InDesign Typography
Illustration by John Hersey

Working with text frames


InDesign Typography

with Nigel French

Video: Working with text frames

In this movie, we are going to look at the anatomy of a text frame, and I am using this very simple, straightforward, text only document to illustrate these points. And I have my hidden characters turned on, so firstly, let's talk about hidden characters; what are they, and why are they useful? Hidden characters, we can see when I zoom in, come in the form of paragraph marks at the end of each paragraph, raised dots between the words to indicate word spaces, and I have a couple of more also visible.
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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

Working with text frames

In this movie, we are going to look at the anatomy of a text frame, and I am using this very simple, straightforward, text only document to illustrate these points. And I have my hidden characters turned on, so firstly, let's talk about hidden characters; what are they, and why are they useful? Hidden characters, we can see when I zoom in, come in the form of paragraph marks at the end of each paragraph, raised dots between the words to indicate word spaces, and I have a couple of more also visible.

Here is a forced line break or Shift+Return to carry the March 4, 1933 down to the next line, and a hash mark, which indicates the end of a story. So your hidden characters are good preventative medicine for avoiding spacing problems. I recommend that you work with your hidden characters turned on. If you do get tired off looking at those, you can, so as long as you are not in your Type tool, press your W key, and that will switch you to Preview, hiding not just your hidden characters, but also your guides.

W will turn on the guides and hidden characters again. But let's specifically talk about text frames. When I select this text frame -- I am now going to zoom out to my Fit in Window view -- we can see that it has handles on its corner points and its center points. I can use these handles to resize the text frame. Then I am just going to undo that. If I wanted to move the text frame, I will move my cursor within the frame, and then click and drag.

We see that it also has a rectangle at top right that is yellow, and if I click on that, I can edit the shape of the corners. I can go from a rectangle to a rounded rectangle, or use other corners effects, but we are not going to do that right now. In the case of this text frame, this is part of a text thread, which is to say that this story starts on Page 1, goes to Page 2, it continues on Page 3, and through to Page 5, and we can see that on the Pages panel. A visual cue that this is part of a text thread comes in the form of this blue arrow down here, which is in the out port.

The out port is the larger square at the bottom right of each text frame. Now if I zoom back out again, and we look at the top left, we can see that we have the in port. At the beginning of the story, the in port is blank, indicating the beginning of the story. If I now go to Page 2, and I select the text frame there, we see that we have the blue arrow indicating that this is part of a text thread. Now, if I carry on through to Page 5, and I select the text frame on Page 5, the out port at the bottom right is empty, indicating the end of the story.

So that's part of a text thread. Back on page 1, zoom in on this small text frame. This is a single story text frame, and this text frame has a hash mark indicating the end of the story, and we see both the in port and the out port in this text frame, because it starts and ends within the same frame. Now, how do we draw these text frames? There are several ways. The easiest and most commonly used way is to use your Type tool, and I am going to choose my Type tool just by pressing its single key shortcut, the T key, and then click and drag, there's a text frame, and I can now type into that text frame.

But we can also draw our frames using the Rectangle Frame tool. When I use the Rectangle Frame tool, or any of its associated shapes -- either Ellipse, or Polygon -- then we will get an X in that frame indicating that we need to put some content in there. When you use the Frame tools, you do so with the intent of putting content in those frames, and if you are, you're now in your Type tool, and then you click, you see the X disappears, and we can now type into the frame.

If, on the other hand, you use the Shape tools, you draw the Shape tools with the intent of using them as graphic shapes in their own right, be they rectangles, be they ellipses, or polygons. Having said that, there is nothing to stop you, once you have drawn these, going to your Type tool, and clicking inside them, and then typing into them. You will notice that the shape of your type cursor will change according to whether you are over this text frame or outside it. When I am over it, you will see the text cursor bulges. When I move outside of it, it does not bulge.

So over it, bulging type cursor, click, and then I can type into that frame. But generally speaking, we are using the Type tool. There may be occasions when you want to map out the different content areas of your page before you have that content actually ready, in which case it might be a good idea to use the Rectangle Frame tool. We will be using both methods. I do just want to point out a preference though, and that it is this one; if I come to Preferences, and now on Windows that's at the very end of your Edit menu, and then to Type, the preference is this one: Type tool Converts Frames to Text Frames.

Now, with that on, we can do what I just did; we can click inside a Rectangle frame, and it becomes a text frame. If I turn that off, then when I draw myself frame, and I'm in my Type tool, I cannot convert that to a text frame. Some people prefer to work this way; personally I prefer to have the option of always converting these into text frames. So I do not change that. I will leave that turned on.

Relating to frames are Guides, and we can drag down guides from the rulers, or across from the rulers, horizontal, or vertical guides, and we can see that here, slightly misplaced, I have a guide that indicates the baseline, and I am going to put that -- the baseline being the invisible line on which the type sits-- I am going to align that with the baseline of the text in the main text frame, and then selecting the other text frame, I am going to nudge that down, I will slightly reposition it, so that its text also shares that same baseline.

So there are simple use of guides. These guides, once they have been drawn, can be selected, they can be moved to a new location, they can be positioned numerically, and they can also be deleted, either on a case by case basis, or if you come into the Ruler, right-click, you can choose Delete All Guides on Spread, and they are all gone. One important aspect of text frames that I've forgotten to mention until now, and that is overset text. We are going to be seeing quite a lot of this.

I am going to indicate overset text using this independent text frame. When I click on it, and then I make it smaller, or I type more text into it, both of those things are going to cause the text to become overset, i.e. there is more text than we can see. An overset text is indicated by this red plus. So I now need to take some action, and that action can be deleting text, or it can be resizing the text frame.

In InDesign CS6, there is now the possibility of setting your text frames to Auto-Resize, and we will be looking at that, but the default behavior of a text frame, if it is not threaded -- if it is not part of a text thread -- is that if you make it smaller, or if you add more text to it, the text then becomes overset, requiring further action on your part. So those are the basic aspects of a text frame, the handles, click and drag within it to move it, use your Type tool to click and drag to create a text fram,e and then these various different visual cues that we have to indicate whether the text frame is part of a thread, or whether it is a standalone story.

In the coming movies in this chapter, we will be looking at different text flow methods, and different aspects of working with various bodies of text.

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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