Survive the Switch to InDesign

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Moving to a new place can be hard. Comfortable habits must be left behind. You haven’t learned the quickest route to work, you don’t know which newspaper has your favorite comic strip, and the local coffee shop even uses different terminology. Moving to a new page-layout program can be like that, too. If you’ve recently switched from QuarkXPress to Adobe InDesign CS, the following tips will smooth your transition.

Make New Friends

When you’re just starting to explore InDesign, you need to know the basics. If you’re a little more experienced, you can skip to the next section, “Get to Know the Neighborhood.”

Measurements Palette In QuarkXPress ($945), the Measurements palette is almost indispensable. The InDesign CS ($699) equivalent is the Control palette (Window: Control), which offers options that change depending on what’s selected in the file. The Control palette also takes the place of XPress’s Modify dialog box.

Item, Content, and Type Tools InDesign’s tool palette contains two selection cursors. The black arrow cursor, called the Selection tool, grabs whole objects and grouped objects, as does XPress’s Item tool. The white arrow cursor, called the Direct Selection tool, selects items inside a frame; it’s similar to XPress’s Content tool. The Direct Selection tool also selects an object’s individual line segments and control points. Although the Direct Selection (white arrow) tool’s flexibility can be helpful, former XPress users may unintentionally drag on a side or a corner of a text frame with this tool, pulling the frame’s edges out of alignment.

And unlike XPress, InDesign gives you a separate tool for working with text: the Type tool.

Get Text and Get Picture XPress’s Get Text and Get Picture commands are absent from InDesign, which provides a Place command (File: Place). This command invokes a loaded cursor for text or images. Using the loaded cursor, you can click on a page to directly place text or an image. To create a new frame of a specific size while placing text or an image, use the loaded cursor to draw an area on the page.

Runaround and Text Options Instead of XPress’s Runaround dialog box, InDesign has a palette called Text Wrap (Window: Type & Tables: Text Wrap), which has the same function. Settings for text inset, columns, the first baseline, vertical text justification, and ignoring text wrap can all be found in the Text Frame Options dialog box (Object: Text Frame Options).

Link Tool XPress has Linking and Unlinking tools that connect text across two or more text boxes. In InDesign, text frames have in and out ports (small white squares on the sides of text frames) that you click on with either selection tool to link text from frame to frame. This process is called threading. You break an existing text thread by clicking on a text frame’s out port and then clicking on that text frame again.

Collect for Output Are you ready to send your first InDesign file to the print shop? Instead of the Collect For Output command, use InDesign’s Package command (File: Package). It also includes a Preflight tool (File: Preflight), which checks for potential printing problems, such as missing fonts, images in RGB mode, and low-resolution images.

Get to Know the Neighborhood

Seasoned designers rely on key commands to quickly perform common page-layout tasks. If you’re a QuarkXPress power user, some of the keyboard commands in InDesign CS may frustrate you at first.

Change Tools with One Hand You can use single keys (without modifier keys) to cycle through InDesign’s toolbar—see “Switch with a Single Letter” for the complete list. But pressing a character key can yield undesirable results when you’re working on text inside a text frame. For example, holding down the spacebar temporarily switches to the Hand tool. But if you’re in a text frame, pressing the spacebar adds spaces to your text. To avoid typing extra spaces or random letters in your text frames, Command-click anywhere on the InDesign page to deselect any live text frames before pressing the spacebar or any other single-letter tool-selection keyboard command.

Explore Your Options InDesign ventures into unfamiliar territory with the option-click. When you’re using any tool other than the Type tool, option-clicking and dragging an item creates a copy of the item. If the Type tool is selected and you’re editing text, option-clicking causes the Hand tool, for dragging the page around, to appear, just as it does in XPress.

Edit Text There’s a speedy shortcut for editing text in InDesign. When you’re using either selection tool, just double-click on any text box—your cursor will immediately change to the Type tool.

Define Your Own Shortcuts InDesign’s keyboard-shortcut editor lets you add, remove, or change most shortcuts (except mouse-click shortcuts such as control-click and Command-click). Choose Edit: Keyboard Shortcuts to begin customizing, or choose the provided shortcut set that closely follows the shortcuts XPress users already know.

Unpack the Boxes

You may have left XPress behind, but that doesn’t mean you must abandon your XPress documents. InDesign CS can open an XPress file and automatically convert it if it’s from XPress version 3.3 to 4.11. XPress 5 lets you save documents as XPress 4 files. But XPress 6 users have to save files to version 5, open them in XPress 5, and save them again as version 4 files. If you don’t have XPress 5, try Markzware’s $199 MarkzTools 5.5, an XTension for QuarkXPress 4 and 5 that opens XPress 6 files and saves them to XPress 4 in one step.

Damaged in Transit No matter how you do it, the conversion process may not be perfect. Clipping paths, style sheets, and dashed lines are all common problem areas in converted files.

A clipping path may not align correctly with its associated image. Open the Clipping Path dialog box (Object: Clipping Path), turn off the clipping path, and close the dialog box. Open the Clipping Path dialog box again and turn the path back on.

Paragraph and character style sheets may not appear in alphabetical order in their respective palettes. To correctly sort the style names in the Paragraph Styles and Character Styles palettes, create a new style in each palette and then delete those new styles. Your style palettes will now be correctly sorted—it’s as easy (and as illogical) as that.

Dashed lines won’t match the original dash and gap settings. Select the objects with dashed lines and choose the dashed-line setting, in InDesign’s Stroke palette, that’s close to your original settings.

Pinpoint Problems Plenty of other glitches can occur during conversion. One quick way to compare old and new documents is to open the original file in XPress, save it as a PDF, and then place the PDF in a separate, semitransparent layer in the converted InDesign file. (When the PDF is longer than one page, go to File: Place and put a check mark in the Show Import Options box to select individual pages.)

Align the PDF to the edges of the InDesign page and click on the PDF layer’s lock icon. Make changes to the layout items until the layers match. Then delete the PDF reference layer and the imported PDF.

Settle into Your New Home

The process of moving—to a new home or a new application—comes with plenty of challenges. But once you get used to the differences, you’ll find that many changes were for the better. Soon, you’ll even remember the proper lingo for ordering your cappuccino just the way you like it.

[ Jonathan Woolson is the owner of thinkplaydesign, a print- and Web-design studio. ]

You can move between items on InDesign’s toolbar by pressing just one key on your keyboard.
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