How to Use Liquid Layout in Your Digital Designs
Using Liquid Layout
Designing and adapting layouts so they look good on different devices can be quite a challenge, and using Liquid Layout can help you meet this challenge. Nowadays, it's likely that your interactive documents are going to be viewed on devices like cell phones and tablet computers with different screen sizes and orientations. Creating new layouts for each scenario can be a huge challenge since you need to make your content look good no matter where it's viewed. There are several new features in InDesign CS6 devoted to helping you adopt layouts and deliver them for different screen sizes and orientations.
In this chapter, we'll take an introductory look at all of these new features. And if you're interested in a more in-depth look, check out Anne-Marie Concepcion's InDesign CS6 New Features in the lynda.com online training library. Anne-Marie has a whole chapter devoted to flexible layouts, with almost an hour of new content. In InDesign, Liquid Layout is both the name of a new panel and a group of rules that you use to adjust the layout when you change the size of a page. It's basically an upgrade of the old Layout Adjustment feature with lots of new options.
And there is a lot to learn about Liquid Layout, but we will take a look at some very simple examples just so you can grasp what's going on here. So here we have a page with just one placed photo and one text frame and I've duplicated the page four times, so we look at what happens to each of these items when we change the page orientation from vertical to horizontal using each liquid page rule. I am going to click on the Page tool, and at first I notice a few things. First of all, up in the control panel I can see the current page size is set to 1024 x 768, which corresponds to the iPad preset and it's in Landscape mode.
But what I am really interested in here is this menu, the Liquid Page Rule, which is currently set to Off. The other main thing I notice when I select the Page tool is that the page itself has control handles, just like frames do. If I go ahead and click and drag one of those handles, I can see the page size change, but nothing else moves. And when I let go of my mouse button, the page snaps back to its original size. Now the reason nothing moved is that Liquid Page Rule I have selected is Off. I have to pick a different Liquid Page rule to get some results.
Also the reason that the page snapped back is that I have to add a modifier key to make the page-size change stick. I have to hold down Option on the Mac or Alt on the PC when I let go of my mouse button. So I'll do that now, hold down Option or Alt, and you can see the page size changed. I am going to undo. Let's try some Liquid Page rules. So the first I'll pick from the menu is Scale. If I drag the page with the Page tool, you can see that both the photo and the text frame scale up and they scale down, so they always fit inside the page.
I can hold Shift to constrain the page dimensions. Keep that in mind as I click the button in the control panel to switch to Portrait mode. You can see that InDesign shrunk the page objects to keep them inside the page boundaries. Now let's go to page 2, starting out from the same point, and for this page I'll choose the Liquid Page rule Re-center. I'll click on page 2 with the Page tool and as I drag the page, you can see that the objects always try to stay centered, no matter how big or small I make the page.
When I click on Portrait, you can see that they stay centered but now they're hanging off the sides. So Re-center has no regard for whether objects stay on the page or not. It's probably most useful in cases where the page size is increasing for this reason. Now I'll go to page 3 and for this page, we are going to try a Liquid Page rule called Object-based. When I click on an object now with the Page tool, you can see that it gets a thick border around it that's in the same color as the layer, and I have these lines going through the object and these circles around all four sides.
So what do these things mean? Well, the dotted lines inside the frame control whether the object can resize horizontally or vertically, and I can click anywhere on the dotted line to change it from fixed to flexible. So right now I see the spring, meaning it will be flexible when it resizes vertically. If I click, now there is a padlock icon on there, so it's fixed vertically. I can click again to make it flexible. So let's see what happens when both the height and width of a photo are locked. I'll click both of the lines to lock both dimensions and resize the page.
And you can see that text frame changes size, but the photo never does. Now, the circles outside the frame are for pinning it in relation to each page edge. So when I click on the circle, it gets filled in. Now this photo is pinned to the top edge of the page, and I can also pin it to the left side. Now if I click and drag the page, the photo always stays pinned to the top and left. Now what would happen if I were to pin the object to opposite sides of the page? Right now the height of the photo is locked and it's pinned to the top.
But what if I pin it to the bottom as well? It can't be both fixed-height and pinned to both the top and the bottom; something's got to give. So when I click and drag, you can see what happens: the photo scales and it stays pinned to the top and bottom. So where there's a conflict between spacing and sizing applied to an object, the spacing wins out. Also notice that you can't pin an object in relation to another object. There is no line between the photo and the text frame. You can only pin objects in relation to the page edges.
So let's pin both of these frames to the top, and I'll also make sure the photo is pinned to the left edge and not to the bottom. And we'll allow both objects to resize. And now we'll change to Portrait mode. You can see that both objects kept their relation to the top edge and the photo also stayed pinned to the left edge. Both objects also resized, because we allowed that. Sometimes it can be hard to see whether an object is fixed or flexible, and it can be tricky to click in just the right spot to pin or unpin an object.
If that's the case, you can use the Liquid Layout panel to set any of these attributes or to select a different Liquid Page rule. So over here in my panels I have my Liquid Layout. I can see my Page rule that's applied and choose a different one if I wanted to, and when I have an object selected, I can also see which dimensions have been constrained and where it's been pinned. Let's go to the next page. And we have one more Liquid Page rule to check out, and that's Guide-based. CS6 introduced a new kind of guide called a liquid guide. You create liquid guides by selecting the Page tool first and dragging out a guide.
I will undo. Or if you have another tool like the Selection tool, you can drag out a guide and then click on it to change it to a liquid guide. You can always tell a liquid guide from a ruler guide, because a liquid guide is dashed and a regular ruler guide is solid. Objects that are touched by a horizontal liquid guide will resize vertically and objects that are touched by a vertical liquid guide will resize horizontally. And this sounds very weird when you say it out loud, but it makes a lot more sense visually.
So let's demonstrate by using the Page tool, and here I have a vertical liquid guide. It's over my photo, and as I drag the page, the photo's width changes but its height never does. And notice that the frame doesn't resize around the guide. It doesn't matter exactly where the guide is, as long as it touches the photo. The guide is just a means of marking a page item to tell InDesign it is okay to move and resize the item. I am going to switch to my Selection tool, I am going to remove this liquid guide, and I am going to drag out a horizontal one.
I'll click to make it a liquid guide. Now this liquid guide intersects both the photo and the text frame. Now with my Page tool, I'll drag again, and you can see that both items resize vertically but not horizontally. I can also add a couple of vertical liquid guides, and now both objects are allowed to resize vertically and horizontally.
So when I switch the document to Portrait mode, both frames resized. And I get some decent results. It's not perfect. The text frame has some overset text down here that I'd need to fix, and it's not quite as good as Object-based. But it's still better in most cases than using the Re-center or Scale rules. In addition to the four Liquid Page rules we just saw, you probably also noticed another item in the Liquid Page rule menu called Controlled by Master. Docking the pages with this Liquid Page rule applied will follow whatever rule was applied to their master page.
There's no doubt there's a lot to learn when it comes to adopting layouts to different screen sizes and orientations. Keep your initial explorations very simple, with pages that have just a few page objects on them, like this, and it will be much easier to understand Liquid Page rules. Another thing to keep in mind is that these tools may not be able to completely handle the task of adapting your layouts. You probably will still have some manual work to do in addition to setting the Liquid Page rules to get everything where you need it to be on resized pages.
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