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This course explores the powerful but occasionally mysterious table features in InDesign, illustrating how they can be used efficiently and to their best advantage. Author Diane Burns demonstrates how to set up a table, format it using Table commands, and capture that formatting in table styles as well as how to work with images and update the information in tables without losing formatting. The course also shows how to use tables that don’t look like tables to offer solutions to layout problems, like setting up images and captions or simplifying complex text frames.
One of the most fundamental characteristics of a table is its underlying grid. If you keep this in mind and at the same time try to free yourself from thinking table equal spreadsheet, there are all kinds of layout challenges that can be solved with tables, and they have nothing to do with spreadsheets. I would like to show you one example where an InDesign table ended up being the perfect solution for what would have been an otherwise onerous layout challenge. Can you find the table on this page? Well, it's actually a series of images and captions on the right-hand spread.
If we zoom in a little closer and I'm holding down the Z key to get the zoom tool, I'll tell you what made this a bit challenging. I am going to turn off the background layer so we can see it a little more closely. And I will switch from Preview to Normal view. Now because this layout required that the images were stacked on top of each other, a table would have been a good solution in any case, but what really came in handy here was that all around the edge of each photo, as well as the caption, is a hairline stroke in table terms.
Let's zoom in even a little bit more. There it is, if you think about trying to line up all these images and captions and then have borders on them it would have been really hard to do with just regular image and text frames. And it turns out a table was a perfect solution. Let's take a look at this table in more detail and see exactly how this was done. I am going to turn to the next page and we will zoom back a little bit and here's the table with the images out of it.
I will go into Preview mode for just a moment and you can see the hairline stroke or rule around each of the image frames and where the caption falls. Now this table doesn't look anything like a spreadsheet. I am going to switch to the Type tool by pressing the letter T and take a look at it. It is a one column table with six row and they're all a fixed height. If we look at the cell that holds the images, we can see that it has the correct settings to put images in to table cells.
That is, all of the Insets have been turned off. The first-base line is set to fixed, and the Vertical Justification aligns to the bottom. That's going to position the image or in this case the image frame that goes in the cell, in a position where we can actually see it. The thing about the cell is that we've checked on Clip Contents to Cell. Let's take a look at the images in their frames. There are no fitting options here, because each image was selected by the art director and positioned in a different way, so none of our preset fitting options really worked for this.
Some of these images were scaled, they were cropped, and each one is different from the other, but they're all sitting in an image frame. Now before the table was created, the image frames were actually put inside the table frame here, then the images were placed and positioned and scaled. I am going to make the strokes on this table a lot wider than they are in the original design, so you can see a little more clearly what's going on. I will set all the strokes to be pretty thick let's do three points.
So that's the basic structure of the table with strokes around all the cells. I will go back into Normal mode and I'll just copy this image and then click in the cell and paste it. Same thing for this one, same thing here. What made this a really nice solution too for this layout is if the designer needed to slightly change the width of the column essentially it could be done very easily and we don't have to worry about the strokes here.
I'll select the type tool and you see if we just wanted everything to be a little bit wider, it could be, or a little bit narrower, it could be, and because the cell is set to Clip the Contents to the Cell the image is still cropped, and it's very close to being in the correct position. Now, if you see this is widened very much, you may want to readjust the images, but it's really easy to do. This is amazing, there is no other way you can could close to creating this layout with this kind of flexibility, unless you use a table.
Even if we turn off all the strokes on this table, we still have a nice grid for images and captions. I am going to do that now. Also I want to point out that when you have an image in a cell and the contents are clipped or even if they're not, it's really hard to get your arrow to the edge of the cell to select it there. I finally got it. But in this case I usually find myself just going down to the cell where the caption is. So we will turn off all the Strokes, I am going to select the entire table let's do that now, Option+Command+A or Alt+Ctrl+A, try this again.
Now I have a proxy for the entire table, and I turn the Strokes off of course by setting the Weight to 0. And you see even without the rule around it, this is still a nice solution. I will get rid of these extra images so you can enjoy seeing the result here. Now I'm not advocating that every time you have an image with the caption underneath that you use a table. But there are definitely times when it's something to consider even if you have a grid or stack of images like this, it can be a really nice solution, because of course, this whole thing moves around in one piece.
And if you thrown in an element like putting a border around all of these images and captions, a table frankly I think is the only solution that you can use. So I hope this example gets you thinking about tables in a little bit different way than maybe you did previously. Think about their characteristics, the fact that they create a grid that strokes can be turned on or off, and in any part of the grid and just enjoy using tables to make your layout life a lot easier.
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