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Now that we know how to use paragraph styles, character styles will be a breeze. There's one big difference between defining a paragraph style and a character style, however. Paragraph styles always define all the character and paragraph formatting: the font, the size, the indents; everything that describes a paragraph. But character styles are different; they can be set up to define just one attribute, like just the font, or just the size, or the size and the color, but nothing else. Let's see how it's done. I'm going to jump to the previous spread by pressing Option+Page Up or Alt+Page Up, and I'll zoom in on this bottom part of the page.
Because I'm going to be working with character styles, I better open the character styles panel, which I can find over here in the dock. Now, I have some character styles already created, but I'm going to start by creating a brand new one. And I'll do that not within the character styles panel, but instead, on the page. I like to make a character style based on an example. So I'm going to double-click in here, and select some text, and change the style of this. For example, I'll change the font, let's make this bold, why don't we change the size a little bit, and we'll change its color; it's always nice to change its color, so it really stands out.
Now that I have the example, I can make the character style. I'll place my text cursor inside the text, or you could select some of that text; it doesn't really matter. Then I'll go to the Character Styles panel, and choose New Character Style from the menu. All I have to do is give it a name. All the formatting from the text that I created in my example is sucked up here into the dialog box: the font, the style, the size, and so on. Now all I need to do is click OK. Notice that it created the character style for me, but it did not apply it to the text.
I need to apply it to all this text in fact, so I'll select that, and click. Every time I want to use that character style, I just need to select some text, and click; select some text, and click; select some text, and click. You get the idea. It's very easy to apply all that formatting quickly with one click. Now, I want to be really, really clear about something here: character styles should only be applied to one letter, or one word, or maybe a sentence or two; not an entire paragraph. This is really important.
A lot of people, I find, select an entire paragraph, and then apply a character style to it. That's not what character styles are for. Character styles are for only a piece of a paragraph. I'm going to undo that; I don't like even pretending to do it. If you need to apply formatting to an entire paragraph, use paragraph styles; that's what it's for. What if I want to edit that character style? The best way to edit a character style is to right-click on it, or Control+Click with a one-button mouse, and that brings up the context menu.
From here, I can choose Edit. Here in the Character Style Options dialog box, I can change it to something else. For example, let's pick a different color, and why don't we change this from Bold to Bold Condensed? Click OK, and you can see that everywhere in my document -- everywhere I used that character style -- it gets updated. Notice that I did not double-click on the character style to edit it. A lot of InDesign users try that, and they get themselves into trouble. The reason is, whenever you double-click on a character style, it applies it to any text you currently have selected.
It's really a problem when you have nothing selected. If I press Command+Shift+A or Control+Shift+A to deselect everything, and why don't I pan over here, so I have some space on the Pasteboard to work with, if I double-click on this word emphasis edit it, it opens up the Character Styles dialog box, and then I could edit it or not; you'll get the idea in a moment. I'll click OK, and now what happened? Well, it didn't look like I changed anything, but if I drag out a text frame, and start typing, all that text is in my character style.
Why? Because I double-clicked on that when nothing was selected on my page, it made that character style the new default style for this document. This is a trap that even advanced InDesign users fall into all the time. It's a real problem. So let's go ahead and delete that. You want to make sure the Character Style panel is set to None, unless you're applying a style to some text inside of a text frame. It's always tempting just to hit a keyboard shortcut to make some text bold or italic, but it's much better to use character styles. For example, I have italic and bold character styles that I've created here, so if I want to make something italic, I select the text, and click on the italic character style.
This is particularly important if you know that you're going to be repurposing your document for EPUB, or HTML, or that you know that you're going to need to reformat the whole thing later for some other purpose. Character styles make the process of reformatting a document really a breeze, as long as you remember to use them.
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