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Chapter 4. Type

Chapter 4. Type

Ole’s sordid tale: “Late night. The pale glow from the monochrome monitor of my Compugraphic phototypesetter. The smell of the office standard ‘French Vanilla’ coffee—warming, now, for several hours and resembling nothing so much as battery acid. The gentle snoring of one of the staff writers, who is curled up in the warmth of the unit that holds the spinning filmstrips containing the fonts I’m using to set his story.

“These are the things I think of when I hear the word ‘typesetting’—they’re memories from my job at Seattle’s free rock and roll newspaper The Rocket, circa 1982. Desktop publishing didn’t exist yet, and digital (as opposed to photo) typesetting systems—with their WYSIWYG displays—were rare. The code and characters I saw on my screen wouldn’t look anything like type until they were printed, one character at a time, on a strip of photographic film and developed. I could set just about any kind of type using that machine, provided the characters would fit on a piece of film not more than seven inches wide, and provided I didn’t need to use characters from more than six fonts.”

When desktop publishing systems appeared, we found that they couldn’t do everything Ole could do with his Compugraphic—but that being able to see what our type would look like before we printed it more than made up for any deficiencies in precision, automation, and flexibility. These days, page layout programs are far more capable than Ole’s trusty EditWriter. Does that mean, however, that there’s no more room for improvement? For surprising new features? Is typesetting “done”?

Not a chance—InDesign offers a number of improvements and surprises in the area of typesetting. It’s an evolutionary product—not a revolutionary one, but, on its release, InDesign became the best desktop typesetting program, and raised the bar for its competition.

In this chapter, we’ll walk through InDesign’s typesetting features. We’ll start with character formatting (font, point size, kerning, and baseline shift are examples of character formatting), move on to paragraph formatting (indents, tabs, space above and below, and composition), and then dive into formatting using character and paragraph styles. Along the way, there may be a joke or two.

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