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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.
I want to zoom in on the upper-right corner of this page here, to this table of contents, and I'll double-click between the a and the 4 and press the Tab. When you press the Tab key on your keyboard, the text indents a certain amount. By default, it's a half-inch. Now Tabs can be helpful for setting the horizontal position of some text in the line. But if you are going to use Tabs, you have to follow three ground rules. First, never type a Tab at the beginning of a paragraph in order to create an indent. That's what the Left Indent and First-line Indent features are for.
We talked about those earlier in this chapter. Second, never type two Tab characters in a row. If you want your Tab to take you farther than that half-inch, then set a tab stop. I'll show you how to do that in just a moment. Finally, if you're using Tabs to make something that looks suspiciously like a table, it probably is a table and you should use InDesign's table features instead of Tabs. I cover tables in a later chapter. Now all that said, if you still want to use Tabs, like here in this table of contents, we probably do, here is what you do.
I have typed the Tab in here, but now I want to set a tab stop to determine where that 4 should go. I am going to scroll up very slightly, go to the Type menu and choose Tabs. That opens the Tabs panel. Now why did I scroll up first? Because InDesign will place the Tabs panel in kind of random places, unless InDesign is displaying the top of the text frame. Now for some reason, if it does show up in a different place, like down here, all you need to do, to set it back to the top of the text frame, is to make sure there's enough room for it above the frame, and then click this little icon.
Looks like a horseshoe, but it's actually a magnet. It means snap it to the top of the frame. To add a tab stop, all you need to do is click up here in the ruler. Now that it's there, I can drag it to the left or to the right and notice that as I drag it, I get a black line in my text frame. That's showing me exactly where in the frame this tab stop is going to position the 4. There are four different kinds of tab stops I can use. Right now, I am using a rightalign tab stop. That means the right edge of the 4 is going to be aligned at that position.
But I can also change this to a left aligned tab stop, by clicking this first button over here, a center align tab stop, or a decimal align tab stop. Decimal align tab stops are useful when you're doing things like accounting, where you want to align decimal numbers, for example, this 4.25. I'll move this over to the left, and you can see that wherever that tab stop is the InDesign is going to position that decimal point. In this case, however, I'm doing a table of contents, not on accounting spreadsheet. So I'm going to change this to a right align tab stop and move it over here to the edge.
Now if I know exactly where I want this, I could replace this number up here. Let's say I want it at exactly 2.5 inches. So I'll type 2.5 in and then hit Enter and you can see it positions that tab stop. Now when a Table of Contents like this I probably want to fill that space with something, maybe dots. That's called tab leader ad you can add a tab leader by first clicking on the tab stop that you are trying to affect, coming up to the Leader field, and entering whatever character you want to put in there. In this case, I'll just put a dot and hit Enter. There is my tab leader and as my tab stop changes, the tab leader updates.
The problem with tabs and tab stops is that sometimes the width of your column changes. Let me show you what I mean. I am going to move that out of the way, choose the Selection tool, and then I am going to make this text frame smaller. When I do that, you can see that the 4 breaks on to the next line. It's trying to get out to that tab stop, but it can't get there, so it breaks to the next line. That's pretty ugly. In this case, I'd have to go in and change my tab stop. So wouldn't it be cool if there was a kind of tab stop that would always go to the right margin, no matter where that right margin was? Well, there is.
It's called the right indent tab. Let me undo this with Command+Z or Ctrl+ Z on Windows, and I am going to select that tab stop. This is actually an important thing about Tabs. Tabs actually are characters. In fact, I can go to the Type menu, choose Show Hidden Characters, and you can see a little blue icon there for my hidden character. So that's actually a character that I can drag over and then delete. So back to what I was saying. I want to place a right indent Tab, rather than a normal Tab. I can get that by going to the Type menu, choosing Insert Special Character and then Other.
There it is, Right Indent Tab ,and you can see that the keyboard shortcut is Shift+Tab. Shift+Tab adds a right indent tab and you can see that the 4 is pushed all the way to that edge, and now as I drag this frame smaller or wider, you can see that the 4 always moves with that edge. That's incredibly helpful when you are trying to layout a page quickly. But here is the weird part. If you think about it, where did those dot leaders come from? Well, when you use a right indent tab, InDesign picks up the tab leader from any tab stop that's inside this ruler.
If I get rid of that tab stop, the leader goes away. Let's go ahead and add one back in again. To do that, I simply click anywhere in here, doesn't matter which, because the right indent tab is going to pick it up from anywhere. Come over here and press dot and then Enter. There we go, great! That's looking pretty good, except that those dots are really clunky looking. So once again, I want to remind you a Tab is a character and I can select that Tab character, come up to the Control panel, and change its size. And when I do that, it changes the size of every dot in that dot leader.
To make those dots move farther apart, I simply change the Tracking value. I'll bump that up to 200 and now you can see that the tab leader is looking much more elegant. Setting tabs and tab stops are typically important in creating table of contents, indexes and other long documents that have some structure. These essential tools will take you a long way toward making sure those documents look good.
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