Although Adobe announced
InDesign CS3 this week, it will be a while before it gets into general use in the field. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite tips for working with text in the current version of InDesign:
Fine-tuning superscripts and subscripts
When dealing with superscript and subscript characters in your InDesign documents, you often don’t get the results you want with InDesign’s default settings. For example, try typing the numbers for 24 and a half. Normally, you would probably use superscript for 1, a normal slash, and follow it with a subscript of 2. Using InDesign’s default settings for superscript and subscript—58.3% size and 33.3% position—your type would look something like Figure 1 below. You’ll notice that the “1” looks OK, but the 2 is not only too large, but is set way too far below the baseline of the line of text, which interferes with the appearance of the leading of the text.
To fix it, go to the InDesign menu and select Preferences – > Advanced Type. Under Character Settings, change the values for Superscript to 52% for size and 30% for position. For Subscript, change the values to 52% for size and 0% for position and hit OK.
You should now see the very same text adjusted to your new settings as seen in Figure 2 below. Notice that the 1 and 2 are both a bit smaller, but the 2 is perfectly aligned to the baseline of the text. This looks so much better, and requires no effort on your part once you adjust the preferences. You may decide to adjust the slash by choosing a different font weight, or even reducing the size a bit if you like, but I like it just the way it is.
You could adjust these on a per-document basis, but if you change the preferences when you have no document open, the settings will apply to all new documents.
And, if you’re using OpenType fonts with fractions, you can create paragraph or character styles that InDesign can automatically change as you create your text. Just make sure that Fractions is checked in the OpenType Features pane of the Character Style Options dialog box.
Check your kerning
An easy way to get good looking type is to change InDesign’s kerning setting from Metrics to Optical. Adobe’s Optical kerning self-adjusts the kerning based on what looks good to “the human eye” rather than the pure measurements of each character. This is not an absolute fix for text that needs to be manually kerned, but it will go a long way to having good looking text right out of the gate—which makes for less manual kerning later. Just take a trip to the Kerning entry box in the Control Bar and select Optical from the drop down list.
An alternative drop cap treatment
A popular design element in books, magazines and newsletters is the use of a drop cap in the first paragraph of an article or block of text. If you simply set the first letter of a paragraph to be a drop cap, the text that follows will flow to the next line and start at the left-most of the text container box below the drop cap letter. Depending on which letter you started your paragraph with, this can look really odd.
When I use drop caps, I use a simple InDesign feature called “Indent to Here” which makes the drop cap letter a hanging indent in the paragraph. In some instances, this can be much more effective than the traditional drop cap, but it’s purely a design call. See the example below for what I’m talking about.
The first paragraph uses the drop cap without the Indent to Here feature. The second paragraph I placed my cursor just before the second letter of the paragraph and type Command – (backslash). The remaining text in the paragraph aligns automatically to the second letter of the paragraph in the first line. You can have the text align anywhere you wish, just place the cursor in the first line of text where you want the remaining text to align to.
Great looking type is subjective, so your idea of it may not be the same as mine or your client. These tips certainly won’t give you absolutely perfect typography, but they’ll send you well on your way with little effort.
[James Dempsey runs the
Creative Guy weblog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of design topics.]