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If you're trying to line up text in columns, you might find tabs to be useful. I have my table of contents here in my cover and front matter file file from the exercise folder. I am going to zoom in here, and take a look at what's going on. I can see that these numbers at the end of each line don't line up properly. I can also see these blue characters in here. For example, the paragraph symbol at the end of each paragraph, a little dot where each space is, and then over here, this double angle bracket called guillemet; that's the Tab character.
That's how I know there is a Tab character there, and the reason I'm seeing those blue characters is because I have hidden characters turned on. You can make hidden characters visible or invisible by going to the Type menu, and choosing Show or Hide Hidden Characters, way down here at the bottom, or you can press Command+Option+I, or Control+Alt+I to do the same thing. However, when you're working with tabs, it's a good idea to have your hidden characters turned on, so you can see where those tabs are. I am going to go ahead and double-click here before the 3, and I am going to press a Tab, then I will add some more tabs in here; there we go.
And now you can see I have tabs before each of those characters, but they still don't line up. Well, that's because the tabs, by default, always go to the nearest tab stop. And the tab stops, by default, unless you have changed them manually, always go about every half inch across the text frame. You might be tempted to come over here and start adding additional tabs, but don't do it; let me delete those. There are three ground rules you need to keep in mind if you're going to be using tabs. First, never type a Tab at the beginning of a paragraph in order to create an indent.
That's what the Left Indent and the First Line Indent feature are for. I 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 a half inch, then set a tab stop where you want to put it. I am going to 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 probably use InDesign's table features, instead of tabs. I cover tables in a later chapter. And here, even though it's a table of contents, it doesn't really look like a table, so it's okay to use tabs.
Now let's set that tab stop. First, I need to select all the paragraphs that I want to affect; in this case, it's everything from that first paragraph down to the end. There we go. I've selected it. Now I will scroll back up, and set my Tab Stop. In order to add a tab stop, I need to open the Tab panel, and I can find that in the Type menu. But before I do that, I want to do a little trick; But first, I want to scroll up a little bit, just so I can see the top of this text frame. You don't have to do that, but it turns out to be really useful, because now when I open the Tab panel, it automatically snaps to the beginning of that text frame.
Otherwise, it'll just kind of be loosely floating around the page. To add a tab stop, all you do is click in this blank area along the top of the ruler, and when you click and drag, you can see a black line show up that indicates exactly where the tab stop is going to be. I'll move this one way over to the right edge of that text frame, and let go of the mouse button. All those numbers after the tabs are lined up. Unfortunately, they're lined up on the left edge, and I would like to have these lined up along the right edge. That's okay; I can do that.
While this tab stop is still selected -- you will see a little blue line around it -- I can go to the left edge of the tab stop, and click on the Right-Justified Tab icon. When I do that, it turns this tab stop into a right-aligned tab stop. Now the tab goes up to that point, and then all the text is flushed on the right side. I am going to drag that now a little bit farther to the right, to be up almost to the right edge of this column. If you know exactly where you want that tab stop to be, you can select it inside the Tab panel, and go over here to the X field.
I am going to change this from 26 picas, to 26 picas 6, and hit Enter, and you'll see that it snaps it exactly to that point. Of course, we can have additional tab stops as well. I'm going to create a new tab stop in the middle here, and then set that to be a center-aligned tab stop. I'll come down here, and add an additional tab. So I say Tab, and then I'll put some text; maybe the letter A, then another Tab, and then the number. Because this is a centered tab stop, as I type, the text will always be centered on that point.
In this case, that's not what I wanted to do; I just wanted to show you I could do it. So I am going to select all of that, delete it, and I'll also delete this tab stop. To delete a tab stop, simply drag it right out of the ruler. Pop! It's gone. Now I've removed that tab stop, but I only removed it from the one paragraph where my text cursor was. So I better come back here, and select all this text over again; there we go. I'll click up there, and then Shift+Click down here to select everything in between, and then remove that tab stop one more time. There we go! Now we are back to the way it's supposed to be.
This is looking pretty good. Let's go ahead and turn off Hidden Characters, because we know where the tabs are now. That looks pretty good, except the space is way too big. It's too hard for me to follow my eye across from the words to the number. It would be helpful to have maybe some dots, or something to lead my eye from one side to the other, and the keyword there is lead. What we want is a leader. I am going to Shift+Click up here to add that paragraph to my selection, and then I'm going to add a leader character.
To do that, I select the tab stop in the Tab panel; it's now highlighted. I can click in the Leader field, and then type any character I want. I'll press a dot, or a Period, hit Return or Enter, and you can see that I now have leader characters between the text and the numbers. This is really starting to look good, but there is one more problem just lurking in the wings, waiting to jump out at me. I am going to switch to the Selection tool, and I am going to change the width of this text frame.
I'll drag it a little bit narrower. What happens? Bad stuff happens. All the numbers break to the next line, because the tab goes as far as it can in this text frame, all the way to the end, and it still can't get to its tab stop, so it breaks to the second line. Well, that's just the problem with tab stops. To fix this, I would have to go in and move my tab stop for those paragraphs closer to the left, so that it'll fit on the line again. But there's one other solution you can do instead, and that is, instead of using a tab, you could use a right-align tab.
You can select a Tab inside of a text frame the same way you select any other character. I'll double-click on this to switch the Type tool, and then just drag over it. Now the Tab is selected, so I'll delete it. Now I am going to insert a special kind of Tab. I won't press Tab; instead, I'll press Shift+Tab, and Shift+Tab is a right-align tab. That is, it always aligns with the right edge of the margin. Right-align tabs are really helpful. Let's go ahead and replace some of these other ones as well. I'll replace that with a Shift+Tab, and this with a Shift+Tab, and this with a Shift+Tab; you get the idea.
Now all of these are aligned along the right edge of this text frame, so that if I change the text frame width, those numbers automatically stretch with them. In a later chapter, I show you how to make a table of contents, and automatically use that right-align tab. For now, though, you can see that these tab and tab stop features are essential tools that will take you a long way toward making sure your documents look good.
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