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Do you sometimes feel like you've run out of design ideas for creating tables that are interesting and maybe a little out of the ordinary? Well here's a little trick you can use to create tables that are different and that no one will believe or done an InDesign. Here's a table where if we look closely the cells don't have rectangular corners. At each intersecting point of row and column strokes a small circle has been added that changes the corner appearance. Let's take a closer look and see how this was done. I'm going to switch from Preview mode to Normal mode so we can see what's going on and if we click on each of these circles we will see that they are anchored objects.
But where are they anchored to? Well the best way to find out where an object is anchored to is to go to the View menu and use Show Text Threads. Now we normally use this feature to see how text frames are threaded, but you can use them with anchored objects to see where an object is anchored to. And here we can see that each of these circles is anchored to the beginning of the text in the cell to the right of it. What's important here is that the distance from the left side of the cell and the top of the cell, the insets, are set the same for all the cells in the table that have a circle anchored to them.
So if I open up the Cell Options, you can see that the Top Inset is 1p2, the Left Inset happens to be the same measure, but it's not so important that the top and left are the same as each other within a single cell, what's important is that these insets are the same in all of these cells. So they all have the same top and the same left inset. By having the same inset that allows us to anchor this object to essentially a consistent location.
Now let's take a look at the Anchored Object Options for one of these circles. I'm going to go to the Object menu to Anchored Object > Options and let me translate this sometimes hard to read dialog. The reference point is the circle and the reference point in the circle is the center which makes a lot of sense because we're trying to line it up with the intersection of the strokes. The anchored position or the reference point is to the left here but to the left of the anchor marker.
Most of us that use Anchored Objects are used to using them with the text frame or maybe a column edge, but you can anchor objects relative to the marker itself, and that's what we've done here and because of the distance from the top and left is the same in all of the cells the position of this circle will be the same consistently throughout the table. I am going to click OK. Once we've established the anchored position of our first circle it's a good idea to create an object style of this. I'm going to open the Object Styles panel and we have our object style little circles.
Now this object style was really easy to make. After we anchor the first circle we just click on the New Style icon here and just like we can define a style by using formatted text or define a paragraph style by using formatted text we can do the same thing with an object style. So it's really pretty straightforward, the style picks up the color and most importantly the anchor position of this little circle. Now let's start from scratch. I'm going to turn to the next page and here we have a table that doesn't have little circles, but we have a circle sitting here.
So the first step is to anchor this circle in the first cell. In CS4 and CS5 the way that we anchored this circle is to click on it and before I do anything else I'm going to apply the object style. What that'll do is make sure that when I anchor it it's in the right position already, so I don't have to keep applying the style. So that's one thing to keep in mind that will speed things up. In CS4 and CS5 we select the object and cut or copy it into the Clipboard, I'm just going to copy this and then we position our text cursor at the anchor point and paste, and here's our circle in the correct location.
I am going to undo that, in CS5.5 we have this little anchor icon that little blue icon on the object, and we can just drag it over in front of the first cell. Now when we do that the position that the circle is in now acts as an override on the object style, so I am going to just clear that override, and now I have the circle in the right place. So regardless of which version you are in or the exact method that you use, the trick is here that we have the object style already applied so the circles are in the right position.
Next we want to copy the circle into the Clipboard so that we can paste it into the other cells in the table. How do we do that? Well, there's a couple of ways, one is we can just click on the circle and copy it and that'll put it in the Clipboard along with its anchored object position and then we can paste it. But sometimes you can't select the actual object itself and there is another way to get to anchored objects and that's to use our good old friend the Story Editor. If we look in the Story Editor we will see that there is a very clear icon here for anchored objects, and I could just go into Story Editor, select this anchor and then copy it into my Clipboard, and you can use that for any anchored object not just in tables.
So one way or the other we want to copy this into the Clipboard so that we can paste it. Now this table is pretty small and it wouldn't take long to paste this little circle into all the cells, but if you had a table that was very large it could get really tedious and there is actually a way we can speed this up tremendously. We don't have to copy and paste it into each cell one-by-one. I am going to undo the position of this first little circle. It's copied into the Clipboard which we've already done and its anchored position is there, and we are going to use a GREP Find/Change routine that will put this into the table for us really quickly.
I am going to select the cells that need to have the circle anchored into them and we're going to go to the Find command, Command or Ctrl+F, and we have in here already a GREP Find/ Change routine that's going to position these circles for us. Let's take a look at what this GREP code really stands for. In the Find what field, in fact I will delete that. In the Find what field we want to go to the location of the beginning of paragraph because InDesign sees each cell, and the text in each cell as the start of a paragraph.
Then we want to find any character, the first character that's in that paragraph, in the Change to field, and I'll delete that out, the first thing that we want to put in is the contents of the Clipboard, and then we want to put in the character that we found in the Find routine. The other thing that's important here is that we want to limit it to the selection. Now my selection became undone, so I'm going to reselect these cells.
Now this is switched to Story. That's not what I want. I want to limit this Find/ Change routine to the selection. I am going to live dangerously here and just click Change All, see what happens. 16 replacements made, and boom, we are done. Remember, we can also save this Find/Change routine and then it'll be available on our menu here. I am going to switch back into Preview mode and there we go.
This looks pretty good. Hopefully this technique will give you some inspiration. Try this along with a little imagination and some other shapes maybe rectangles, diamonds or other ornaments and make your tables look not only out of the ordinary but very extraordinary.
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