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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.

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Handout Description

This handout covers basics of Adobe InDesign, a page layout program. You'll see how to setup and change the document layout, including adding multiple pages. You'll also learn to work with text, images, and shapes. 

Getting Started with InDesign Handout (this is for an older version of InDesign, but the handout remains almost entirely accurate)

An external resource we recommend is InDesign Secrets features several templates, videos, tuturials, and other tips and tricks for the more advanced user. This site will transfer you away from the Library Guides page.

Using Tools

The InDesign Toolbox (shown to the left) will appear on the left side of your screen when you open InDesign. To find out the name of a particular tool, hold your mouse over the tool until the yellow tip pops up. If a tool has a small arrow in the lower right corner, it has more than one option.  Click and hold on the tool, slide over to the option you wish to use, and release the mouse. If you’d like to know more about a particular tool, go to the Help menu and choose InDesign Help….  Within the Help window, click on Workspace and Workflow in the top menu, select Toolbox, and browse the topics. The following is a list of commonly used tools:


  • The Selection Tool allows you to select entire objects (including text boxes) to move or resize.
  • The Type Tool lets you create text frames and select text. The Type on a Path Tool (grouped with the Type Tool) lets you create and edit text tha takes the shape of a certain shape you specify.
  • The Rectangle Frame Tool lets you create shaped frames for text or other objects. Grouped here are frame tools for rectangles, ellipses, and polygons.
  • The Rectangle Tool lets you draw rectangles. Grouped here are tools that can be used to create ellipses and polygons as well.
  • The Fill Tool and the Stroke Tool are overlapped and perform similar color-selecting options for different areas. Double-clicking on either will prompt the Color Picker dialog box where you can modify the colors for either the fill or the stroke. The Stroke Tool will modify the color of the outline of your object or text, while the Fill Tool will modify the color within your outlines.




Using Panels

This is the Panels box that will appear to the right of your screen when using Indesign

When modifying your document, you’ll need to be familiar with the main dock of panels that will be on the right side of your screen (shown to the left). These panels can be expanded and collapsed as you need them.

You can add individual tool panels to the dock of panels by going to Window on the top menu (shown below) and choosing tool palettes, or by going to Window, then Workspace to choose between sets of panels that are made to fit the needs of specific types of projects (like Printing and Proofing, Typography, the Essentials, and more). The Workspace options are groups of panels that have already been determined to be most useful for certain types of documents.

















Helpful Keyboard Shortcuts

InDesign has many tools and capabilities, and once you are familiar with them, these shortcuts can greatly increase your the ease with which you use the program.

Here are a few of the most often used shortcuts:

View document as it will print:
W on the keyboard

Mac shortcuts
Zoom in and out:
   Command and equal (=) or minus (-)
Fit spread in window:
   Command, Option and zero (0)
Fit page in window:
   Command and zero (0)
Fit Content Proportionally:
   Command, Option, Shift and E
Center Content:
   Command, Shift and E

Windows Shortcuts
Zoom in and out: 
   Control and equal (=) or minus (-)
Fit spread in window:
   Control, Alt and zero (0)
Fit page in window:
   Control and zero (0)
Fit Content Proportionally:
   Control, Alt, Shift and E
Center Content:
   Control, Shift and E