Join David Blatner for an in-depth discussion in this video Setting first baseline options, part of InDesign CS4 Beyond the Basics.
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Where do you want the first line of text to sit inside your textframe? For example, I have my Bliss_Magazine document open from the Exercise Files and I am going to press Shift+Page Down a couple of times and I will zoom in here so we can look at this first line of text inside this frame. Now most InDesign users just fill a frame with text without giving the exact location of that first baseline a second thought. But whenever quality and precision counts, you need to control every aspect of your text including its vertical position. Here's how to do it. Select the frame with the Selection tool, go to the Object menu and choose Text Frame Options or press Command+B or Ctrl+B on windows. Inside the Text Frame Options dialog box, click on Baseline Options.
Here the first feature, First Baseline, lets us control exactly where that baseline is going to land. The Default value is set to Ascent, which means look at the ascender in this particular font. The ascender of course is anything that sits above the X height of this font. So the height of the L in this case is going to determine where the baseline of the first line is going to sit. If we change this to something different, for example, X height, you can see that the baseline moves pretty dramatically. Now is the X height, which is the height of all these lower case characters.
What if we choose Cap height? Well just as you would expect the height of a capital letter is aligned along the top of the text frame and some other characters stick out just a little bit and some go under but the one that I use most often are Leading and Fixed. Leading is great because if you are working with a strict Leading Grid, you know that the top of this frame down to the first base line is exactly the size of your Leading Grid unit, which is the same thing of course as the distance from this line to the next line and so on. So it gives you a lot of precise control on your page.
I typically use leading for most of my text frames whenever I have a bunch of text in a frame. Well let me show you another use for Fixed. I am going to create a new text frame here, which is going to be a caption underneath this image, and I am just going to say, "This is a scoop". I can't see it very well because it doesn't have any text wrap. So do a Command+Option+W or Control+Alt+W, hit Escape so I can select the object itself and give that some text wrap and press the keyboard shortcut again to make that disappear. Now I can really see that I have a caption inside this text frame. I will press Command+Shift+C or Control+Shift+C on Windows to center that text inside the frame and now the last thing I want to do have exactly five millimeters of space between the bottom of this image and the baseline of this caption. Why 5 millimeters? Because that's what my Art Director told me to do. Often times, when you have a strict design, you have these measurements that you need to pay attention to. Exactly five millimeters from here down to the baseline. So how are you going to do it? Well it's not that hard once you know how. First I am going to drag this text frame up until it snaps against the bottom of the graphic frame. That's a new thing in CS4. The smart guides thing that will snap one object against another.
The next thing I need to do is control how far down this is from the top of this text frame. We already know how to do that, right? We go to Object menu, choose Text Frame Options, come over to Baseline Options and we can say that we want this to have a fixed first baseline offset and the fixed amount is going to be five millimeters. Click OK and it snaps exactly to that five millimeter point. So we know that if this is five millimeters from the top of the text frame, the text frame is 0 millimeters from the image itself. So the caption is exactly where it needs to be. I am going to show you one other trick having to do with setting the first baseline in a frame. I will zoom out to fit page in window with a Command+0 or Ctrl+0 on Windows and I will go next page by pressing Shift+Page Down. In this design, I would like this first line of this text frame to be at exactly 100 millimeters down from the top of the page. I want it to be exact, so I need to use the Text Frame Options dialog box to do that, but in this case I am not going to use first baseline offset, I am going to use a Baseline Grid. Let me show you. I will select this text frame, I will go to Object > Text Frame Options and I will choose Baseline Options.
I am going to ignore the First Baseline feature here and instead I am going to use a Custom Baseline Grid for this text frame. I am going to say I want this Custom Baseline Grid to start at exactly 100 millimeters down from not the Inset but the top of the page. So this Custom Baseline Grid is going to start exactly 100 millimeters from the top of the page, just right around here somewhere, and it's going to do it only on paragraphs that have the Align to Baseline Grid turned on. So I have setup the Custom Baseline Grid here for this frame. Click OK. Now I will double click on that first line, which of course switches to the Type tool, and while the cursor is flashing inside that paragraph, I come up here to the Control panel and turn Align to Baseline Grid.
Now we know that the baseline of this paragraph is exactly at 100 milimeters and we know that because it's snapping to the first line in the Baseline Grid and the first line was at 100 millimeters. That is just a little trick that I learned from my friend and colleague Rufus Deuchler and it really helps when you are trying to be precise in laying things out on your page. In fact when people say that InDesign gives you an incredible amount of control over your text, this is the kind of thing that they mean. When you need precision, InDesign has the tools for you.
- Automating with Data Merge and XML
- Optimizing page layouts
- Using advanced effects
- Creating interactive documents
- Integrating with Illustrator