Making the most of InDesign’s Workspace feature

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When Adobe introduced its first Creative Suite back in 2003, the company offered a new feature that got very little attention called Workspace. In the three major revisions since then, a few tweaks have been made to Workspace, but the feature still doesn’t get the love it truly deserves.

To understand Workspace, think of your office desk. Everything on your desk—the stapler, tape dispenser, pen-and-pencil cup, inbox, phone, and so forth—has its place. It would be pretty annoying if those things get moved around; you would have to spend time moving them back—time that could be spent getting your work done.

Now think of InDesign as your desk. Every panel should have it’s place on your screen. But sometimes you move panels around in the course of working on your document. Moving those panels back to where you normally like them is time wasted.

The solution is simple: Use InDesign’s Workspace to save the location of your panels, as well as any menu customizations you wish. The payoff may not be immediately apparent to folks who’ve never used the feature, so I thought I would share how I use Workspaces.

Setting up Workspace

First, open InDesign and set up all the panels you use the most, such as Character, Paragraph, Colors, Stroke, Effects, and so on. Move them to wherever you want, allowing for the most viewable document space. The side of the screen generally works best. Visit the menubar and select Edit -> Menus and turn off the menu items you don’t use.

Once you have everything set up the way you want, go to the menubar again and choose Window -> Workspace -> New Workspace and give your custom workspace a name. As you can see in the image below, I named it “Main Workspace.”

That’s it. From this point forward, you can move all your panels around on the screen, close some, open others, and get them all back the way you like them simply by going back to Window -> Workspace and choosing your personal Workspace name from the list. Presto! All your panels and menu customizations get reset to your preferred locations.

But if you’re like me, you don’t move your panels around a whole lot, if at all. So how is your newly created Workspace useful? Did you notice I have a few different workspaces set up in the screenshot above? Consider setting up a few different workspaces of your own, one for each set of tasks you find yourself spending a lot of time doing.

A Workspace for everything

My main Workspace contains open panels for basic tasks—a little bit of everything. Then I have a Text/Table Workspace which has nothing but Character, Paragraph, Styles, Tables and a few other text formatting-related panels open. My Graphics Workspace has Layers, Effects, Colors, Swatches, and Object Styles panels open, but no text-related items. And finally, my Layout Workspace shows me my Links, Layers, Separations Preview, Trapping, and other “final-touches” panels.

Depending on the type of work I’m doing at any given time, I can quickly switch to a set of panels catered to that type of work with a simple menu selection. To make switching between workspaces easier, you can even assign a keyboard shortcut to each space.

If you happen to have more than one Mac, you probably want to have the same Workspaces on each computer, as well as have a backup copy just in case. You can find your custom workspaces by going to your User/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign/Version 6.0/en_US/Workspaces folder and burning a copy of the files to CD, or copying it to the same location on other Macs. This assumes you’re using Creative Suite 4. Previous Creative Suite versions of InDesign store Workspaces in a similar location; just look for the InDesign version number you’re running.

[James Dempsey runs The Graphic Mac, which offers tips, tricks and more for Mac OSX and all the Adobe Creative Suite apps.]

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