Produced by KelbyOne

14 Little-Known InDesign Tips

With each new version of InDesign (or any Creative Suite product), we usually hear about its new features and start using them right away. However, there are always features that don’t make it into the marketing materials. So, I’m going to cover 14 InDesign features you may not know about.

Although you can use File>Place in InDesign or simply drag-and-drop images into your InDesign document, I find it much easier to bring in multiple images at once. Open Adobe Bridge, select the images you want to use in your layout, and choose File>Place>In InDesign. This will automatically switch you to InDesign and give you a loaded place cursor to insert your selected images. Use the Arrow keys to cycle through the images in the cursor and simply click to place them. Then use the Object>Fitting options, if necessary.

To toggle between Character and Paragraph Formatting Controls (located in the Control panel), press Command-Option-7 (PC: Ctrl-Alt-7). Doing this right from the keyboard without having to reach for your mouse is very handy for verifying settings while in a text frame.

If you start text on one page and then continue it on another page, chances are you’re going to want to have “continued on page [xx]” or a “continued from page [xx].” InDesign can manage this for you automatically. Select the Type tool (T) and create a new text frame. Once created, drag the new text frame to touch the original text frame. In the new text frame, type “continued on page [leave a space]” or “continued from page [space].” Go to Type>Insert Special Character>Markers>Next Page Number (or Previous Page Number.) Then InDesign will automatically insert a dynamic number.

I often have to type Adobe Systems, Inc., so I set up an Autocorrect entry that automatically corrects ADBE to Adobe Systems, Inc. Go to InDesign (PC: Edit)>Preferences>Autocorrect. In the Preferences dialog, click the Enable Autocorrect checkbox and click the Add button to bring up the Add to Autocorrect List dialog. In the Misspelled Word field, type “ADBE” and then in the Correction field, type “Adobe Systems, Inc.” Click OK. Click OK again and now every time you type ADBE, InDesign will autocorrect it to Adobe Systems, Inc.

One of the most frustrating things that new InDesign users run into is when they try to place a caption on top of a photo that has text wrap on it. By default, text wrap also tries to text wrap your caption. Luckily there’s a one-click fix. Go to InDesign (PC: Edit)>Preferences>Composition. Enable the Text Wrap Only Affects Text Beneath checkbox and click OK. Now you can place text on top of your images with the text wrap where you want it.

Everyone knows that you can place a single image in a single frame. However, few know that you can actually place a single image in multiple frames for a visual effect. Select the Rectangle, Ellipse, or Polygon Frame tool and create two or more frames. Choose the Selection tool (V) and Shift-click each frame. Choose Objects>Paths>Make Compound Paths. Go to File>Place, select the image of your choice, and click Open. InDesign will automatically place the image inside your new frames.

It never fails. You create a rectangular frame for your image and then you decide that you’d like to see how it would look in an ellipse. There’s no need to start over. Go to Object>Convert Shape and choose the shape of your choice. InDesign will convert your existing shape into the one you want.

Let’s say you have a frame with an image in it on the page and you know that it would probably fit better if it were 1.25″ bigger. No worries. In the Width field up in the Control panel, type +1.25 next to the existing size. When you’re done, press Tab or Return (PC: Enter) and InDesign will do the math for you to adjust the size of your frame. You can also use different operations, such as subtraction (–), multiplication (*), and division (/).

If you’ve spent a bunch of time creating the perfect effect on an object and then decided that you want that exact same effect settings on a different object, my first advice would be to create an object style (Window>Object Styles). However, if it’s a one-time thing then it may be easier to copy the effects to the other object. Select the object you want to copy, then open the Effects panel (Window>Effects). Click-and-drag the Object effects icon (fx) onto your new object. Release your cursor and both of your objects will have the same effects.

When you’re doing layout, more times than not you’re going to place text into your document and there will be more text than fits your design. However, the real question is how much more text is there. You can find this out quickly and easily by bringing up the Story Editor from Edit>Edit in Story Editor (or Command-Y [PC: Ctrl-Y]). Look for the red line to the left of your text. Everything next to this line is overset text.

It’s great that InDesign can place and output layered Photoshop files, but what makes it even better is that you can turn on and off layers in that placed PSD directly within InDesign. You can even have the same PSD in your document multiple times with different layers turned on and off for different looks. Go to File>Place, navigate to your PSD, and click Open. Now choose Object>Object Layer Options and in the dialog that appears, turn on Preview, and click the Eye icon on and off next to the desired layer to control visibility.

One of the most powerful collaboration features in InDesign is the ability to place InDesign documents into other InDesign documents. This means that you could be working on one master document while your colleagues work on other sections. Once they’re done, you can place their InDesign documents into yours as you would any other graphics (File;Place). If you need to edit the placed InDesign document, choose Edit;Edit original.

I often get the question, “Can InDesign do vertical spreads for say a calendar layout?” The answer is no; however, now you can do a typical left and right spread, and rotate your spreads by 90° to make it easier to lay out your content. This way you can still lay out the calendar as it would look, but it would still be a left and right spread on the press. To rotate your spreads go to View>Rotate Spread and make your selection from the list.

The Links panel (Window>Links) has always been useful; however, in InDesign CS4 it became much more customizable to show you not only more info about your links, but exactly and only the information that you want to see. Click the Links panel’s flyout menu and select Panel Options. Click on the checkboxes of the info that you want to see in the Links panel, and click OK to apply your changes.



  • Denis says:

    Great stuff.

    Any chance of an InDesign CS5 typography session on Kelbytraining?


  • Eugene says:

    On No. 5 Text Wrap only affects text beneath

    I don’t recommend turning this on. You’re in danger of rasterising text that is below, saw if an image is wrapping the text in a pargraph, so the Text Wrap only affects what is below it, meaning the Image has to be above the text. If you have any Effects, like drop shadow, bevel emboss, basic feather etc. on the image then you are in danger of rasterising the text.

    This is because text needs to be on top of everything, especially when an image is using effects, as the transparency flattener can rasterise the text otherwise.

    A much better solution here is that you select the frame with the caption and you go to Object>Text Frame Options and choose “Ignore Text Wrap” and keep your caption above the image, as well as any text. The image must be below all text if using effects.

    Here’s a blog post on it

    • Lukas says:

      Eugene you reacted exactly as I did. And I will say it again for emphasis.
      TIP 5 is not a good idea unless you only use clipping paths and NEVER in combination with drop shadows.
      Comand- B (mac) Control-B (PC) and then as eugene said check ignore text wrap is the best way to do things.

      Why not make an object style and call it text on image 😉 (with only that option checked and all else on “leave as is”) then you can apply that object style to things that do not want to be text wrapped.

  • There are some really handy tips here. I always tend to make my life almost difficult when using InDesign.

    Love the fact that you can copy effects to another object that you have already applied. It’s great when you know your short cuts when using a software your not too familiar with.

    Will definitely use this process next time I’m using effects in InDesign.

  • Thanks a million for this! I Love it!

  • This is 4 times now that i’ve happened upon on your website in the last 2 days when searching google for absolutely unrelated stuff. Kinda funny. Keep up the good blogging!

  • Jenn says:

    Can Anyone tell me how to make my InDesign Preferances to open a page in inches vs. points? I had it on there and had to reformat my computer and now cant remember how to do it!

  • Rockinsane says:

    Great tips! They are very useful! 🙂

  • Steve J says:

    Hi, someone that I used to work with has worked out how to automatically set runaround on every new frame that is created in Indesign… when you create it, it has runaround of a specific measurement.

    I don’t want this on but if I work on a document he has touched… it’s THERE!!!!

    Anyone advise how to get rid of this?

  • Logo Gulf says:

    Link panel customization has always been little confusing to me. Thanks for clearing that up. Customization makes everything easier for me on indesign.