InDesign Typography
Illustration by John Hersey

Table tips and tricks


InDesign Typography

with Nigel French

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Video: Table tips and tricks

In this movie, I am going to give you some miscellaneous pointers to help you work with tables. And the first of those is that InDesign has Table Styles and Cell Styles. The good news is that they do speed up our working with tables somewhat, the bad news is that of all the different styles we have in InDesign they are perhaps the least successfully implemented. Just before we get to those let me point out that when you are working with a table, as soon as you select as a table, you will then get a different Control panel with some different options on it.
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  1. 4m 4s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Customizing the workspace for type
      2m 18s
  2. 9m 25s
    1. What is Typekit? (CC 2014.1)
      1m 56s
    2. Choosing and syncing fonts (CC 2014.1)
      3m 6s
    3. Syncing problems (CC 2014.1)
      1m 43s
    4. Typekit resources (CC 2014.1)
      1m 5s
    5. Using the Font menu (CC 2014.1)
      1m 35s
  3. 55m 41s
    1. Working with text frames
      8m 26s
    2. Using a primary text frame (CS6 and later)
      3m 59s
    3. Understanding text flow methods
      6m 25s
    4. Understanding text threads
      3m 40s
    5. Understanding Smart Text Reflow
      2m 27s
    6. Mocking up pages with placeholder text
      5m 47s
    7. Placing multiple text files
      3m 50s
    8. Using Auto-Size text frames (CS6 and later)
      4m 1s
    9. Copying and pasting vs. placing
      2m 25s
    10. Cleaning up text with Find/Change
      5m 46s
    11. Using the Story Editor
      3m 41s
    12. Spanning columns
      5m 14s
  4. 48m 34s
    1. Choosing your type
      6m 46s
    2. Understanding text essentials
      6m 37s
    3. Scaling type
      2m 27s
    4. Using italic and oblique type
      4m 33s
    5. Working with condensed and extended type
      4m 26s
    6. Setting type in all caps
      3m 46s
    7. Setting type in small caps
      4m 21s
    8. Underlining type
      4m 11s
    9. Using superscript and subscript
      4m 35s
    10. Applying baseline shift
      4m 8s
    11. Combining typefaces (CC 2014.1)
      2m 44s
  5. 16m 6s
    1. Understanding type anatomy
      3m 25s
    2. Exploring serif and sans serif
      2m 48s
    3. Comparing points, picas, and ems
      8m 34s
    4. What's in a name?
      1m 19s
  6. 16m 27s
    1. Setting leading
      4m 56s
    2. Avoiding auto-leading
      4m 12s
    3. Leading shortcuts and preferences
      4m 7s
    4. Using autoleading with inline graphics
      3m 12s
  7. 21m 25s
    1. Defining kerning and tracking
      2m 5s
    2. Understanding kerning methods
      5m 10s
    3. When and how to kern
      5m 53s
    4. When and how to track
      8m 17s
  8. 48m 42s
    1. Working with quotes, primes, and apostrophes
      8m 16s
    2. Using dashes
      5m 24s
    3. Using ellipses
      2m 56s
    4. Working with accents and special characters
      4m 1s
    5. Using space characters
      4m 15s
    6. Working with ligatures
      4m 29s
    7. Setting fractions
      3m 56s
    8. Using lining and proportional numerals
      2m 49s
    9. Using alternates, swashes, and ornaments
      5m 2s
    10. Working with optical sizes
      4m 40s
    11. Stylistic sets (CC 2014.1)
      2m 54s
  9. 57m 20s
    1. Understanding alignment
      3m 47s
    2. Working with left-aligned type
      3m 24s
    3. Working with justified type
      7m 5s
    4. Using Optical Margin Alignment
      3m 39s
    5. Determining column width
      4m 53s
    6. Working with center alignment
      5m 36s
    7. Working with right alignment
      1m 22s
    8. Aligning to or away from the spine
      1m 50s
    9. Understanding the Paragraph Composer and Single-line Composer
      3m 44s
    10. Combining alignments
      9m 20s
    11. Using hanging punctuation
      2m 13s
    12. Working with vertical alignment
      10m 27s
  10. 14m 9s
    1. Using first-line indents
      2m 26s
    2. Using indent alternatives
      2m 3s
    3. Working with left and right indents
      4m 0s
    4. Using last-line indents and outdents
      1m 26s
    5. Using paragraph spacing
      4m 14s
  11. 23m 19s
    1. Setting hyphenation
      6m 14s
    2. Working with line breaks and discretionary hyphens
      4m 48s
    3. Balancing ragged lines
      1m 36s
    4. Using the No Break feature and non-breaking characters
      2m 52s
    5. Using frame, column, and page breaks
      3m 42s
    6. Defining Keep Options
      4m 7s
  12. 37m 53s
    1. Understanding tabs
      8m 58s
    2. Considerations for table text
      3m 55s
    3. Table tips and tricks
      11m 55s
    4. Creating a bulleted list
      6m 50s
    5. Creating a numbered list
      3m 46s
    6. Creating a multi-level numbered list
      2m 29s
  13. 23m 12s
    1. Understanding drop caps
      11m 3s
    2. Navigating tricky drop caps
      5m 14s
    3. Using a nested character style with a drop cap
      3m 59s
    4. Other uses of drop caps
      2m 56s
  14. 1h 11m
    1. Understanding paragraph and character styles
      7m 13s
    2. Creating, applying, and editing styles
      7m 3s
    3. Removing overrides
      4m 58s
    4. Creating and applying character styles
      5m 4s
    5. Creating and applying nested styles
      12m 30s
    6. Using GREP styles (regular expressions)
      4m 8s
    7. Creating and applying sequential styles
      6m 19s
    8. Using paragraph rules creatively
      11m 48s
    9. Mapping Word styles
      6m 12s
    10. Working with anchored objects and object styles
      6m 24s
  15. 25m 30s
    1. Applying a text wrap
      6m 7s
    2. Making items ignore a text wrap
      1m 46s
    3. Using text wraps for flexible layouts
      3m 2s
    4. Working with difficult text wraps
      8m 39s
    5. Inverting text wraps
      2m 7s
    6. Setting text wrap preferences
      3m 49s
  16. 29m 33s
    1. Choosing a page size and setting margins
      6m 33s
    2. Setting up columns
      2m 53s
    3. Dividing a page into rows
      3m 27s
    4. Setting up a baseline grid
      5m 40s
    5. Handling baseline grid problems
      3m 37s
    6. Baseline grid tricks
      7m 23s
  17. 44m 26s
    1. Working with type outlines (CC 2014.1)
      6m 50s
    2. Creating an interlocking effect (CC 2014.1)
      3m 31s
    3. Fusing letterforms (CC 2014.1)
      7m 15s
    4. Type and gradients (CC 2014.1)
      4m 57s
    5. Type and transparency (CC 2014.1)
      1m 50s
    6. Type on a path: Circles (CC 2014.1)
      4m 48s
    7. Type on a path: Calligram (CC 2014.1)
      6m 16s
    8. Vertical type (CC 2014.1)
      2m 58s
    9. Type and image: Gradient (CC 2014.1)
      1m 38s
    10. Type and image: "See-through" type (CC 2014.1)
      1m 8s
    11. Type and image: "Disappearing" type (CC 2014.1)
      3m 15s
  18. 12m 19s
    1. Looking at screen documents
      4m 2s
    2. Setting size, leading, and line length onscreen
      3m 13s
    3. Exploring typefaces designed for the screen
      3m 36s
    4. Accessibility: Contrast and color
      1m 28s
  19. 28s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course InDesign Typography
9h 20m Intermediate Aug 03, 2012 Updated Nov 12, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Explore the numerous type options, type-related features, and type-specific preferences of Adobe InDesign. Using practical, real-world examples, instructor and designer Nigel French dissects the anatomy of a typeface and defines the vocabulary of typography. The course moves from the micro to the macro level, addressing issues such as choosing page size, determining the size of margins, adjusting number columns, and achieving a clean look with baseline grids. This course takes you from laying out a page to delving into the hows and whys of typography.

Topics include:
  • Understanding text threads and text flow methods in InDesign
  • Using Copy and Paste vs. Place
  • Choosing and combining typefaces
  • Understanding leading and how it relates to type size and column width
  • Comparing points, picas, and ems
  • Learning the proper use of white space and break characters
  • Understanding the finer points of kerning and tracking
  • Working with punctuation, special characters, ornaments, and ligatures
  • Aligning text
  • Applying global formatting with paragraph, character, and object styles
  • Refining spacing with indents
  • Creating drop caps
  • Avoiding common problems associated with justified type and text wraps
  • Setting up margins and columns
Nigel French

Table tips and tricks

In this movie, I am going to give you some miscellaneous pointers to help you work with tables. And the first of those is that InDesign has Table Styles and Cell Styles. The good news is that they do speed up our working with tables somewhat, the bad news is that of all the different styles we have in InDesign they are perhaps the least successfully implemented. Just before we get to those let me point out that when you are working with a table, as soon as you select as a table, you will then get a different Control panel with some different options on it.

We also, for working with Tables, have the Table panel which gives you the same options that are available on the Control panel. So I tend not to use this, but some people prefer it. Grouped with the Table panel are the Table Styles and Cell Styles panel. We can also get those from the Window menu > Styles > Table Styles. So I have a Table Style already set up and the thing about Table Styles that makes them rather confusing is that if we look at this one, Table Styles incorporate Cell Styles.

Cell Styles in their turn, incorporate Paragraph Styles. So we have Paragraph Styles within Cell Styles within Table Styles. There is a lot to get set up in order for it to work, and even when you do set it up and what I have done here is I have taken this finished table, converted it back to text, and I'm now going to reapply the Table Style that is applied up here, and we'll see that when I do so, Convert Text to Table, and when we do so, we have the option of applying a Table Style if we have one.

But we get that as our result. Not perhaps what you're expecting, certainly we're a long way from being finished. What it does do is it does apply the alternating row strokes, it does apply the Paragraph Styles to the relevant table cells, well, most of them it gets right, there is a few where it's got it wrong. But we still have quite a lot of cleanup work to do. We still need to merge certain cells together, and most importantly we are going to need to adjust the width of our columns.

Now if I wanted to adjust the width of just one column, I can hold-down the Shift key, so I can pull that out. I am not going to redo this, I'll just do a little part of it. I'll pull that out, making it as wide as necessary for all of the team names to fit, and then I realize that this has the wrong paragraph style, I am also overset, so I need to increase the size of my text frame, and I am going to come back I'll make that a little bit wider still holding down the Shift key as I do so because I just want to affect that one cell.

And I can't go any further because I can't narrow the cell to its right anymore. So I am going to select all of the table cells to the right of that and to the Table menu and choose Distribute Columns Evenly. Having done that, I can now make that one a little bit wider, and a little bit wider still, this first one can become narrower, and you see that gradually we are sort of pulling this back into shape, and I need to apply the appropriate paragraph style there.

This one here, if we merge that together, and then we make it into a header row then that looks right. So you see while the application of Table Styles and Cell Styles has helped, there's still some heavy lifting to do in terms of adjusting the column widths and merging cells together. My second tip for working with tables is that when you are working with tables, you use the Tab key to navigate from one cell to the next.

Now you probably knew that already. If you press the Shift+Tab, you move backwards. So, that brings up the question, what do you do for those rare instances, and they are pretty rare, when you need to actually insert a Tab Stop into a table? Well, should you need to do so, you can come up to the Type menu > Insert Special Character > Other > Tab, and you can actually insert a Tab Stop rather than just navigate for one table cell to the next. When working with table cells, there is a distinction between selecting the cell content and the whole cell, and it's an important distinction, and if you are confused about it, you might end up copying one table cell, or row, into another, which is probably not what you intended. So here is that distinction.

If you want to select for the content, you double-click or in this triple-click in that cell. Now if you want to select the whole cell, then you press the Escape key. I mentioned in an earlier movie how useful the Story Editor is for fixing spacing problems, and that's especially true when working with tables. When you start out with a table, and you convert tab-delimited text to a table, you may likely find that you have table cells that are overset as indicated by that red dot, and it's impossible to edit the content of that text without making the cell bigger or maybe you just want to see what's in there before you do anything to it.

So you can just insert your cursor in the table and then press Command+Y, or Ctrl+Y, and that will give you the table content. Often, that's an easier place to edit the table in the Story Editor where the table is indicated by this symbol and where you can click on that little arrow to collapse the table or expand it within the context of the story. So, let's take a look at this finished table, and if you have to do a table like this yourself, you have my sympathy, it's no fun just try and be as methodical about it as you possibly can.

And it's important here when you have a lot of information in a table to try and keep the vertical stress that runs through the table as consistent as possible. And by that I mean if I draw myself a Guide to Last Name, you can see that that also marks this second column here in the table beneath it, and I have tried to keep that stress consistent, going down through the table. Now obviously when we get to this area here, we split into more horizontal cells so that's not possible, but just try and limit the potential for confusion.

You'll notice that in these fields where the user is required to input their information, there is some light shading, and if I just turn off my Guides, you can see that, a nice technique just to indicate where they should type their information. This is actually achieved through the use of a Paragraph Rule, and I will be having a movie specifically about Paragraph Rules and the various interesting things we can do with them, but I just wanted to point this out while we are here, if I jump to my Paragraph Rules, which are right there, or Command+Option+J, Ctrl+Alt+J, we can see there are two rules here.

There is a Rule Above, which is this light shading, this orange color at a 15% Tint that is at the width of the column. There is also a Rule Below, which is set to Paper, and it's just a convention with Paragraph Rules that the Rule Below goes on top of the Rule Above, a bit counterintuitive. That's why the Rule Below is the white rule, and that blocks out that portion of the orange tinted rule.

Anyway if you are interested in that, you can open this document and check out the spec on this, but as I said, I will be going into this and other paragraph rule techniques in that specific movie. Okay, so now for a couple of tips on how to use tables in unexpected, but useful ways. I'll turn off my Guides, and we'll go to the next page, and we are going to start out at the top of the page where we want to put a color tint or solid color behind a given paragraph, as we have in the example on the left.

I mentioned Paragraph Rules and how useful they are if you want to put a solid line or a tinted line or if you want to have your text reverse out of a rectangle, they work great if you are working with a single line, but they don't work if you have a multi-line paragraph. So when we do, have a multi-line paragraph we can use a table instead. And what I am going to do is I am going to select that paragraph, but I am not going to select it with four clicks as I usually do, I am going to turn on my Guides, I have my hidden characters shown, we can see that paragraph mark.

I am going to make a selection that does not include the paragraph mark. Usually, you do want to, in this case, you don't. And then I am going to come to the Table menu and choose Convert Text to Table, go with the default options, and that's what it will give us. I can now move to the top-left of that table cell and select it, come to my Swatches panel. I'll start out by exchanging the values, so we now have a Black Fill, no Stroke, and then I'll change the color of the Fill to Cyan, and if I also want to give the Table an Inset, which I do, I am going to come to the Table > Cell Options > Text, I'll make sure in this instance that my chain is unbroken, and I'll increase the Offset to 9 points and the table cell will grow to a accommodate that text.

The next technique is useful if you ever need to create movie style credits, the kind of which you see at the bottom of movie posters, and I have two versions of this here. And the reason I do is because as is the convention with these things, I am using a very compressed version of universe, but the chances of you having that for yourself are remote, so you're probably looking right now at lots of text with pink highlighting that indicates missing font.

For that reason, I have converted it to outlines. So you can see what it is I am talking about. In doing that, things did shift a little bit as they do sometimes have a tendency to do when you convert them to outlines. So here, if I turn on my Guides by pressing W, you can see that this is nothing more than a single row, four column table, and that's allowing us to have this side by side with the larger text, so we get to split the baseline of columns 1 and 3 and run that side by side with much larger text.

One final tip for working with tables is that now in InDesign CS6 we have the ability to create interactive forms, and if you are creating interactive forms, you will want to come to the Window menu > Interactive > Buttons and Forms, and from the Buttons and Forms panel menu you can choose Sample Buttons and Forms to bring up a library of checkboxes and other potentially useful form fields. So there we have a grab bag of interesting table, tips and tricks, and I hope you can integrate at least some of these into your table workflow.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about InDesign Typography .

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The exercise files provided aren't working in my version of InDesign (CS4, CS5, or CS5.5). What should I use?
This course was recorded using InDesign CS6. For InDesign users working with CS4, CS5, or CS5.5, IDML files are provided.
Q: Where can I learn more about graphic design?
A: Discover more about this topic by visiting graphic design on
Q: This course was updated on 11/12/2014. What changed?
A: We added 18 new movies, primarily in the "Using Typekit" and "Type Treatments and Effects" chapters. These movies describe new and enhanced typography features in the latest release of InDesign CC, and are indicated by the "(CC 2014.1)" tag in their names.
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