58s
  8. 27s
    1. Goodbye
      27s

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Watch the Online Video Course Learning GREP with InDesign
3h 45m Intermediate Nov 18, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learning GREP with InDesign decodes the language of GREP for InDesign users. It shows how this versatile tool can be used for describing text, which can speed up or automate everyday formatting tasks. InDesign expert and graphic designer Michael Murphy introduces the basic concepts of GREP, and shows how to build powerful expressions using metacharacters. Michael also explores many of the little-known features of GREP, explaining how GREP styles and Find/Change can be used to rearrange data and dynamically format text. Exercise files accompany this course.

Topics include:
  • Using metacharacters, the building blocks of GREP
  • Describing text that may not exist with zero operators
  • Applying multiple character styles to the same text with GREP styles
  • Eliminating orphaned words at the ends of paragraphs
  • Preserving and recalling subexpressions
  • Customizing a GREP-based text cleanup script for long documents
Subject:
Design
Software:
InDesign
Author:
Michael Murphy

GREP styles vs. nested styles

If you're familiar with, or have used Nested Styles, which have been around since InDesign CS, you may be wondering what the specific advantages of GREP Styles are versus Nested Styles. Nested Styles are powerful and very easy to use, but they do have certain limits and once you reach those limits and need to do more, you need to use GREP Styles. Let's take a look at the basic differences between one and the other. In this document, there are a number of Embassy listings and for each there is a phone and fax.

The line with the phone and the line with the fax, each start with a Nested Style, that styles the word Phone and the colon, the word Fax and the colon, differently from the rest of the line and it does it automatically. I am going to put my cursor in one of those styles. Open the Paragraph Styles panel and we can see the Fax style is selected. So, I am going to right-click on that and choose Edit Fax. I will go to Drop Caps and Nested Styles and in the Nested Styles area, you can see there is a character style called Phone and Fax Lead-Ins that's automatically applied through one colon, and that's how this automatic styling is accomplished.

In the Phone style, it's set up exactly the same way. Now, this is very convenient and easy. You pick a style from this list. You choose how far that style extends, through or up to a specific number of an ending criteria, at the end. So, it's very simple, structured and easy to use, but that structure is very rigid. All Nested Styles start at the beginning of a paragraph and they have to follow a very rigid uniform path through the paragraph.

Any variation from that and the style will not work as intended. Now you can easily re-create this exact same functionality in a GREP style. In fact, I am going to do that very quickly here. I am going to delete this Nested Style and you can see that fax is no longer styled in any of these paragraphs the way it was before. Now, I am going to do the exact same thing with a GREP style. I am going to create a new GREP style and I am going to apply the style Phone and Fax Lead-Ins.

When I click on here and notice it's highlighted, Any digit One or More Times, and not what I want. And if I am structuring this, much the same way as a Nested Style thinks about it, a Nested Style would consider this whole style to start at the beginning of a paragraph. So, I will choose the Location metacharacter>Beginning of a Paragraph and then after that I can type the word Fax and a colon and click off here. That's one way to do it. I could also type the Any Character metacharacter and then One or More Times followed by a colon.

That accomplishes the same thing. There are a few different methods for doing it in GREP, but depending on what you're comfortable with, this is no more or less effective than doing a Nested Style. Picking them from the list in Nested Styles is quite easy and if a Nested Style gets the job done for you, then by all means use a Nested Style. But unless there is a rigid structure that is uniform across the entire paragraph, a Nested Style is not going to adapt to unpredictable situations, the way that GREP can. And there is an example of what I mean, right here, in this paragraph.

This Ambassador's name is an Arabic name that begins with al hyphen and because InDesign allows even text with hyphenation turned off to hyphenate at a typed dash this name, which is a proper name, is being hyphenated and that's just not appropriate. It should all be on one line. So, I want to account for any instance of any of these names that start with al- and apply a No Break attribute to them. And this is not something I can do with a Nested Style because I don't know where this is going to occur in the paragraph. I can't set up a rigid structure.

So, I am going to cancel out of this and I am going to put my cursor in this line and it highlights the Ambassador paragraph style, in the Paragraph Styles panel. I will right-click on that, choose Edit Ambassador and I am going to go to GREP styles and create a new GREP style to fix this problem. I am going to click New GREP Style here and from the Apply Style menu, I am going to choose an existing Character Style out of this list called No Break. The only thing this does is apply the No Break attribute.

Everything else about the Typeface, Color, Size is left undefined. And what I want that applied to it is the Beginning of a Word from the Locations submenu, followed by al- and then Any Character, so I will type a period for Any character, because I don't know what's necessarily going to follow the beginning of that surname. I'll click off here and let's see what we get. Beautiful! It has kept those two together that name will not break and no other instance of that name will break anywhere else.

And I haven't had to define where it falls within the paragraph. I just want to make sure that it's at the Beginning of a Word, so that's why I included the Beginning of Word metacharacter. Let's take a look at how well this has fixed the problem document wide. I am going to go all the way to the end of this story and just move over here because I happen to know that there is an instance of this also under Yemen. This is another name that starts with al-, but it continues on with a different letter following it.

And it has fixed this too. I am going to actually select these letters and go up to the Control panel and you can see that the No Break attribute is applied to this and it was done dynamically by the GREP style. This is something that a Nested Style simply can't do because of its specific order and limited set of rules, but a GREP style can because it has no such limitations.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Learning GREP with InDesign .


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Q: In the “Dynamically fixing orphaned words with GREP” tutorial the author uses the term:
(?<=\w)\s(?=\w+[[:punct:]]+$)
In an earlier course the author described the + (one or more) modifier as unusable in a lookbehind or lookahead i.e. (?<=.+). What's the difference here?
A: The limitation mentioned in an earlier movie referred only to positive lookbehind and negative lookbehind. I was able to use the one or more times (+) metacharacter in the positive lookahead portion of the expression because that limitation doesn't affect either positive or negative lookahead. It's only when looking backward that GREP ignores the repeat metacharacters.
 
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