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When and how to track


InDesign Typography

with Nigel French

Video: When and how to track

Okay, we've looked at kerning examples, and when you might kern. Now let's look at when you might track. So I have some examples of different tracking scenarios. Firstly, let's say we want to create some sort of headline treatment, and we would like to experiment with the tracking values. What I am about to say is a very big generalization, so I caution you, but the generalization is this: when you're working with serif typefaces, they tend to look better when loosely tracked.
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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

When and how to track

Okay, we've looked at kerning examples, and when you might kern. Now let's look at when you might track. So I have some examples of different tracking scenarios. Firstly, let's say we want to create some sort of headline treatment, and we would like to experiment with the tracking values. What I am about to say is a very big generalization, so I caution you, but the generalization is this: when you're working with serif typefaces, they tend to look better when loosely tracked.

So on the left, we have no tracking applied, in the middle, loose tracking, which I think makes the serif typeface -- in this case, it's Trajan Pro -- look very elegant and sophisticated. And on the right, not so successful. We see the serifs of the letter forms colliding; tight tracking. Now, perhaps we could say that the opposite is true when we work with sans serif typefaces. These tend to work better when there is tight tracking applied.

So on the left, no tracking, loose tracking in the middle, and then tight tracking. And the reason here is that we are using a sans serif typeface to create a density in our type, and we are loosing the density with the loose tracking, but by bringing the letter spacing as tight as the leading, the horizontal spacing, we are creating a real impactful density to our type that is lost in this example in the middle, and which is lessoned with no tracking in the example on the left-hand side.

Let's move on and look at another example of when we might want to apply tracking. In this case, I am going to apply tracking to fix a spacing problem, specifically to fix that orphaned word that occurs at the top of page 3. So here what I want to do is select the whole paragraph, four clicks, and then I want to apply a modest amount of tracking. Now, the key here is we don't want anyone to know; this is our secret, so we want to apply as little tracking as possible, so it's very important that before we do this, we make sure that in our Unit & Increments, we have our kerning and tracking preference set up to the smallest amount possible: 1/1000 of an em.

Incidentally, any QuarkXPress users out there, if you're equating these values to the values that you are used to using in QuarkXPress, the InDesign values are five times more sensitive, so that a value of five in InDesign is equivalent to a value of one in QuarkXPress. Okay, end of digression. My paragraph selected, I am going to press Alt+left arrow or Option+left arrow, and I am going to keep pressing it, and you can see that as I do so, my value is going to change here.

Keep pressing it as many times as necessary until I bring that word down to the bottom of page 2. Now, in such a scenario, how much can you apply and get away with it without anyone noticing? And I'd say you have to find your own personal standard here, but I would advise that anything up to -10, no one is going to notice. Anything between -10 and -15, that's marginal, and you may get away with it. It may be the lesser of the evils, but possibly you might want to find an alternative solution.

But anything more than -15, and then that is going to show, so you definitely, in that case, need to find another solution to your spacing problem. Now incidentally, and related to this, I am going to turn on my guides, I am going to go to my Normal view, and there is useful preference relating to your kerning, and your tracking, and that's the ability to be able to see, at a glance, with green highlighting where kerning and tracking has been applied. So I am going to come to my Preferences, and to Composition, and then check, Custom Tracking/Kerning, and I can now see at a glace with green highlighting.

Now of course, I just did it, so I knew it was there, but this is a useful thing to have on, especially if you are inheriting a document from somebody else, and you want to see where they may have applied kerning or tracking. Maybe their standards aren't as rigorous as your own. Or if you have, throughout the course of producing a document, you've reluctantly applied kerning and tracking, because it seemed like the lesser of the evils, and typography is very much about compromise. It may have, at the time, seemed like a worthwhile compromise, but maybe something about your document has changed. Maybe the text has been edited, so that that compromise is no longer necessary.

With this highlighting, you can spot at a glance where the tracking has been applied, and if necessary, go back and remove it. That brings me on to my next point, and here we have two pieces of text that are, to all intents and purposes, identical. Now, on the left-hand side, I have achieved a tight letter fit using tracking. On the right-hand side, I have achieved the same look, a tight letter fit, but using word spacing and letter spacing.

I would argue it's preferable to do it the way I have done it on the right-hand side, and that's because if you do it this way, if you apply tracking to everything, then you cannot use the preference that we just saw on the previous page to show you where the tracking has been applied as an exception, because when you turn it on, everything is going to be in green, and not just the exceptions. So rather than select your type, and come and apply -10 tracking as I have done there, what I did instead was, through the Justification dialog box, I reduced the amount of Desired Word Spacing, and also the Letter Spacing, the Minimum, the Desired, and the Maximum amount of Letter Spacing, and that gets the same end result, but with the added benefit of being able to see where custom tracking has been applied as an exception. And I may want to do that here; I may want to bring that last word back up to the previous line, in which case I can select the paragraph, Option or Alt and my left arrow, we see the green highlighting immediately appear, and then I can, with -7, so that's within my comfort zone, -7, I can bring that word back up to the next line.

Just one other thing relating to tracking, and that is that we have the ability to adjust specifically and only the spacing between the words, and not the spacing between the words and the characters. And that's what we have going on here in this example, in the middle, where only the word spacing has been adjusted, and you can see that indicated by the custom tracking and kerning composition preference that is turned on. So if you just need to tighten up the word spacing, here is how you can do it.

I am going to select this top example, where no adjustment has been made. The keyboard shortcut for this is Command+ Option+Shift and the Delete key. That's Control+Alt+Shift and the Backspace key. And when I do that, we automatically see the highlighting come on, but it's only the word spacing that's being adjusted, and not the letter spacing as well as the word spacing, which is what will happen when you apply tracking. And if we just want to compare those different results without any guides or highlighting on, that's how they look.

It's not often that I need to do that, but every once in a while on a headline I do find it a useful thing to have up my sleeve. So there we see some examples of tracking, and adjusting word spacing, and tracking for aesthetic reasons, tracking to fit the spacing problems, the issue of achieving a tight letter fit for a word spacing and letter spacing as opposed to tracking, and the issue of highlighting where the custom tracking and kerning has been applied for a composition preference, and then finally, the ability to adjust only the spaces between the words.

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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