Join Anne-Marie Concepción for an in-depth discussion in this video 1. Customizing InDesign to claim its power, part of InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros.
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When you get a new car, don't you usually start by adjusting your mirrors and your seats? Or like if you get a new bike, you adjust the seat and the handlebars? Or even, if you get a new desk, you put your pens and your markers in the left and you put your coffee cup on its little placement on the right and you adjust your monitor and how far away it is from you and so on? Well, design and production pros do the same thing with their software. I mean, think about it. If you're going to spend 5-10 hours a day working with InDesign, you might as well customize it to your liking.
I want to cover two main areas of customizing InDesign, custom workspaces and custom keyboard shortcuts. When you're customizing either of these, it makes no difference if you have a document open or not. They are permanently saved with your program. So the first thing, let's talk about are workspaces. As you know, there are a few different built-in workspaces with Adobe InDesign. These workspaces were put together by the engineers at Adobe. They're thinking well, if somebody's working on a book, here are the panels that they probably want to work with.
If somebody is working with creating interactive PDFs, then they probably want these. The one that most people use as a default is the Advanced panel. But for example, if you very seldom ever use the Gradient panel, then why are you letting it take up space here? This would be like having a stapler on your desk and you never staple anything. So get rid of it. Move the Gradient panel out of here and close the Gradient panel. Take some time to modify the panel dock on the right and maybe to reorganize their order to the way that you like to work.
Here's another thing that you might want to do. In the Links panel, which I think that every InDesign user uses, the Links panel by default only shows the Name, Status and Page Number of Links of placed pictures and graphics. But if you go to Panel Options, you can choose to show much more in the top area of the Links panel. Like for example, you might want to see the Effective resolution, the Scale amount, the Color Space, the Format, such as, if it's EPS or PSD.
A lot of people who work with layers would love to be able to see at a glance which layer a certain placed item is on to make sure that they've put all their graphics on the graphic layer, for example. Now, none of this will get saved. If I ever choose to reset the Advanced workspace, all this will get wiped out. Let me enlarge this so you can see the columns now. If you want to save this setting, then I would need to save it in a custom workspace. So at some point, add the panels that you work with a lot to the panel dock. Get rid of the panels that you hardly ever use, take them out of the panel dock.
Of course, you can always open then on the fly, right, from the Window menu. I'm not saying you're deleting them permanently from the program. Then make them all look nice and neat and then save them in a custom workspace. So go to the Workspace Switcher from the Application bar and choose New Workspace. In here I'll just call it My favorite workspace. That way, the next time that I sit down and I'm working on a project and I'm dragging stuff out of the panels and maybe I'm working on an interactive project.
So I'm working on Page Transitions and I've got the Swatches panel over here because I'm cycling through different Swatches and things are all messed up, and I want to quickly get back to a workspace that suits me the best, and that's nice and neat. I can just come up here and choose My favorite workspace and then Reset My favorite workspace. And there it is and all my links, customizations are saved and so on. If you ever decide, you know what, I actually use, let's say, the Info panel a lot, but it's not part of this workspace. How would you edit this workspace? There is no edit current workspace command. All you do is go ahead and tweak your current workspace however you'd like, and then come up here and choose New Workspace and give it the same name. That's why there is a dropdown menu here.
So My favorite workspace, say OK. A workspace with that name already exists. Do you want to replace it? Yes please. There you go. So that's how you edit a current workspace. Now what about custom keyboard shortcuts? Every InDesign professional at least once in their life creates custom keyboard shortcuts. Let me switch over to the Mac side where I have a document open. For example, in this workspace, let's say that I'm working with InCopy and one of the panels that I work with a lot in InCopy is the Assignments panel. A command that I use a lot in the Assignments panel is Update Selected Assignments or Update Out-of-Date Assignments, but there is no keyboard shortcut for that. If you are constantly going for the same menu item, and there is no keyboard shortcut for that, or maybe you're constantly using a menu item that you can't memorize like Paste in Place. It's hard for you to memorize this keyboard shortcut then you should create a custom keyboard shortcut.
To do that, go to the Edit menu, down to Keyboard Shortcuts and start by creating a New Set. You can't edit the Default Set, which is fail safe if in case you mess things up, you can always go back to the Default Set. Choose New Set and it's based on the Default Set, I'll call this Anne Marie and then add the keyboard shortcut that you want. Now, if I wanted to add that keyboard shortcut for a panel item, then you look in the Product Area and go down to Panel Menus. They are in alphabetical order according to the name of the panel. So Assignment appears first here, but if I scroll down you can see there is the Character panel and the Effects panel.
So what I'm looking for in the Assignments panel is Update Out-of-Date Assignments or Update Selected Assignments. You can see that neither one of these has a keyboard shortcut. So I just clicked in the New Shortcut field and type in a shortcut. It has to be a modifier key plus another key. So for example, I'm on the Mac, so I get to use my handy-dandy Ctrl key. I'll use Ctrl+U, which is currently assigned to unassigned. Now if, let's say that for some reason, I press Command+U, which turns Smart Guides on and off. If this is a keyboard shortcut that I never use anyway, whenever I want to turn Smart Guides off, I'm in the habit of going up to the Application bar and turning it off from the little widget up here. Then you can just go ahead and use it. There is nothing wrong with overwriting an existing keyboard shortcut that's used for something that you hardly ever use. It doesn't delete that feature, just means you can't use the keyboard shortcut for that anymore.
However, be careful about doing something like this. I'm going to press the Delete key on my Mac keyboard, which is the same as the Backspace key on Windows. I've seen people do this because they want to clear out a keyboard shortcut that they don't want to use, and instead, InDesign interprets it as this is the key that you want to use. You can see it's currently assigned to Clear. In other words, delete, which means that you could never press the Backspace or the Delete key to delete a selection. You would always have to go to the Edit menu and choose Clear. So you don't want to do that. I'm going to go back to Ctrl+U. Just remember to click the Assign button.
If you clicked OK here, it would not remember what you just did. So click Assign so that it appears here under Current Shortcuts. While I'm here I'm going to add a couple of more keyboard shortcuts that I recommend that you use. Like, for example, if you are a fan of Dynamic Spellcheck. The spell check that puts a red squiggly underneath misspelled words or repeated words so that you can do a spell check on the fly. There is no keyboard shortcut to turn that on and off. So go ahead and add one. Now, Dynamic Spellcheck is an easy one, because it's inside the Edit menu.
If the command is inside a menu then you just have to go to the name of the menu here, where all of the commands that are possible to do in that menu appear in alphabetical order. So if it's preceded by a menu command with one of those fly-out menus, then you'll see it appear separated by these colons here. So I'm looking for Spelling: Dynamic Spelling. Then I want a keyboard shortcut that will turn that on and off. Let's try Ctrl+D here, and I'll click Assign, and I'll do one more.
One keyboard shortcut that drives me crazy is the W key which is the keyboard shortcut for switching from Normal View to Preview and the problem is that if you are currently typing some text and you press W, it's just going to enter W, it's not going to switch you to Preview. So I'm going to change that. Now, the toggle command for switching between the two is actually in the Tools Product Area because it's coming from the bottom of the Tools panel. So in the Tools panel, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you'll see it says Toggle view setting between default and preview.
You can leave that there if you'd like so that in case somebody is used to using the W, it still works. But you can add another shortcut. You can have multiple shortcuts for the same command. In here, I'll just press Ctrl+W. Why not that? Right. So now either one of these will work and I'll click OK and now if I want to-- I'm going to check out the story so I can edit it and zoom in, and I want to do a Dynamic Spellcheck. I can just press Ctrl+D and InDesign automatically puts a squiggle underneath the misspelled words and the repeated words.
If I want to update this assignment, I just select it and press Ctrl+U, which updates the assignment. I'm going to go to Fit In Window with Command+0 or Ctrl+0. I am going to close the Assignments panel and now let's look at this in Preview. Do you remember what that was? That was Ctrl+W, right, even though my cursor is blinking in the text frame. So there is absolutely no reason why you should accustom yourself to how Adobe thinks you should work, how Adobe thinks the panel dock should look or what the keyboard shortcut should be. You need to make the program work according to how you like to work and that's why Adobe built in all of the ways to customize both the workspaces and the keyboard shortcuts.
- Exploring styles to help with design
- Building custom defaults
- Working with auto bullets and syncing to save time
- Using keystrokes and Quick Apply
- Creating and applying Masters intelligently
- Mastering autoflow in InDesign
- Managing links effectively