Learning GREP with InDesign
Illustration by John Hersey
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Understanding undocumented wild card "opposites"


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Learning GREP with InDesign

with Michael Murphy

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Video: Understanding undocumented wild card "opposites"

The Special Characters menu and the metacharacters for searching table in the InDesign Help files don't give you a complete list of all the metacharacters you can use. Several wildcard metacharacters are left out altogether. Let's take a look at some of these undocumented wildcards and what they describe. I'm zoomed in on the second page of this layout and my text cursor is inside of this body text and I am going to right- click on the style named Body Text in the Paragraph Styles panel and choose Edit Body Text. I am going to go GREP Style and create a New GREP Style.
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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

Understanding undocumented wild card "opposites"

The Special Characters menu and the metacharacters for searching table in the InDesign Help files don't give you a complete list of all the metacharacters you can use. Several wildcard metacharacters are left out altogether. Let's take a look at some of these undocumented wildcards and what they describe. I'm zoomed in on the second page of this layout and my text cursor is inside of this body text and I am going to right- click on the style named Body Text in the Paragraph Styles panel and choose Edit Body Text. I am going to go GREP Style and create a New GREP Style.

Once again, I'll choose the Yellow Highlight style, so that we can see what's going on on the page as I work. And when I click in here and my default is activated, as usual, but I want to leave that in here for now and quickly delete the plus at the end of that any digit metacharacter. So, it's just any digit and we can see that applied on the page. It really doesn't change anything. But if I select this lowercase d in the any digit metacharacter and type an uppercase D and click-off, I would change that metacharacter's meaning.

I have now described any character that is not a digit, which doesn't just mean letters. It means spaces, punctuations, literally anything that isn't a digit. This same convention of switching from lowercase to uppercase applies to several other metacharacters. I'll clear this out, click off here, go back in this field and if I wanted to describe, for example, a Wildcard that is anything that's not a white space. If I choose Any White Space, I get \s. We would change that to an uppercase S and click off.

I described anything that is not a white space, which means any character except a standard Spacebar space, a Tab, any of InDesign's custom white space characters. None of those are highlighted, but anything that doesn't meet the criteria for being a white space is highlighted. The same thing goes for any upper and lower case letter. Any uppercase letter is \u, but changing it to \U highlights everything that is not an uppercase character.

Any Lowercase character, same thing. \l is any lowercase character, \L is anything but a lowercase character. And the last of these is \w, which is Any Word character, meaning any upper or lowercase letter, digit or underscore would highlight all of that. But \W would change that meaning to its opposite, so all of my punctuation, spaces, anything that doesn't fall into the criteria of being a word character, is highlighted instead.

When you're putting together a complex GREP expression, it's good to know these wildcard opposites exist, because sometimes it's easier to describe something based on what it's not, rather than what it is.

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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