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Getting Started with InDesign

Instructions for the basic tools of Adobe InDesign, which you might use to create a flier, brochure or newsletter.

Getting Started with Text Frames

You can create text directly in the document or import it from an existing file. All text in Adobe InDesign resides inside containers, called text frames.  Text frames can be moved, resized, and otherwise manipulated. Also, text frames can be connected (or threaded) to other text frames so that if there is too much to fit into one frame, the text automatcially flows into another frame placed elsewhere on that page or another page. Text that flows through one or more threaded frames is called a story.

To create a new text frame, select the Type Tool from the Toolbox.  Click on your document where you want your text, drag a box with your mouse, and begin typing in the box.

Tip: If you can’t read your text as you start typing, go to the View menu and Zoom In, or change the font size, whichever is appropriate.

  • To move a text frame, select it by clicking on it once with the Selection (Pointer) Tool  (the black arrow located in the Toolbox).  Once it is selected, click and hold, then move it to the new position and release the mouse button.
  • To resize a text frame, select it by clicking once with the Pointer. Click on the “handles” on the border of the text block and drag until you have the correct new size.
  • To change font, color, etc., highlight the text and make the desired changes in the Options Palette at the top of the screen (under the menus). For other ways to change your text, see the Formatting Text section below.

Text Tool Option Palette

If you see a red plus sign in the lower right of your text box (see below), it means that there is too much text (or the font is too big) to fit inside the text box. Make sure you're on the black Pointer tool and then click and hold on one of the corner handles and drag the box until it is big enough to fit your text.

Inserting Text

Unlike most programs, InDesign doesn’t have an Insert menu. Even so, you can import text and graphics by going to the File menu and using the Place command.  You can place your text into preset text frames, or you can create a new frame as you place the text.

  1. Go to the File menu and select Place.
  2. Navigate to your document and click Open. Your cursor turns into the Place icon (). Click in your document where you'd like the text to be placed – the text box will fill the spaces between the margins. Remember, you can always move and resize it.
    • If you want the text to automatically flow to the next column or page, hold down the Shift key on the keyboard as you place your text and a slightly different icon will appear ().  Now pages will be automatically created as needed.
    • If you hold down the Alt key instead, you will still get the autoflow icon (), but it will not automatically create new pages. As you click on your document, if there is more text, the icon will remain. Click again somewhere else to place the rest of the text.
    • You can also designate the size of your text block by clicking and dragging a square as you place the text.
  3. Note that if you place text from Word, the Word styles will carry over and can be edited as described in the Formatting Text section below.

Threading Text Frames

In addition to having independent text frames, you can have text that flows between frames. Each text frame has an in port (in the upper left of the text frame) and an out port (in the lower right of the text frame).

  1. Create the text frames with the Type Tool as described above.
  2. To thread frames together so the text flows between them, click once on the out port of the first text frame, then click anywhere within the next frame (you should see a chain icon appear as you roll your mouse over the box to click it).
  3. When you add text to the first frame, if it’s long enough, it will automatically flow to the second frame. If you resize the first frame, the text in the second will adjust.

Formatting Text

Modifying your text is done in a similar fashion as in Word. The most common characteristics you will need to modify (such as font, size, alignment, etc.) are in the Text Tool Option Palette (right below the menus - see above for a picture) or are found under the Type menu or the Character Panel. To open the panel, go to the Window menu, select Types & Tables and then Character; or click on the Character tab in the set of panel groups to the right of the screen and the Character Panel Group will expand.  Make sure you’re using the Text Tool, highlight the text you want to change and go to the Type menu or Character Panel.

Especially for longer documents, you may want to create/edit styles, rather than change individual pieces of text. Styles define the appearance of text elements throughout your document.  Styles also allow for quick changes – if you change a style, any element identified with that style will then be changed throughout the document.

You can add effects to the text of a frame, such as a drop shadow, by going to the Objects menu and selecting the desired effect. For more information about effects, see the Adding Effects section on page 12 of the guide under the Indesign tab at the top fo the page. The effects work the same for text and graphics, based on what is selected.

*Note that with some fonts, you may not have as many formatting options as you would in Word.  For example, in InDesign, you may choose a font that you can’t make bold.  You would need to add that specific font (i.e., Comic Sans MS bold) to your system fonts.

Controlling Text with Styles

InDesign allows you to create both character styles and paragraph styles.  A character style is a collection of character formatting attributes that can be applied to text in a single step. A paragraph style includes both character and paragraph formatting attributes (such as centering), and can be applied to a single paragraph or multiple paragraphs. Paragraph styles and character styles are found on separate panels.

To create and manage paragraph styles,

  1. Go to the Window menu, then Styles and then Paragraph Styles.

  2. In the Paragraph Styles Panel, click on the new style icon () at the bottom of the panel.

  3. Double-click the new style, and the Paragraph Style Options dialog box appears. Give the style a name, (rather than just "Paragraph Style 1") by typing in the Style Name: box.

  4. Use the categories at the left of the dialog box to change tabs, justification, font, indents, color and so on.

  5. Click OK to exit the dialog box.

Now that you've created the style, apply it to your text by highlighting your text then clicking on the style.

Note that if you place text from Microsoft Word, the Word styles will carry over and can be edited as paragraph styles described above.

Use the same steps as above for character styles in the Character Styles Panel and the Character Style Options dialog box.  Character styles act just like paragraphing styles, but applying character attributes only, not paragraphing attributes.