2. Getting to Know Indesign

Lesson overview

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to do the following:

  • View layout aids.

  • Type and style text.

  • Import text and thread text frames.

  • Import a graphic.

  • Move, rotate, fill, and stroke (outline) an object.

  • Automate formatting with paragraph, character, and object styles.

  • Check on potential production issues with the Preflight panel.

  • Preview a document in Presentation mode.


This lesson will take about 60 minutes to complete. To get the lesson files used in this chapter, download them from the web page for this book at www.adobepress.com/InDesignCIB2020. For more information, see “Accessing the lesson files and Web Edition” in the Getting Started section at the beginning of this book.


The building blocks of an Adobe InDesign layout are objects, text, and graphics. Layout aids such as guides help with size and placement, and styles let you format page elements automatically.

Getting started

The document for this lesson is a standard-size postcard designed to be printed and mailed. In addition, the postcard can be exported as a JPEG to use in email marketing. As you will see in this lesson, the building blocks of an InDesign document are essentially the same, regardless of the output media. In this lesson, you will add the text, images, and formatting necessary to finish the postcard.

Image Note

If you have not already downloaded the project files for this lesson to your computer from your Account page, make sure to do so now. See “Getting Started” at the beginning of the book.

  1. To ensure that the preferences and default settings of your Adobe InDesign program match those used in this lesson, move the InDesign Defaults file to a different folder following the procedure in “Saving and restoring the InDesign Defaults file” on pages 45.

  2. Start Adobe InDesign.

  3. When the InDesign Home screen displays, click the Open button at the left. (If the Home screen does not display, choose File > Open from the InDesign menu bar.)

  4. Open the 02_Start.indd file in the Lesson02 folder, located inside the Lessons folder within the InDesignCIB folder on your hard disk.

  5. If an alert informs you that the document contains links to sources that have been modified, click Update Modified Links.

  6. Choose File > Save As, rename the file 02_Postcard.indd, and save it in the Lesson02 folder.

  7. This lesson uses the default Essentials workspace. If necessary, choose Window > Workspace > [Essentials], and then choose Window > Workspace > Reset Essentials.

    Image Note

    The screen captures in this book show the Medium Light interface. Interface elements such as panels and dialog boxes will be darker on your screen if you are using the default interface.

  8. To display the document at a higher resolution, choose View > Display Performance > High Quality Display (if it’s not already enabled).

  9. If you want to see what the finished document looks like, open the 02_End.indd file in the same folder. You can leave this document open to act as a guide as you work.

  10. When you’re ready to resume working on the lesson document, display it by clicking its tab in the upper-left corner of the document window.


Viewing guides

Revising or completing an existing document, as you will do in this lesson, is typical work for entry-level InDesign users. Currently, the postcard document is displayed in Preview mode, which displays artwork in a standard window, hiding nonprinting elements such as guides, grids, frame edges, and hidden characters. To work on this document, you will view guides and hidden characters (such as spaces and tabs). As you become comfortable working with InDesign, you will discover which view modes and layout aids work best for you.

Image Tip

The lesson document starts out in Preview view mode and then you switch to Normal view mode. The other modes are Bleed, for reviewing the predefined bleed area for objects that extend beyond the page boundaries; Slug, for displaying the area outside the bleed area that can contain information such as printer instructions or job sign-off information; and Presentation, which fills the screen and works well for presenting design ideas to clients.

  1. Press and hold down the Screen Mode button at the bottom of the Tools panel, and choose Normal () from the menu.


    Any layout aids previously enabled now display. For example, light blue nonprinting lines now indicate existing text frames and objects because Frame Edges were already displayed (View > Extras > Show Frame Edges). You will now enable other layout aids.

  2. Choose View > Grids & Guides > Show Guides.

    When guides are displayed, it’s easy to position objects with precision, including automatically snapping them into place. The guides do not print and do not limit the print or export area.

  3. From the same View Options menu, choose Hidden Characters. Be sure Hidden Characters is checked in the menu.

    Displaying hidden (nonprinting) characters, such as tabs, spaces, and paragraph returns, helps you precisely select and style text. In general, it’s a good idea to show hidden characters whenever you are editing or formatting text.

    Image Tip

    The commands in the Application bar are available in the main InDesign menus as well. These include View > Grids & Guides > Show Guides and Type > Show Hidden Characters.

  4. As you work on this document, use the skills you learned in Lesson 1 to move panels, scroll, and zoom as necessary.

Adding text

With InDesign, most text is contained by a text frame. (Text can be contained in table cells and flow along paths as well.) You can type text directly into a text frame or import text files from word-processing programs. When importing text files, you can add the text to existing frames or create new frames to contain the text. If text doesn’t fit within a single frame, you can “thread,” or link, multiple text frames.

Typing and styling text

You’re ready to start working on the incomplete postcard. To get started, you’ll edit and style the text under the headline.

  1. Select the Type tool () and click immediately after the word “Café.”

    Image Tip

    Use the Type tool to edit text, format text, and create new text frames.

  2. Press Backspace (Windows) or Delete (macOS) four times to delete the word “Café.”

  3. Type Bistro in the text frame so the restaurant’s descriptor is changed from “Café & Bar” to “Bistro & Bar.”

  4. With the insertion point still in the text, click three times to select “Bistro & Bar.”

    Image Tip

    Using the Type tool, you can double-click to select a word, triple-click to select a line, and click four times to select a paragraph.

  5. Locate the Character controls of the Properties panel at the right. From the Font Style menu, select Bold.

    Image Note

    If necessary, use the Selection tool to drag the bottom of the text frame so that all the text fits.

  6. Choose File > Save to save your work.

Importing and flowing text

In most publishing workflows, writers and editors use word processors. When the text is almost final, they send the files to graphic designers. To complete the postcard, you will import a Microsoft Word file into a text frame at the bottom of the page using the Place command. You will then link the first text frame to the second frame using a process called “threading.”

  1. Using the Selection tool (), click a blank area of the pasteboard to make sure no objects are selected.

  2. Choose File > Place. At the bottom of the Place dialog box, make sure that Show Import Options is not selected.

  3. Navigate to the Lesson02 folder, in the Lessons folder, and double-click the Bistro.docx file.

    The pointer changes to a loaded text icon (). You’ll add this text to the text frame in the lower-left quadrant of the postcard. (The text frames are outlined by light blue nonprinting lines.)

    Image Note

    To see where to place the body copy text, consult the finished lesson document, 02_End.indd.

  4. Position the loaded text icon in the text frame, and then click.

    Image Tip

    When the loaded text icon is displayed, you have several choices: You can drag to create a new text frame, click inside an existing frame, or click to create a new text frame within the page’s column guides.


    The text in the Word file fills the frame, but it doesn’t all fit. A red plus sign (+) in the out port of the frame (in the frame’s lower-right corner) indicates overset text. You will thread the two bottom text frames so the text flows through them.

  5. Using the Selection tool, select the text frame that now contains the text.

  6. Click the out port (+) of the selected frame to display the loaded text icon. Click in the text frame immediately to the right.

    Image Tip

    All the text in a series of threaded text frames is called a “story.”


    At this point, text is still overset. You will resolve this problem by formatting the text with styles later in this lesson.

    Image Note

    Due to variations in font versions, you may see slightly different text in your frames.

  7. Choose File > Save.

Working with styles

InDesign provides paragraph styles, character styles, and object styles for quickly and consistently formatting text and objects and—more important—easily making global changes by simply editing the style. Styles work as follows:

Image Tip

A paragraph style can include nested styles that format the beginning of a paragraph and lines within a paragraph. This automates common paragraph formatting, such as starting a paragraph with a drop cap followed by all capital letters on the first line.

  • A paragraph style includes all text formatting attributes—such as font, size, and alignment—and applies to all the text in a paragraph. You can select a paragraph by simply clicking in it, highlighting any part it, or highlighting all of it.

  • A character style includes only character attributes—such as font style (bold or italic) or color—and applies only to selected text within a paragraph. Character styles are generally applied to call attention to specific text within a paragraph.

  • An object style lets you apply formatting—such as fill and stroke color, stroke styles and corner effects, transparency, drop shadows, feathering, text frame options, and text wrap—to selected objects.


You will now format the text with paragraph and character styles.

Applying paragraph styles

Because the postcard is almost finished, all the paragraph styles you need are already created. You will first apply the Body Copy style to all the text in the two threaded text frames, and then you will apply the Subhead style to the box headings.

Image Tip

In many publishing environments, including marketing and advertising, the text in a publication is referred to as “copy,” which is why the writers and editors are called “copywriters” and “copyeditors.”

  1. Using the Type tool (), click in one of the text frames containing the newly imported text.

  2. Choose Edit > Select All to select all the text in the threaded frames.

  3. Click the Paragraph Styles button at the top of the Properties panel. Click the Paragraph Styles menu and select the Body Copy style to format the entire story.

  4. Using the Type tool, click in the first line of text in the story: “Starters & Small Plates.”

    As you can see from the hidden character (the paragraph return) at the end of the line, this line is actually its own paragraph. Therefore, it can be formatted with a paragraph style.

    Image Note

    If a plus sign (+) displays next to the applied style (Body Copy or Subhead), it indicates that the text formatting does not precisely match the style’s formatting. To resolve this, click Clear Overrides () at the bottom of the Paragraph Styles panel. You will learn more about styles in Lesson 9, “Working with Styles.”

  5. Select the Subhead style from the Paragraph Styles menu in the Properties panel.

  6. Apply the Subhead paragraph style to the “Entrées & Desserts” subhead as well.

  7. Choose Edit > Deselect All, and then choose File > Save.

Formatting text for the character style

Highlighting a few key words in a paragraph can draw readers into the text. For the postcard copy, you will format a few words to make them “pop” and then create a character style based on those words. You can then quickly apply the character style to other selected words.

  1. Using the Zoom tool (), zoom in on the first text frame in the lower-left quadrant of the postcard. This frame contains the subhead “Starters & Small Plates.”

  2. Using the Type tool (), select the words “rosé martini” in the first paragraph of body copy along with the comma after it.

    Image Tip

    Remember that as you work, you can tear off panels, resize them, and move them to suit your needs. The configuration of your panels is largely dependent on the amount of screen space available. Some InDesign users have a second monitor for managing panels.

  3. In the Character controls of the Properties panel at the right, select Italic from the Type Style menu.

  4. Click the Fill box () to display the document’s color swatches. Click the red swatch named Red-Bright to apply the color to the text.

  5. Click the pasteboard to deselect the text and view your changes.

  6. Choose File > Save.

Creating and applying a character style

Now that you have formatted the text, you are ready to create a character style based on that formatting.

  1. Using the Type tool (), select the words “rosé martini” and the trailing comma again.

  2. Choose Type > Character Styles to display the Character Styles panel.

  3. Select New Character Style from the panel menu ().


    A new character style, named Character Style 1, is created in the New Character Style dialog box. This new style includes the characteristics of the selected text, as indicated in the Style Settings area of the dialog box.

    Image Note

    If the New Character Style dialog box does not open immediately, double-click Character Style 1 in the Character Styles panel.

  4. In the Style Name box, type Red Italic.

  5. At the bottom of the New Character Style dialog box, select Apply Style To Selection.

  6. In the lower-left corner, deselect Add To CC Library (if necessary). Click OK.

  7. Using the Type tool, select the words “zucchini blossom fritters or braised dandelion greens” in the first text frame.

  8. Click Red Italic in the Character Styles panel.

    Because you applied a character style instead of a paragraph style, the formatting affected only the selected text, not the entire paragraph.

  9. Using the Type tool, select the words “orange ginger seared scallops or chive flower flatbread” and the period after “flatbread.”

    Image Tip

    Typesetters often apply the same style to any punctuation following text formatted with a different style. (For example, if a word is italicized, you would italicize a comma after it.) This may vary based on design preferences or a publisher’s style guide. The key is to be consistent.

  10. Click Red Italic in the Character Styles panel.

  11. Repeat the process to apply the Red Italic character style to the menu items in the text frame at right: “lavender honey grilled chicken or fresh basil pesto” and “violet macarons or candied pansies.”

  12. Click the Character Styles panel group’s close box, and then choose File > Save.

Working with graphics

To add the final design element to the postcard, you’ll import, resize, and position a graphic. Graphics used in InDesign documents are placed inside frames. Use the Selection tool () to resize a graphics frame and to position the graphic within the frame. You will learn more about working with graphics in Lesson 10, “Importing and Modifying Graphics.”

Image Tip

You can place a graphic into an existing frame or create a new frame as you place the graphic. You can also drag graphic files from the desktop onto an InDesign page or pasteboard.

  1. Choose View > Fit Page In Window.

    You will position the graphic in the upper-right quadrant of the postcard.

  2. Make sure that no objects are selected by choosing Edit > Deselect All.

  3. Click the Import File button, the last option on the Properties panel at the right. In the Place dialog box, make sure that Show Import Options is not selected.

  4. Navigate to the Lesson02 folder in the Lessons folder, and double-click the DiningRoom.jpg file.

    The loaded graphics icon () displays a preview of the graphic. If you click the page, InDesign places the graphic at full size, inside an identically sized graphics frame. In this case, however, you will scale the graphic as you add it to the page. The resulting graphics frame will have the same dimensions as the graphic.

  5. Position the loaded graphics icon at the intersection of the light blue and pink guides in the upper-right quadrant of the postcard.

    Image Note

    To see where to place the graphic, consult the finished lesson document, 02_End.indd.

  6. Drag down and to the right until the pointer touches the guide on the right side of the page.

    When you release the mouse button, the graphic is added to the page and a graphics frame is created automatically. The width and height of the graphics frame are determined by the graphic’s dimensions.

    Image Tip

    When you create a frame while placing a graphic on the page, the graphic is automatically scaled to fit within the frame. You can use the scaling controls on the Properties panel and Control panel to precisely adjust the graphic size. You will learn more about sizing in Lesson 10, “Importing and Modifying Graphics.”

  7. Using the Selection tool (), select the middle handle at the bottom of the graphics frame and drag it up. You can crop the image by dragging any of its eight resizing handles.


    Use the Selection tool to crop a graphic by reducing the size of its frame.

  8. Press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (macOS) to undo the crop.

  9. Still using the Selection tool, position the pointer over the graphic to display the content grabber () in the center of the graphic.

    Image Tip

    To reposition a graphic with more control, press the Shift key while dragging. This constrains the movement to horizontal, vertical, and 45-degree angles. If you click and pause briefly before resizing a frame with the Selection tool, or before moving the graphic within a frame, the cropped part of the graphic is ghosted but visible outside the frame area.

  10. Click the content grabber to select the graphic, and then drag up to position the image within the frame as you please.

  11. Press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (macOS) to undo the image move. The eventual position of the graphic should be where you placed it in step 6.

  12. Choose File > Save.

Working with objects

The building blocks of InDesign pages are objects: text frames, graphics frames, lines, and more. In general, you move and resize objects with the Selection tool. Objects can have a fill color (background color) and a stroke color (outline or border), which you can customize by specifying the width and style. You can move objects around freely, snap them to other objects, and place them with precision according to guides or values you enter. In addition, you can resize and scale objects and specify how text wraps around them. You will learn more about objects in Lesson 4, “Working with Objects.” Here, you will experiment with a few object-related features.

Moving and rotating an object

A flower graphic created by converting flower characters from the Zapf Dingbats font into outlines (Type > Create Outlines) is on the pasteboard to the left of the page. You will move this graphic to the right of the restaurant name, “edible blossoms.” Then, you will rotate the object and adjust its placement.

  1. Choose View > Fit Page In Window to center the page in the document window. If necessary, scroll left to see the flower graphic on the pasteboard.

  2. Using the Selection tool (), click the flower graphic.

  3. Drag the graphic to the right of the headline, “edible blossoms.”

    With the object still selected, you will fine-tune the placement using the Properties panel.

  4. In the Transform controls of the Properties panel, click the More Options button (). To specify the object’s placement, type the following values in the fields:

    X: 1.85 in

    Y: .05 in

    Rotation angle (): –10

    You can tab between the fields, and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (macOS) to apply the changes.

    Image Tip

    When you enter values in the Properties panel or Control panel X and Y fields, the object is repositioned according to its reference point. You can view and change the reference point () by clicking a box immediately to the left of the X and Y fields.

  5. Choose File > Save.

Changing an object’s stroke and fill

When an object is selected, you can change its stroke (outline or border) weight and color. In addition, you can apply a fill (or background) color.

  1. Choose Edit > Deselect All to make sure nothing is selected.

  2. To better focus on the objects, choose Type > Hide Hidden Characters.

  3. Click the Direct Selection () tool on the Tools panel, and then click the white flower in the graphic to select it.

    Image Note

    The flower graphic is a group of objects. The Direct Selection tool lets you select a single object within a group. You can also select a single object in a group by double-clicking it with the Selection tool.

  4. In the Appearance controls of the Properties panel, click the Fill box () to display the document’s swatches. Click the Green-Dark swatch.

  5. Press the V key on the keyboard to switch to the Selection tool (). Click to select the black horizontal line at the bottom of the page.

  6. In the Appearance controls of the Properties panel, click the Stroke box () to display the document’s swatches. Click the Green-Medium swatch.

  7. Click the pasteboard to deselect all objects.

  8. Choose File > Save.

Working with object styles

As with paragraph and character styles, you can quickly and consistently format objects by saving attributes as styles. In this exercise, you will apply an existing object style to the two threaded text frames containing the body copy.

  1. Choose View > Fit Page In Window.

  2. Choose Window > Styles > Object Styles to display the Object Styles panel.

  3. Using the Selection tool (), click the text frame at the left containing the “Starters & Small Plates” subhead.

  4. Click the Green Stroke And Drop Shadow style in the Object Styles panel.

  5. Click the second text frame, which contains the “Entrées & Desserts” subhead.

  6. Click the Green Stroke And Drop Shadow style in the Object Styles panel.

  7. Click the Object Styles panel’s close box, and then choose File > Save.

Preflighting as you work

Whenever you start working on a document—whether you’re creating a document from scratch or revising an existing document—you will need to know the intended output of the document (print and/or display) and keep an eye on output issues. For example, are all the lines in the document thick enough to print, and will the colors display and print properly? You will learn more about all of these issues throughout the lessons in this book.

In publishing, the process of evaluating a document for potential output issues is known as preflighting. The InDesign Live Preflight feature lets you monitor documents as you’re working to prevent problems from occurring. To customize Live Preflight, you can create or import production rules (called preflight profiles) against which InDesign checks your documents. The default profile supplied with InDesign flags issues such as missing fonts (fonts that are not active on your system) and overset text (text that does not fit in its frame).

Image Tip

Keep an eye on the lower-left corner of the document window to see if any preflight errors arise. You can double-click the word “error” to open the Preflight panel for details on any errors.

  1. Choose Window > Output > Preflight to open the Preflight panel.

  2. In the Preflight panel, select Mailhouse (embedded) from the Profile menu. This profile was supplied by the printer to ensure proper output.

    Using the Mailhouse preflight profile, InDesign finds errors, as indicated by the red Preflight icon (), which displays in the lower-left corner of the Preflight panel. According to the Error list in the Preflight panel, the problems are in the COLOR category.

  3. To view the error, click the arrow next to COLOR in the Preflight panel.

    Image Tip

    To quickly navigate to the object with the error, click the page link in the Preflight panel.

  4. Click the arrow next to Color Space Not Allowed, and then click the first instance of Text Frame in the list.

  5. To display details for the error, click the arrow next to Info at the bottom of the Preflight panel.

    The problem is reported as “Content Uses RGB.” The Fix area offers the following suggestion: “Apply a swatch that uses a supported color space or mode, or edit the current swatch and specify a different color mode.”

  6. Choose Window > Color > Swatches to display the document’s color swatches.

  7. Double-click the Red-Bright swatch. In the Swatch Options dialog box, select CMYK from the Color Mode menu. Click OK.

  8. Choose View > Fit Page In Window.

    InDesign now reports No Errors in the Preflight panel and in the lower-left corner of the document window.

  9. Close the Preflight panel and Swatches panel, and then choose File > Save to save your work.

Viewing the document in Presentation mode

In Presentation mode, the InDesign interface is hidden entirely, and the document fills the whole screen. This mode works well for presenting design ideas to clients.

Image Tip

You cannot edit documents in Presentation mode, but you can make changes in any other screen mode.

  1. Press and hold down the Screen Mode button () at the bottom of the Tools panel, and select Presentation ().

  2. After viewing the document, press Esc (Escape) to exit Presentation mode. The document displays in its previous screen mode, Normal.

  3. To view the document without layout aids, choose View > Screen Mode > Preview.

  4. Choose View > Actual Size to see the document at its output size.

  5. Choose File > Save.

Congratulations! You’ve learned many InDesign basics.

Exploring on your own

To learn more about InDesign, try the following within the postcard layout:

  • Change the text formatting by choosing other options in the Properties panel.

  • Apply different paragraph and character styles to text. Apply the object style to different objects.

  • Move and resize objects and graphics.

  • Modify a paragraph, character, or object style and change its formatting. Notice how the change affects the text or objects to which the style is applied.

Review questions

1. What tool allows you to create text frames?

2. What tool allows you to thread text frames?

3. What symbol indicates that a text frame has more text than it can display—that is, overset text?

4. What tool allows you to move both frames and graphics within frames?

5. How can you tell if an aspect of a layout will cause output problems?

Review answers

1. You create text frames with the Type tool.

2. You thread text frames with the Selection tool.

3. A red plus sign in the lower-right corner of a text frame indicates overset text.

4. The Selection tool lets you drag a graphics frame (and its graphic) to move it, and it lets you move a graphic within its frame.

5. The Preflight panel reports errors when something in the layout does not comply with the selected preflight profile. For example, if the selected profile specifies no RGB color usage but an RGB color or image is used in the document, an error is reported. Preflight errors are also reported in the lower-left corner of the document window.

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