10 Time Saving Tips that You May Not Know For InDesign

by in Design on 4th Jan 2013 · Comments

InDesign has unquestionably become the leader of publishing design software. It's really a great and powerful tool for print designers. But the thing is, it takes a lot of time to master InDesign, to find the little tricks which help you speed up your workflow.

10 Time Saving Tips that You May not Know For InDesign

If you're new to InDesign, all the tools and options available can be a little overwhelming. In this article, I'll share ten tips that will help you save time when working with InDesign - and avoid going crazy trying to figure out how it works by yourself.

Time Saving Tips for InDesign

NB : I chose to display Mac OS versions of shortcuts. If you're a Windows user, just change the cmd key with the ctrl key.

1. Create Presets

If you often design the same kind of documents (brochures, trifold leaflets, flyers, etc.), you probably just want to skip the creating document part, and start right away the design process. Luckily, InDesign allows you to create and save pretty quickly your own document presets. In order to do this :

Use the shortcut Cmd + N to create a new document > Enter the properties in the option panel (dimensions, margin, orientation, etc.) > Instead of clicking OK, choose Presets > Type the name of your Preset > Click OK > Then click OK again.

Create Presets

Your presets will appear in the Document Presets drop down menu.

2. Use Ruler Guides

Guides are one of InDesign's powerful features. As in Photoshop and Illustrator, you can place as many guides as needed in your document. But you can also place them in the exact position you want, and choose a color for each of them.

Click into the rulers, quickly place a Guide on your working space, then select the Guide by left-clicking it, and type the coordinates to place it (see the following image).

To change its color, select the guide, go into the Page menu, select Ruler Guides and choose the color you want.

Ruler Guides

This features allows you to create and customize your own grids, which will help you to speed up your workflow by always having guides to place your objects into your document.

3. Use Masters

If you're new to InDesign, you may not know that there is a terrific feature called Masters, allowing the user to create templates which can be applied to any page of your document. Let's say you're designing a magazine, which has several parts, each one having its own layout.

No need to spend a lot of time producing the same layouts again and again, just create a Master for each of these layouts, and apply them to the right pages of your document.

To create a Master, go to the upper part of the Pages panel. Into the context menu, select New Master. In the option window, you can name the Master and choose if you base it on a previous one you have created in this document, number of pages, its dimensions, etc.

Then, just create the design. You can also create different Guides for each Master.

Masters

To apply a Master to your document page, drag-and drop the Master onto the page, and you're done.

4. Fill a Document with Dummy Text

Sometimes, we start to design a project before its written content is finished. Webdesigners know the trick and fill their pages with dummy text, aka lorem ipsum. WordPress users even have access to plugins which automatically fill the website, and save precious time.

What print designers may not know is that InDesign offers the same exact feature, which allows you to fill your document pages with dummy content.

Use Dummy Text

To fill your document with dummy text, click into a Text frame > Select the Type menu > Choose Fill with placeholder text.

5. Automatically Number Pages

When working on a book, a magazine or a brochure, you have to number pages. If you use InDesign mostly to create flyers, trifold brochures or posters, this feature may not be familiar to you. Using Masters, you can easily and automatically number your document's pages.

Select a Master by double-clicking it, create a text frame, then go to the Type menu. Choose Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.

Automatically Number Pages

Now your document automatically numbers pages, and all you have to do is style the text into the frame to your liking!

6. Clean up Your Text with Find/Change

I often have to proofread the documents I design. It can be pretty tedious to modify dual spaces, wrong punctuation and common spelling mistakes. Fortunately, most of this can be accomplished thanks to InDesign's find/change feature.

Of course, it works for words or phrases, but you can also look for spaces and punctuation, including non-breaking spaces. Not only will this feature allow you to save time, but it's also a security that your text does not contain typos.

Find/Change

To display the find/change window, use Cmd + F shortcut. Then you can type what you are looking for in your document, and choose what to replace it with.

7. Use shortcuts to place images in a frame

When you work with images in InDesign, you place them in frames. To adapt an image to the frame - or the other way around - there is a context menu you can display by right-clicking on the frame and selecting Adjust. You have several options: to adjust the frame to the image, fill it with the image, center the image into the frame, etc.

Then again, this is a great feature, but looking for these options in the menu can be a real waste of time. And you can achieve the same exact actions by using shortcuts.

Place Images in a Frame

  • Fill Frame Proportionally : Alt + ⇧ + Cmd + C
  • Fit Content Proportionally : Alt + ⇧ + Cmd + E
  • Fit Frame to Content : Alt + Cmd + C
  • Fit Content to Frame : Alt + Cmd + C
  • Center Content : ⇧ + Cmd + E

I know it seems a little complicated to remember all of these shortcuts, but you'll quickly get used to it and you'll see your workflow speed up a lot. If you put your mind to it, using these shortcuts quickly becomes a reflex.

8. Mix CMYK and Pantone Colors

When you have limited number of inks to print your document, you may want to create colors by mixing a spot color with CMYK. This trick can raise the number of available colors, without raising the number of inks to print the document (thus reducing your printing budget).

Sometimes, you may also meet a client who asks you to mix the exact colors he has in mind - because he uses a color chart for example - but doesn't know the CMYK equivalent. This tip may save you a lot of time.

Mix Colors

In the Color panel menu, choose New Mixed Ink Swatch* > In the option window, select the colors you want to mix, and the tint of each one > Select OK and you're done.

* This menu item will be dimmed until you create a direct tone color

9. Preview the Result of Your Work

Now and then, in the middle of our work, we like to check out the result. Before exporting it to PDF, try the Preview feature of InDesign.

Preview

Be careful to choose the Selection tool and press the 'W' key on your keyboard. You'll see your document without Guides, Frame edges and other extras. A really useful feature that I use a lot.

10. Use Preflight Before Exporting Your File

Last but not least, this tool will help you to check that you forgot anything before exporting your work. Preflight panel will warn you if there is any problem in your document: missing links, overset text, missing fonts, color problems, etc.

In new versions of InDesign, the panel is incorporated by default in the workspace. So if there is any problem, you will see a red signal at the bottom of your workspace. If not, it will remain green.

Preflight

You can display the preflight panel by going into the Window menu > Output > Preflight.

Conclusion

When you know these little tips, InDesign doesn't seem so complicated to use anymore.

And you, do you have any tips that I didn't mention and could help us with our InDesign workflow ? Feel free to share them in the comments section!

Mylène Boyrie is a French print and web designer. She specialized in print and digital publishing, but also loves to create Wordpress-based websites. Mylène also blogs tutorials and screencasts about InDesign, QuarkXpress and Wordpress on her website. She has way too many books in her flat, and will probably finish buried under them.