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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.
Paragraph styles affect the formatting of an entire paragraph. But what if you want to just change one word or one sentence? In that case, you need character styles. For example, let's zoom in on this page here and I can see that some of the text is in Latin. I'd like to change the formatting of that text. Now, I could just select that text and change its formatting, change its style, its color or whatever. But because I'm going to be using that same formatting throughout my document, it's much more efficient and reliable to create a character style.
To do that I use my Character Style panel. Because I am in the Advanced workspace, the Character Styles panel shows automatically in the dock on the right side of the screen. If it weren't there or if you weren't n this workspace, you could always find it by going to Window menu and choosing Character Styles from the Styles panel menu. Once the Character Style panel is open, we can create a new character style by choosing New Charter Style from the panel menu. In the New Character Style dialog box, I'll give this a name. You'll see that currently no formatting is applied to this character style.
That's because I did not have any local formatting selected on my page. If you do have some text selected on the page that has some local formatting, that formatting will show up here in the dialog box for you already. But in this case I didn't have anything selected, so we're starting from scratch. I'll go to the Basic Character Formats pane and I'll specify what I want my formatting to look like. In this case, I am going to click in the Font Style field and just IT for Italic. It guessed the rest for me. I'll also change the color. Let's change the color to something nice, like this dark blue.
When I go back to the General pane, you can see that all the settings I made show up here. Now, if you are used to making character styles in QuarkXPress, I need to explain something very important to you. Character styles in InDesign are very, very different than they are in QuarkXPress. Specifically, in QuarkXPress a character style includes all the formatting. That is, the font and the style and the size and the color and everything is included in the character style. But in InDesign you can be more specific. Here in InDesign, I made this character style only change the style and the color.
Everything else here is blank. That means I could apply the same character style to different fonts, different sizes and so on. It will simply ignore everything that's blank here. Now, if I go in here and change the Size to let's say 18 points, now InDesign is going to apply 18 points to all the text that I've applied this character style to. If I later decide that was a mistake and I don't want to change the size, no problem, simply select it and delete it. Once again, anything that's blank is ignored.
I'll go back to General, make sure that's right and click OK. Now, there is something bad about what just happened. I need to point this out to you, because this gets a lot of InDesign users in trouble. When you make a character style while nothing is selected on your page, sometimes the character style becomes the default style. I can tell that by looking at the Character Styles panel and seeing that the style I just made, Latin, is highlighted. It shouldn't be highlighted. When you have nothing selected on the page, you want to make sure None is highlighted.
Otherwise, you're sure to get yourself into trouble. Because if this is highlighted, every new text frame I create from now on is going to get the Latin character style applied to it. So, that's a big problem. I have been using InDesign long enough that I've just trained myself to always look at the Character Styles panel, after I've made a character style to make sure nothing is selected here. I'll click None and now I am okay. Let's try out our character style. I am going to double-click over here inside this text frame, so I can switch the Type tool. Then I'll double click and drag to select the Latin text that I want to apply my character style too. Let's try it out.
I'll click Latin, and it looks pretty good. Let me try it over here. Click Latin and it looks pretty good. I can do this as many times as I want and I know that the style is always going to be exactly the same. Now that I'm done, I showed this to my art director. She says, this is not supposed to be italic it's supposed to be bold italic. Let's make this green not blue. So, can we edit our character styles? Absolutely. One way to edit the character style is by right clicking on the character style or Ctrl+Click with a one-button mouse, and you get a context menu.
I'll choose Edit from the context menu. Up comes the dialog box, and let's go ahead and change it. Instead of Italic, I am going to make this Bold Italic. Instead of that blue, I'll change it to green. Click OK, and you can see that it updated everywhere. Now, let me show you one more way that you can edit your style. This is my personal favorite way to edit a style, so just select the text on the page and change it. I'll press Command+6 or Ctrl+6 to jump to the first field of the Control panel. I'll change the font to let's say Myriad Bold Italic. There we go.
Hit Enter, so it changes the font. Let's go into the Swatches panel, and now let's make it yellow instead. That looks pretty good. The reason I like editing styles this way is I can actually see what they look like without having to go to the dialog box. Once, I get the text looking just the way I want, I simply place my cursor inside of it, go back to the Character Style panel, and from the panel menu choose Redefine Style. Redefine Style looks at where the cursor is on my page. If there is any local formatting, like the font and color that I just changed, it takes that and applies it to the character style.
So that you can see that I've edited the character style throughout the entire document. Now, there is one more thing that I absolutely must tell you about character styles. Character styles are for applying to one word or a couple words or sentence or something. But in general you should not be applying these to an entire paragraph. If there is formatting that you need to apply to a whole paragraph, use paragraph styles instead.
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