Spotlight: Your guide to a quicker future

Spotlight: Introduction…

Update: December 2015:

Some of this tutorial has been made obsolete from “improvements” to Spotlight that Apple has made. “Improvements” means that Apple removed some of the most useful functions I use everyday (like being able to open the enclosing folder of a file I’m looking for.) I’ve since bought Alfred and have been using it, alongside Spotlight. Neither quite hit the mark for me (though I have to admit to not spending enough time with Alfred to get the most out of it.)  

Spotlight is an unobtrusive little utility that sits at the top right of your screen.

If you click the magnifying glass at the top of your screen, a blue bar with a cursor pops up.

This little blue bar is one of the most powerful ways of doing all sorts of stuff on your mac
like finding and opening just about anything on your computer quickly.

Spotlight: Quick Introduction...

Search for documents, programs, pictures, emails, anything on your computer.

Instead of clicking through folder after folder, looking for something, just start typing the name of a file.

When you find what you’re looking for, just click Enter while it’s highlighted and it will open.


From searching for “guide to file management”, I found the .pdf I was looking for…


If you don’t remember anything about the file you’re looking for except a word or phrase that occurs somewhere in the file (if it’s a text file, pdf, Word file, etc.), just type the phrase you remember and Spotlight will probably find it…


You can also open programs just as easily as individual documents…

If I want to open Photoshop, all I have to do is start typing the word “Photoshop.”

I probably won’t even have to type the entire word if I’ve searched for it via Spotlight before…



Setting up your preferences in Spotlight…

You can tell Spotlight to index all sorts of files on your computer.

You can also tell it to not index certain kinds of files on your computer.

Open up System Preferences -> Spotlight

Check the boxes to tell it which kinds of files you want it to scan.
Uncheck the boxes you don’t want it to scan.
It’s that simple…

Setting up your preferences in Spotlight

If there are specific folders on your hard drive you don’t want Spotlight to index (for whatever reason), you can tell Spotlight to not index them (doesn’t matter what kind of files are inside them.)

Go to the Privacy tab (in the Spotlight preferences)…


If you stop reading now and just start regularly using some of the above tricks, you will cut 50% of the time you spend looking for stuff during the day.

Which means you have more time than ever before. So get up from your desk and dance like a whirling dervish until you trip over yourself.

Come back and you’ll still be ahead of your pre-Spotlight self, even when you take time out to recover from imitating these guys:

(Here’s a video of some whirling dervishes)


Advanced Stuff

The Spotlight Kid: tricks and hacks…

If you wanted to open up a folder that contains a certain file you’re looking for (maybe you’re looking for a folder full of images and all you know is the name of one of the images), hold down the Command key while clicking on the file and it will open up that folder.)

looking for readme
found the readme file

Search by filetype:

You can tell Spotlight to search for only files of a certain kind by typing “kind:” followed by the file extension you’re looking for.

This is the formula you need to remember:

“text you’re looking for” [space] kind:[filetype you’re looking for -no period before the filetype]


In this example, I’m looking for:
pdf’s with the words “this is” somewhere in them (either in the file name or in text that’s somewhere inside the files.)

Filetypes you can search for:

You can look for any kind of file on your computer. Image files (like jpeg, tiff, psd, png), Word docs (doc files), Powerpoint files (ppt), Text documents (txt, rtf), any other kind of file (Evernote notes, iCal events, anything…)

If you start looking for something using Spotlight, you’ll see that you’re not limited by the few filetypes that I’ve mentioned…


When I click on the file in Spotlight, if it’s something that Preview normally opens, it will open the file with the words I’m looking for already in the Find area.

If I just click the Enter key, Preview will go through and take you to each instance of “this is” in the document.


Copying, Pasting and moving files around via Spotlight

Method A:

You can drag and drop right from Spotlight. Try it.

Drag a file from the Spotlight list onto your desktop. Congratulations!


Method B:

After you find what you’re looking for in Spotlight, hover over it with your pointer and click Command + C.

Navigate to wherever you want to put the file (in the Finder) and click Command + V to copy/paste (creates a copy of the file in the new location)

or Command + Option + V to cut/paste it there (moves the file from one location to another.)

Method B

Copy to Finder

Known bugs with this method:

This method only seems to work once per Spotlight search. If you open Spotlight a second time (and the search term from last time is still in there) and try to copy/cut/paste a file, it won’t work.

You have to retype your search term and then copy/cut/paste.

I found this forum posting that helped me figure out what was going wrong:

Using Spotlight to search Wikipedia and other esoteric uses…

You can also use it to quickly search the web, the built-in mac dictionary or Wikipedia…



If you wanted to quickly find out where a certain file is, hold down Option Command while you have the cursor over the Spotlight entry. At the bottom of the file preview, the location of the file will show up when you hold those keys down.

LIttle, extra things...


This is how to find files that were created on a certain date:


To only find files that were modified (not created) on a certain date, you can do that easily enough in Spotlight…

Esoteric uses...

If you only want Spotlight to search for filenames (but not search inside the contents of the file), use this trick…


You can also combine search terms if you’re feeling really freaky and specific…

Example cover letter

Use the Spotlight as a calculator

You could call up the Calculator or you can use Spotlight directly to do math…

Use the Spotlight as a calculator

You can even use Spotlight to search metadata in files. (Like if you know that a certain pdf has an author listing in the metadata…)

search by author

Another metadata example:
search for music by:”[name of artist]”

You can really drill down and use Spotlight to search specifically.

At some point, you may be better off just using Command + F in the Finder for really involved searches.

You can use Spotlight for 80% of the things you look for on your computer and save yourself a week’s worth of time each year from not having to click around with your mouse looking for stuff in folder after folder on your hard drive.


More Spotlight tricks:

Click Option + Command + Spacebar to open up Spotlight in the Finder (try it and you’ll see what I mean: hold down Option and Command at the same time, then click on the Spacebar)

Navigate your categories of stuff in Spotlight using only the keyboard: use the Arrow Up and Arrow Down keys (and try using Command + Arrow Up/Down keys to go directly to different categories of things.)

Urban Sketch Raleigh – April 2014


Last weekend, I went out with Scott Renk and friends in downtown Raleigh for the CAM Raleigh Urban Drawing / Urban Sketch group.

Urban sketching in downtown Raleigh

Scott leads a once/month Urban Sketch group that walks around and draws interesting architecture and people in downtown Raleigh.

After walking around, we decided to sketch the alley behind Clearscapes.

Doing architectural studies like this helps me with other projects like the one I’m doing for LocalWiki – Raleigh (working on some banner images like this.) I’ve been inspired by Scott and other amazing Urban Sketch legends (like Lapin Barcelona.)

Eventually, I’ll get around to taking some color-controlled photos of my watercolors (using my Color Checker Passport.)

Urban Drawing group in RaleighUrban Drawing group in Raleigh Urban Drawing group in Raleigh

ELIZA: The psychotherapist in the machine…

If you’ve heard the episode of Radiolab, Talking to Machines (about artificial intelligence) you heard about ELIZA, one of the first computer programs written to simulate conversation with a human being.

According to Wikipedia:

“ELIZA operated by processing users’ responses to scripts, the most famous of which was DOCTOR, a simulation of a Rogerian psychotherapist. Using almost no information about human thought or emotion, DOCTOR sometimes provided a startlingly human-like interaction. ELIZA was written at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum between 1964 and 1966.”

What most people don’t know is that this program is preinstalled on everyone’s macintosh.

Click Command + Spacebar

This calls up Spotlight on your mac.

Start typing the word “Terminal.” Click on it.

Mac Terminal

Welcome to the Terminal

This is what comes up. This is the command line interface. It pretty much hasn’t changed in over 30 years.

Lots of people use this everyday to code and do stuff the way they did before computer mice were invented.

Welcome to the Terminal

Type the word

Type emacs

A bunch of stuff pops up…

All this stuff is welcoming you to GNU Emacs.

This is a text editor that’s used by many programmers and hard-core geeks to create stuff. You can use it to write a letter or anything else you’d want to write in TextEdit, if you know what you’re doing.

Welcome to GNU Emacs

Hold down the Shift key while clicking the Escape key.

This is what you’ll see:


Type the word
(You don’t need to type the space between “x” and “doctor.”)

Type X doctor

ELIZA is now in session.

Ask her a question. And be prepared to do some mental digging as she guides you to discovering the root of your problems.

Click the Return key twice after you answer her so she know to ask you another question…


Be prepared for lots of circular questions and, at times, nonsensical answers.

ELIZA's nonsensical answers

When you’re done getting advice, click Control + X, then click Control + C to end your session.

end session

After that, type Exit and logoout.


Hyperlinks in Adobe InDesign

It’s easy to create hyperlinks in Adobe InDesign and export an interactive .pdf with clickable places in your document that go to URLs on the web. You can actually create many kinds of hyperlinks in an InDesign document -to URLs, to other places in your document (or other documents), email hyperlinks with the subject setting automatically set up, etc.

In this tutorial, I’ll just be concentrating on creating a hyperlink to a URL on the web. In later tutorials, I’ll go into the other kinds of hyperlinks. For those familiar with cross-references in InDesign, they can be very similar.

Hyperlinks in Adobe InDesign – create a hyperlink from text

Here we have a caption to an image in a gallery exhibit brochure. We want to make the words “A Thousand Li of River and Mountains” a clickable hyperlink in an interactive .pdf.

Adobe InDesign text hyperlink

Bring up the Hyperlinks panel by going to Window -> Interactive -> Hyperlinks

Adobe InDesign Hyperlinks

This is the Hyperlinks panel.

Adobe InDesign Hyperlinks panel

Swatch over the text using the Type tool that you want to create into a clickable hyperlink

Adobe InDesign text hyperlink

Then go to the Hyperlinks panel and click the New Hyperlink option in the fly-out menu.

Adobe InDesign Hyperlinks panel new hyperlink

This is the New Hyperlink dialogue box.

*Don’t use the Shared Hyperlink Destination checkbox unless you’re reusing the same hyperlink throughout your document. As of this writing, it may bloat your file and cause some problems.

Listen to this episode of InDesign Secrets for more details

(thanks to Kelly Vaughn for this nugget of wisdom)

Adobe InDesign new hyperlink dialogue box

Copy/paste the URL into the Destination area of the Hyperlinks panel

text document copy paste text

I already created a character style that styles the text blue that I want to use for the text-based hyperlinks. I’m applying that to this hyperlink in the Character Style area.

Adobe InDesign new hyperlink dialogue box

The result is that the text is now blue (from applying the character style to it) and the text that I swatched over shows up in the Hyperlinks panel.

Adobe InDesign text hyperlink

If you click that hyperlink listing in the Hyperlinks panel, the arrows at the bottom of the panel are no longer grayed-out.


Click on the left one and it will take you to the hyperlink source in your document.


It automatically selects it…


Click the right one and it opens up the destination URL in your web browser.

Adobe InDesign hyperlinks panel

web browser showing link

The SWF Preview panel

Another way of testing hyperlinks (and many other kinds of interactive elements in InDesign) is through the SWF Preview panel.

Go to Window -> Interactive -> SWF Preview

(or click Shift + Command + Return to invoke or dismiss it)

Adobe InDesign swf preview panel

This is what it looks like. For the best results, I recommend you drag it out to be as large as possible and get used to using the shortcuts for invoking and dismissing it.

Adobe InDesign swf preview panel

web browser showing url

Hyperlinks in Adobe InDesign – making an object into a hyperlink

You can turn non-text items into clickable hyperlinks just as easily as text. To start, select the object, then create a new hyperlink the same as you would for a text object.

Adobe InDesign object

The result will be a clickable hyperlink in the SWF Preview panel and a very uninformative description in the Hyperlinks panel. You can make this a better-named hyperlink by going to the Rename Hyperlink in the fly-out menu.

Adobe InDesign hyperlinks panel

Adobe InDesign rename hyperlink

Adobe InDesign rename hyperlink

Adobe InDesign hyperlinks panel
Featured images:

Page numbering and section markers in InDesign

If you’ve ever been tempted to manually add page numbers (drawing out little text boxes and typing in the numbers), don’t do it. Out of the box, InDesign has tools to take that drudge-work out of your hands. Automatic page numbering and section markers in InDesign are great tools for helping to quickly format your documents.

Start by creating a new document. Create a 15 page document with facing pages.

InDesign New Document

In the Pages palette, go to the A-Master pages (by double-clicking on one of them)
Quick Key Method
Click Command J and type in the letter A in the dialogue box that comes up.

InDesign pages palette master page selected

Select the Text tool (or click the T key on the keyboard)

InDesign tool palette text tool selected

Draw a text frame at the bottom of the left-facing master page

InDesign draw text frame

With the text tool cursor in the text frame, right-click and navigate to Insert Special Character -> Markers -> Current Page Number
Quick Key Method
Click Shift Option Command N inside the text box

InDesign insert current page number

You now have the letter “A” is placed in the text box. Only it’s not the letter “A”. This is a special placeholder character that just looks like the letter “A”. When you view the pages the A-Master is applied to, it will look correct.

InDesign insert page number on master page

Select the Selection tool from the Tools palette
Quick Key Method
Click the V key if you don’t have the text cursor inside a text box.
If you do have a text cursor active inside a text box, hold down the Command key, and the text cursor will temporarily toggle into the Selection tool while you have the Command key held down.)

InDesign tool palette selection tool

With the text frame selected, Option Shift drag the text frame over to the right-facing master page
(or if you’re already holding down the Command key while toggling the Text/Selection tools, then hold down Command Option Shift keys while dragging)

InDesign option shift drag text frame

The text frame with the page number marker is copied over to the right-facing master page.

InDesign text frames on master pages

If you look through your document, you’ll see that all the pages now have the appropriate page numbers applied to them (since they all take their cues from the A-Master pages.)
Quick Key Method
To quickly navigate to page 1, click Command J, type “1” in the dialogue box that pops up, click “OK.” To zoom out to see multiple pages like this screenshot, keep clicking Command – until you can see several pages.

InDesign page numbers published to pages

Adding a Section Marker to your document

Go to the A-Master pages in the Pages palette

InDesign go to master pages

Draw a text box on the left-facing page.

InDesign draw text frame on master page

With the Type Tool cursor in the text box, right-click and choose Insert Special Character -> Markers -> Section Marker

InDesign insert section marker

The word “Section” now appears in the text box.

InDesign section inserted on master page

Select the black Selection arrow.

InDesign tool palette selection tool selected

Copy-drag the text frame over to right-facing master page

InDesign option shift drag text frame

InDesign section markers

Go to a spread in your document. You’ll notice that the word “Section” doesn’t appear anywhere outside the master pages.

InDesign missing section markers on pages

Go to the first page in your document. You’ll notice a little arrow above the icon for it in the Pages palette.

InDesign go to page 1

Right-click the page in the Pages palette and choose Numbering & Section Options

InDesign numbering and section options

In your Numbering & Section Options, you’ll see many options. We’re going to ignore all of them for now, except the Section Marker area. Type the word “Introduction” in the Section Marker area. Click “OK.”

InDesign numbering and section options section marker

Now look at page 1. Where it was blank at the top, it now makes use of the Section marker placeholder from the A-Master page. The word “Introduction” will be on all pages after page 1 because all the rest of the pages are part of the same section as page 1. But we’re going to add a few more sections to this document in the next few steps.

InDesign visible section markers

Go to the spread that has pages 6 and 7.

InDesign pages 6 and 7

Right-click on the page and go to Numbering & Section Options (this menu is also found under the Layout Menu.)

InDesign changing section options in middle of document

Rename the Section Marker from “Introduction” to “Spain.” Click “OK.”

InDesign numbering & section options

You’ll notice that the section marker for page 7 now says “Spain” and there’s a little black triangle in the Pages palette on top of page 7. This indicates that a new section has begun on page 7.

InDesign different sections in document

We’re going to create another section in the document. Go to the spread that has pages 10 & 11.

InDesign another section change

Click on page 11 in the Pages palette and go to Numbering & Section Options. Change “Spain” to “Portugal.” Click “OK.”

InDesign numbering and section options

Our document now has three different sections in it with repeating headers that indicate the section. If we wanted to, we could go through and easily re-name them as needed, remove them, add new sections, etc., without having to go through and retype them on each and every page.

InDesign page 10 and 11

Inserting Next and/or Previous Page Number

In magazine layout, articles are frequently interrupted and continued in the back of the magazine with something to the effect of “article continued on page…” and “article continued from page…”

InDesign has a handy ability to input those page numbers so that, even if you move pages around, those “continued on…” and “continued from…” frames will always be correct without you having to find and retype them manually.

InDesign insert special character markers next page number

Here’s a view of a multi-page document with an article that starts in a text block on page 1 and is threaded to a text block on page 3.

InDesign threaded text frames

Continued on page…

We want to give the reader some indication of where to go in the booklet to continue reading the article that starts on page 1.
Create a text frame and type the words “Continued on page “.
Next, we’ll be inserting a special character that can change itself as needed if we move pages around.

InDesign using the next page marker

With the text frame cursor placed where we want the Next Page Number in the text box, right-click and choose Insert Special Character -> Markers -> Next Page Number

InDesign insert special character insert next page number


This is where confusion starts and tempers flare wondering why it’s seemingly not working right.

After placing the Next Page Number character in the text box, we’re left with the numeral 1. If we were to copy/paste this box to another page, the Next Page Number character would change into whatever the page number is where it’s placed. Huh? This isn’t what we want…

Stay with me…

InDesign next page number looks wrong

Using the Selection tool, drag the text box until it overlaps or just touches the text box containing the article that threads from page 1 to page 3.

InDesign move text frame to touch other text frame

Now the Next Page Number character is correct.
The text frame that contains a Next Page Number has to be touching the text frame that has the text that threads from one page to another or it doesn’t work.

InDesign overlapping text frame is correct

The same principle applies to the Previous Page Number character.
This is page 3 of the document. We want to tell the reader which page the article is continued from.

InDesign previous page number

In the “Continued from page…” text frame, right-click and insert the Previous Page Number character.

InDesign insert previous page number

We now know that the text frame that has the Previous Page Number character in it has to be touching the main text frame that contains the threaded text. Otherwise, it will unhelpfully indicate the current page number.
So let’s move that text frame to be touching the main one below.

InDesign previous page number is wrong

And now it’s working.

InDesign make sure the text frames are touching

The Grid & How to Swing It: InDesign CS6 Margins For Beginners

In future posts, we’ll be looking at the various tools for establishing a grid structure in your InDesign document. Today, we’re just looking at setting up margins in an InDesign CS6 document (though, really, InDesign CS6 margins aren’t any different from margins in any other version of InDesign, so this should be applicable even if you’re using an older version.)

When you create a new document in InDesign, one of the options you’re presented with is the margin settings.

InDesign CS6 margins

If you change the Facing Pages settings, the dialogue box for the margins changes accordingly (from “Left, Right” to “Inside, Outside.” Inside being towards the spine, Outside being opposite the spine, where people’s hands are when holding a book.

InDesign CS6 Margins: facing pages margins

Especially when dealing with a multipage document, it’s easy to want to go ahead and set margins up immediately. You may find that you’ll have to change them later on anyway (or set up multiple masters with different margins), so you may want to hold off on typing in any numbers for margins in the new document dialog box (unless you’ve already done all your document layout pre-planning.) In this example, I’m leaving them at 0 for now.

This is what our document looks like with margins set to 0. The pink-purple lines are the margin lines sitting on top of the document edge.

InDesign CS6 - pages palette

Navigate to the A-Master pages by double-clicking on them in the Pages palette.


Navigate to Margins and Columns (there is no out-of-the-box quick key to get to it on a mac. You can make your own, or type [Control] + [F2] ( [Control] + [FN] + [F2] if you’re using a laptop) and then type [L], then arrow down, then [M]. Probably easier to just use the mouse…)


The Margins and Columns dialogue box appears. Type in the margin settings you want. I’m not bothering with “Enable Layout Adjustment” for this example.

Margins and Columns

The margin settings we chose are now set to the A-Master and all pages the A-Master is applied to.


Margins and text flow…

If you place text into an InDesign document ( [command] + [d] ), the size and shape of the text field created will automatically be determined by the margins (and columns) unless you manually draw out a text box.

Margins and text...


If we create a new master page, we can create a different set of margins on it and apply that new master to any of the pages in our document…


New Master

With the new master (B-Master) selected, go to Layout -> Margins and Columns and change the settings for the margins…


Margins and Columns


Drag the icon of the B-Master to the pages you want the different margin settings applied to…



Planning your margins…

There are a thousand and one factors to consider when determining what your margins should be, depending on what the document is going to be (book, annual report, white pages, exhibit catalog, document for Kindle/iPad, etc..) and what the goals are (save on paper = thinner margins, thick spine on a book = more inside margin, reader’s notes = more outside margin, e-reader -margins all the same, etc.)

Things to think about when planning margins...

Canons of Book Design…

Noted book designer, typographer, teacher and writer, Jan Tschichold popularized the idea of a law of forms of book design based on earlier analysis by individuals such as J. A. Van de Graaf, Raúl Mario Rosarivo, et. al.

The Van de Graaf canon is a method of dividing pages into areas for type based on his analysis of medieval manuscripts. It works for any size of book, though Tschichold, from his research based on Van de Graaf’s work, felt that the ideal page ratio should be 2:3 (which allows the height of the text block to be the same width as the page.)

The Raúl Mario Rosarivo canon is based on his analysis of Renaissance-era books. A 9×9 grid drawn onto a spread yields the same result as the Van de Graaf method.

For more…

For more about canons of page contruction, Van de Graaf, Tschichold and others:



The Secret Law of Page Harmony


Tabs, Spaces & Indents

Most everyone is familiar to some degree with tabs. This is a set of words separated by tabs:

Tabs 101

Setting tab position

Invoke the tab tool ( [shift] + [command} + [t] ) and click the left-aligned tab button and drag along the ruler so that the arrow icon shows up. This is how you set and adjust your tab position. Click the button on the far left to set left-justified tabs.

Set tab position

Right-align text

Clicking the right-justified tab button aligns everything to it’s right edge.

Right-align text

Center-aligned text

If you have the tab position selected, you can click through the various tab positioning options and change them. Clicking the center-justified tab button causes everything separated by a tab to be aligned from their centers.

Center-aligned text

Aligning Numbers

The Align to Decimal option is useful for aligning sets of numbers. In this case, aligning them so that the decimal points match up.

Aligning Numbers

Tabs -aligning numbers by decimal point

Aligning words by letter

Another cool trick with this kind of alignment option is that you can align sets of words (provided they all have at least one of the same character.)

Aligning words by letter

Aligning words by letter

Tab leaders

Type a character into the Leader section of the tab bar to separate words with a repeating character. Periods and dashes are most common, but any character can be used.

Tab leaders

Changing characteristics of the tab leader

The tab leader can be styled any way you like. In this example, I changed the font, color and point size.

Changing characteristics of the tab leader

How NOT to use tabs

I’ve seen this many times: bulleted text that has been set using multiple tabs. If you change the size of the text frame, it becomes a pain to re-adjust the text breaks to make everything look good again.

How not to use tabs

Bulleted text: Method A

One method of doing this correctly (meaning: in a way that makes future adjustments to the text or text frame easy) is to first get rid of the tabs, soft returns and the bullet character. We can then quickly and easily format the text to look how we want

Bulleted text: Method A

Using the text tool, select the text you want to have bulleted and go to the top of the screen…

  1. Click the Paragraph Formatting Controls
  2. Click the Bulleted List button
Bulleted List in the paragraph toolbar

Look upon your bulleted and automatically indented text blocks and rejoice.

Bulleted List is Beautiful...

Adjusting bullets and indents…

If you [option] click the Bulleted List button, the Bullets and Numbering dialogue box comes up. From here, you can customize all sorts of options for how you want your bullets to look. A full explanation of this dialogue box is beyond the scope of this post.

Adjusting the bullets and indents...

Bulleted Text: Method B

Another way of indenting text is through the use of the Indent to Here character ([command} + [ \ ]

Bulleted Text: Method B

Unlike using the Bulleted List button, using the Insert to Here character also requires you to type the bullet character and manually insert any space you want between it and the first line.

Indent to Here

The Indent to Here character indents all lines that come after it (until it meets a hard return. Soft returns ( [shift] + [enter] ) do not affect it.)

Indent to Here

Working with tabs in tables

If you’re working inside of a table, you can decimal-align a column of numbers, even if you don’t have a tab character typed in the cell. (Clicking the [tab] key while in a table serves to navigate between cells.)

Working with tabs in tables

Invoke the tab tool ( [control] + [shift] + [t] ). Select the cells whose numbers you want to align. Select Align to Decimal, place your tab position where you want it.

Tabs in tables

The numbers in the cells are aligned and moved to where you want them (without having to type tab characters in the table cells.)


Inserting a tab in a table

If you really need to insert a tab character in a table, right-click where you want it to go and drill down 3 levels. Or you can type one in a different text box and copy/paste it.

Inserting a tab in a table
Insert Special Character

Separating a set of words: Method A

You can use the “repeat tabs” function in the tab tool to equally space a set of words. It takes some playing around with, but can be done.

Separating a set of words: Method A

With the tab selected, invoke the tab tool and set the tab distance for the first tab.


Click on the dropdown area of the tab tool and select “Repeat Tab”


The tabs will repeat themselves, distributing the text across the text frame. In this example, we got close, but not quite to the edge of the text frame.


Adjust the first tab again and click “Repeat Tab” again to adjust the rest of them equally.


It can be done, but it’s a pain.

Furthermore, if the text box changes size, you’ll have to redo all the tab positions.

A better option is to insert Flush Spaces between the words instead of tabs.


Separating a set of words: Method B: The Flush Space

To insert a flush space, right click where you want it and select Insert White Space -> Flush Space.

Separating a set of words: Method B: The Flush Space

A flush space functions if your paragraph justification is set to “Justify All Lines.” Otherwise, it doesn’t do much of anything.

Flush space

Justify all lines

Justify all lines

Flush space applied

With flush spaces replacing tabs and the text block set to justify all lines, this is how our text block now looks. The text fills the text block. If we needed to, we could adjust the size of the text block easily without having to re-set the spaces. Very handy.

Flush space applied

The Right Indent Tab…

If you want to push text to the right edge of the text frame (such as you might want to do when laying out a menu or catalog), use a Right Indent Tab ( [shift] + [tab] )

The Right Indent Tab...
The Right Indent Tab
Post-Right Indent Tab

Find/Replace and getting rid of a lot of paragraph returns (selectively)…

There are times when you need to make massive changes to certain parts of your document while not affecting other parts. In this example, I’m going to get rid of the paragraph returns in the main body of the text without affecting the top portion. Granted, there isn’t much to the top portion and I could manually replace any paragraph returns I lose. But for the sake of showing off a technique that could save you a lot of time with whatever long documents you have, I’m doing it this way…

This is a direct placement of some text into InDesign ( [control] + [d] ). Notice all the paragraph returns (¶ characters that show up when you go to Type -> Show Hidden Characters) that keep the text from reflowing naturally? We’re going to get rid of them. However, we also want to keep the paragraph returns that separate the paragraphs from each other.



After you select some text, click [control] + [shift] + [end]. That will select all the text from where you initially clicked to the end of the story.

After you select all the text, go to the Paragraph Style palette and click the Create New Paragraph Style button


The New Paragraph Style dialogue box pops up. You can ignore most everything in the left part of the panel. Name your style (i.e. “Body”) and make sure “Apply Style to Selection” is checked. Then click OK.

New Paragraph Style

All 349 pages of the document have now been assigned to the paragraph style of “Body.”


Keeping the paragraph returns between paragraphs

Go to somewhere in the document (where the “Body” paragraph style is applied) that has two paragraph returns in a row and copy both of them (drag through the one at the end of the sentence and then continue dragging through to the one below.) Click “copy.”


Click [control] + [f]

Next, we’re going to do some Find/Change Magic…


The Find/Change dialogue box…

This is the Find/Change dialogue box. There are a ton of options available (books have been written about this dialogue box.) I’ll show you the bare minimum you need to do what we want to accomplish…



What we’re going to do is find all the double paragraph returns (¶ at the end of a line, followed by another ¶ on the next line) select them and replace them with a single character.

In this example, I’m going to use the “[” (bracket) character as the replacing character. It’s fine if this doesn’t make sense, yet. You’ll see why we’re doing this in a minute. Later on, we’ll be replacing that “[” character back to a single ¶.


Change Format Settings

Clicking the hourglass icon next to the Find Format box causes this dialog box to appear.

Change Format Settings


Lastly, type a “[” (bracket) character in the “Change to” area, then click “Change All”


Our work thus far…

Instead of two paragraph returns separating paragraphs, we now have a “[” character as a placeholder between paragraphs.

“Yeah, that’s great. How does that do us any good” you might ask. We’re doing this so that when we get rid of the extra ¶ characters, we won’t accidentally lose where the paragraph separations are supposed to be.


Next step: getting rid of the paragraph returns (¶ characters)

Call up the Find/Replace dialogue box again.

Next step: getting rid of the paragraph returns (¶ characters)

The result is that we removed all the paragraph returns at the end of each sentence in the “Body” section. This enables the text to flow and reflow as we make changes to the text frames.


Call up the Find/Change dialogue box again…

Now we have to go back and re-insert the paragraph returns that separate each paragraph. We’re going to replace each “[” character we used as a stand-in for the paragraph returns with single ¶ characters.

Call up the Find/Change dialogue box again...


The paragraph returns that we need to separate the individual paragraphs are now restored….


Extra stuff…

If you need to, you can delete the paragraph style “Body.” Or keep it, if it’s helpful to you.


Primary Text Frame is Beautiful…

What is the Primary Text Frame?

In the New Document dialogue box (CS6), clicking the Primary Text Frame box creates a text frame that appears on the master page of your document. Unlike a regular text frame placed on a master page, you can select and type in this frame from any regular page that the master is applied to without having to override it first. It automatically conforms to the margin dimensions you set in the New Document dialogue box.

If you make any changes to this frame from the master page, those changes are automatically published to any page that the master is applied to.

What is the Primary Text Frame

Go to a Master Page

In the Pages palette, click on the right-hand master page icon and edit the primary text frame. Any changes you make there are published to all the regular pages that have that master applied.

Go to a Master Page

Adjust the size of the right-hand primary text frame…


Size is adjusted on all the pages that subscribe to the master

This is the primary text frame seen from page one (which already had text in it when we adjusted the primary text frame on the master.)

Size is adjusted on all the pages that subscribe to the master

Primary text frames are automatically threaded

The primary text frame created by checking the Primary Text Frame checkbox is automatically threaded together on the all regular pages the master is applied to. Text placed in one text box automatically overflows to the other text boxes on the following pages.

Primary text frames are automatically threaded

Create a new master page set

Create a new master page set

Just leave everything on the default settings. We’ll create a master called B-Master. Since we have “facing pages” turned on, we’re technically creating two pages in our new master: 1 left page, 1 right page. Same as our A-Master page(s.) If you didn’t have facing pages turned on, you would only need to make one page.

New Master

Select the Type tool

Select the Type Tool

Draw a text frame on the left B-Master page.


After drawing the text frame, hold down the [command] key so that the cursor changes shape from this…

(I meant to annotate the next two slides as “Text tool cursor”, not “Text tool icon.” It’s too much of a pain to try to change out the screenshots at this point…)


…to this. While holding down the [command] key, click on the little box that’s almost in the lower right corner of the text frame.


After clicking on that box, the text tool’s cursor once again changes. If now you draw another text frame with it, that new text frame will automatically be linked to the first one (text placed in one frame automatically overflows into the other.)

  1. In the Pages palette, click the icon for page 4, then shift-click the icon for page 5 (to make sure both pages get selected.)
  2. Right click the selected page icons, then select Apply Master to Pages

Apply Master

Do this, then click OK.

Apply Master

B-Master Pages

Applying the B-Master to pages 4-5 changed the shape of the threaded text boxes on just those pages. The text frames are still threaded together throughout the document (even across pages formatted by different masters.)

B-Master Pages