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Chapter 4. Type > Character Formatting

Character Formatting

Character formatting is all about controlling the appearance of the individual letters in your publication. Font, type size, color, and leading are all aspects of character formatting. (Longtime QuarkXPress users won’t think of leading as a character format, but we’ll cover that next.)

We refer to all formatting that can be applied to a selected range of text as “character” formatting, and refer to formatting that InDesign applies at the paragraph level as “paragraph” formatting. Tab settings, indents, paragraph rules, space above, and space after are examples of paragraph formatting. There are areas of overlap in these definitions. Leading, for example, is really a property that applies to an entire line of text (InDesign uses only the largest leading value in a line to set the leading for that line), but we’ll call it “character” formatting, nonetheless, because you can apply it to individual characters.

In addition to these distinctions, InDesign’s paragraph styles can include character formatting, but apply to entire paragraphs. See “Styles,” later in this chapter.

Character Formatting Controls

InDesign’s character formatting controls are found in both the Character palette and the Control palette (see Figure 4-2). The controls in the palettes are substantially the same, so we’ll discuss them once.

Figure 4-2. Character Formatting Controls

Many formatting commands are found on the Character palette menu...

The same controls (including the menu choices) are also available on the Control palette—in slightly rearranged form.

To display the Character palette and shift the focus to the palette’s Font field, press Command-T/Ctrl-T. If the palette is already visible when you use this keyboard shortcut, InDesign hides it; you may need to press it twice.

To display the Control palette, press Command-Option-6/Ctrl-Alt-6. If the palette is already open, but is displaying the paragraph controls, press Command-Option-7/Ctrl-Alt-7.

Font Family and Font

Selecting a font in InDesign is a little bit different than selecting a font in most other page layout programs. To InDesign, fonts are categorized as font “families,” and each family is made up of one or more type styles. A font family is a set of typefaces designed to have a common “look.” A “font,” then, is specified by its font family and type style. In this book, we’ve used the font family Minion Pro, and the type style Regular for the body text—so the font of the body text is “Minion Pro Regular.”

InDesign’s user interface for selecting fonts mirrors this approach. When you choose a font from the Font submenu of the Type menu, you must select both the font family and a specific type style (that is, you can’t simply select the font family).

Selecting a font is a two-part process. First, you choose the name of a font family from the Font Family pop-up menu. Next, you specify a member of that family using the Type Style pop-up menu. Note that InDesign does not have “type styles” in the same way that other programs do—it makes no assumption that the selected font family has a “bold” or “italic” member, and will never generate a fake bold or italic version of a font. The names that appear on the Type Style pop-up menu are all taken from the fonts themselves—if you don’t have a font for a particular type style, you won’t see it listed in the Type Styles menu (see Figure 4-3).

Figure 4-3. Selecting a Font

The number of type styles available varies from family to family.

To select a font family or type style, you can type into the appropriate field—you don’t have to use the menu. As you type the name of a font family or type style, InDesign will display the available font or fonts that match the characters you typed. For instance you can type “T” and it will guess “Tekton” (if you have that font installed); if you meant “Times” then you may have to type “Ti” or even “Tim”. Note that you can also press the up and down arrow keys, which is especially helpful in the Style field to move from Regular to Bold to Italic, and so on.

Font Style Keyboard Shortcuts. Although InDesign won’t generate a bold or italic weight, you can type Command-Shift-B/Ctrl-Shift-B to make your text bold and Command-Shift-I/Ctrl-Shift-I to make it italic. If a font doesn’t have a bold or italic version, InDesign will not change the text.

Symbols and Dingbats. Sometimes, when you change to a symbol font (such as Zapf Dingbats), you may encounter font substitution (the dreaded pink highlight). This happens because InDesign is attempting to map the character from one font to another. To avoid this problem, hold down Shift as you apply the font.

Duplicate Font Names. Many people have more than one font with the same name on their systems—such as a TrueType and a PostScript version of Times Roman. While most programs just pick one of them (and you never know which you’re getting), InDesign displays both, including either T1 or TT in parentheses after the font name.


You can change the size of text by entering the point size you want in the Size field of the Character or Control palette, or choose a point size from the attached pop-up menu (see Figure 4-4). If you type the size, you can specify it in .001-point increments. After you’ve entered the size you want, apply the change by pressing Return/Enter or by pressing Tab to move to another field.

Figure 4-4. Point Size

Size Adjustment Keyboard Shortcuts. You can increase the size of selected type by pressing Command-Shift->/Ctrl-Shift->, or decrease the size by pressing Command-Shift-</Ctrl-Shift-<. The amount that InDesign increases or decreases the point size when you use these shortcuts depends on the value in the Size/Leading field in the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box.

To increase or decrease the size of the selected text by five times the value entered in the Size/Leading field, you can add the Option or Alt key: Command-Option-Shift->/Ctrl-Alt-Shift->, or Command-Option-Shift-</Ctrl-Alt-Shift-<.

Scaling Text by Scaling the Frame. You can also scale text in a text frame by scaling the frame itself. To do this, select the text frame with the Selection tool, then hold down the Command/Ctrl key and drag a corner or side handle. Hold down Command-Shift/Ctrl-Shift as you drag to scale proportionally (a good thing, as far as text is concerned).


Text characters—usually—sit on an imaginary line, which we call the baseline. Leading (pronounced “ledding”) is the vertical distance from the baseline of one line of text to the next text baseline. When you hear “10 on 12” or see “10/12”, it means “10-point text on 12-point leading.” In InDesign, leading is measured from the baseline of the current line of text to the baseline of the line of text above (see Figure 4-5). When you increase the leading in a line of text, you push that line farther from the line above it, and farther down from the top of the text block.

Figure 4-5. Leading

In InDesign—as in PageMaker or FreeHand—leading is an attribute of individual characters, but the largest leading value in a line predominates (see Figure 4-6). This differs from QuarkXPress, where leading is a paragraph attribute (although if you use QuarkXPress’s relative leading mode, the largest leading in a line predominates).

Figure 4-6. The Largest Leading in a Line Wins

When the word moves to another line (due, in this example, to a change in the text), the larger leading is applied to that line.

For those of us who came to desktop publishing from typesetting, the idea of leading being a character attribute seems more natural than QuarkXPress’ method of setting it at the paragraph level. Fortunately, InDesign lets you have it both ways: When you turn on the Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs option in the Text tab of the Preferences dialog box, the program automatically sets the leading of every character in a paragraph to the same value. QuarkXPress users will probably want to turn this option on.

However, this preference only affects paragraphs that you change after you set it. For instance, you could have it on most of the time, then turn it off in order to vary the leading of lines within a paragraph—something you sometimes have to do to optically balance display copy—and then turn the preference back on again.

How to Avoid Wacky Leading. The main disadvantage of making leading a character attribute (when the Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs option is turned off) is that it requires a bit more vigilance on your part than the “leading-as-a-paragraph-attribute” approach taken by QuarkXPress and most word processors. Most of the time, leading values should be the same for all of the characters in the paragraph. If, as you apply leading amounts, you fail to select all of the characters in a paragraph, you’ll get leading that varies from line to line—which, most of the time, is a typesetting mistake.

You can also get this effect if you leave your paragraph’s leading set to the default Auto leading, which always sets the leading to some percentage (usually 120%) of the text size—or, more specifically, some percentage of the largest character on a line. This is true even when Apply to Entire Paragraph is turned on. We strongly urge you not to use Auto leading (except for inline frames and graphics, as discussed in Chapter 6, “Where Text Meets Graphics”).

If you’ve seen paragraphs where the leading of the last line of the paragraph is clearly different from that of the lines above it, you know exactly what we’re talking about (see Figure 4-7).

Figure 4-7. That Crazy Carriage Return

In this example, the carriage return character carries an Auto leading value and point size left over from previous paragraph formatting (the leading of the rest of the text in the paragraph is 13 points).

Or, better yet, apply a paragraph style, which applies the same leading to all characters in the paragraph.

It’s simple—the carriage return, that sneaky invisible character, can have a different leading value than the other lines in the paragraph. When the person formatting the text selected the paragraph, they failed to select the carriage return. To avoid this, triple-click (or quadruple-click, if you’ve turned on the Triple Click to Select a Line option in the Text Preferences dialog box) the paragraph to select it, rather than dragging the text cursor through the text. Or you can apply a paragraph style—when you apply a paragraph style, InDesign applies the character formatting specified in the style—including leading—to every character in the paragraph.

Leading Shortcuts. You can decrease the leading of selected type by pressing Option-Up arrow/Alt-Up arrow or increase the size by pressing Option-Down arrow/Alt-Down arrow (yes, this does seem counterintuitive). The amount that InDesign increases or decreases the leading depends on the value you entered in the Size/Leading field in the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box (for more on units and increments, see Chapter 1, “Workspace”).

To increase the leading of the selected text by five times the value in the Size/Leading field, press Command-Option-Up arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Up arrow. To decrease the leading by the same amount, press Command-Option-Down arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Down arrow.

Leading Techniques. Here are a few tips and tricks for adjusting your leading.

  • Increase leading as you increase line length (the column width). Solid leading (such as 12 point text on 12 points leading) produces almost unreadable text for all but the narrowest of lines.

  • Use extra leading for sans serif or bold type.

  • Fonts with a small x-height (the height of the lowercase “x” in relation to the height of the capital letters) can often use a smaller leading value than those with a large x-height.

  • Decrease leading as point size increases. Large display or headline type needs less leading than body copy. You can often get by with solid leading or less—just make certain that the descenders of one line don’t bump into the ascenders of the line below.


The goal of kerning—the adjustment of the space between characters—is to achieve even spacing. InDesign offers both pair kerning (the adjustment of the space between adjacent characters) and tracking (or “range kerning”)—the adjustment of all of the inter-character spaces in a series of characters.

For each space between any pair of characters in a publication, InDesign applies the total of the pair kerning and tracking values (so if you set kerning to 50 and tracking to −50, you will not see any change in the composition of the text).

InDesign adjusts kerning using units equal to one-thousandth of an em. An em is equal in width to the size of the type—for instance, in 18 point text, an em is 18 points wide, and so each unit in the kerning or tracking fields equals 18/1000 point (about .00025 inch). You can enter values from −1000 (minus one em) to 10000 (plus 10 ems) in the Kerning and Tracking fields.

Manual Kerning

To adjust spacing between a pair of characters, move the text insertion point between the characters and apply manual kerning (see Figure 4-8). Use any of the following techniques.

  • Enter a value in the Kerning field of the Character palette or Control palette. If the kerning field already contains a value entered by one of the automatic kerning methods (see below), you can replace the value by typing over it, or add to or subtract from it (by typing a “+” or “−” between the value and the amount you want to add or subtract).

    Figure 4-8. Kerning Text

  • Click the arrow buttons attached to the Kerning field. Click the up button to increase the kerning amount by the value you entered in the Kerning field in the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box, or click the down button to decrease kerning by the same amount.

  • Press a keyboard shortcut (see Table 4-1).

    Table 4-1. Kerning Keyboard Shortcuts
    To change kerning by:Press:
    +20/1000 em[*]Option-Right arrow/Alt-Right arrow
    -20/1000 em[*]Option-Left arrow/Alt-Left arrow
    +100/1000 em[**]Command-Option-Right arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Right arrow
    -100/1000 em[**]Command-Option-Left arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Left arrow
    Reset KerningCommand-Option-Q/Ctrl-Alt-Q

    [*] This is the default value in the Kerning field of the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box.

    [**] Or five times the default kerning amount.

To remove all kerning and tracking from the selected text, press Command-Option-Q/Ctrl-Alt-Q (this sets tracking to zero and sets the kerning method to Metrics).

You can’t apply pair kerning when you have a range of text selected—if you try, InDesign displays an error message. When you want to apply a kerning value to a range of text, use Tracking.

Automatic Kerning

InDesign offers two automatic kerning methods: pair kerning based on kerning pairs found in the font itself (choose Metrics from the Kerning pop-up menu), and kerning based on the outlines of the characters (choose Optical). To see the difference between the two methods take a look at Figure 4-9.

  • Metrics. When you turn on the Metrics automatic kerning method, InDesign reads the kerning pairs built into the font by the font’s designer (or publisher). These kerning pairs cover—or attempt to cover—the most common letter combinations (in English, anyway), and there are usually about 128 pairs defined in a typical font.

    Figure 4-9. Automatic Kerning Methods

    Automatic kerning using the Metric method.

    Automatic kerning using the Optical method.

    You’d think that using the kerning pairs defined in the font would be the perfect way to apply automatic kerning to your text. Who, after all, knows the spacing peculiarities of a given font better than its designer? Would that this were true! In reality, very few fonts contain well-thought-out kerning pairs (often, pair kerning tables are simply copied from one font to another), and the number of kerning pairs defined per font is inadequate (a really well-kerned font might contain several thousand pairs, tweaked specifically for the characters in that typeface).

    We really need a better method—a method that can adjust the spacing between every character pair, while taking into account the peculiarities of the character shapes for a particular font. We also need a kerning method that can automatically adjust the spacing between characters of different fonts. With InDesign’s Optical kerning method, we get both.

  • Optical. What’s new and different about kerning text in InDesign is the Optical kerning method, which considers the composed shapes of the characters and applies kerning to even out spacing differences between characters.

    If you’ve ever worked with PageMaker’s Expert Kerning dialog box, you’ll understand the basic technology behind Optical Kerning, but you’ll be surprised by the speed with which InDesign automatically kerns your type.

    In general, the kerning applied by InDesign when you use the Optical kerning method looks looser than that applied by the Metrics kerning method. That’s okay—once you’ve accomplished even spacing, you can always track the text to tighten or loosen its overall appearance. Because tracking applies the same kerning value to all of the text in the selection, in addition to any pair kerning, the even spacing applied by the Optical kerning method is maintained.

Viewing Automatic Kerning Amounts. As you move your cursor through the text, you’ll be able to see the kerning values applied to the text in the Kerning field of the Character palette or Control palette. Kerning values specified by Optical kerning or Metrics kerning are displayed surrounded by parentheses; manual kerning values you’ve entered are not (see Figure 4-10).

Figure 4-10. How You Can Tell It’s Automatic Kerning

Changing Word Spacing. It’s not entirely true that you can’t apply kerning when more than one character is selected. You can select a range of text and select Metrics, Optical, or 0 (zero) from the pop-up menu attached to the Kerning field.

If you want to increase the spacing between words but don’t want to change the letterspacing of a range of text, press Command-Option-\ or Ctrl-Alt-\ (backslash) to add the base kerning increment (as defined by the value in the Kerning field in the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box) after each space character in the range. Hold down Shift as you press this shortcut, and InDesign adds kerning by five times the base kerning amount. To decrease word spacing, press Command-Option-Delete/Ctrl-Alt-Backspace (add Shift to the shortcuts to multiply the effect by five).

This keystroke works simply by changing the kerning after each space character. You can always go back and change the kerning, or use Find/Change to remove it.


Tracking, in InDesign, applies the same kerning value to every character in a selected range of text (see Figure 4-11). When you change the tracking of some text, InDesign applies the tracking in addition to any kerning values applied to the text (regardless of the method—manual or automatic—used to enter the pair kerning). Note that this is the same as the definition of tracking used by QuarkXPress, and is different from the definition used by PageMaker. In PageMaker, tracking also applies kerning, but the amount of kerning applied varies depending on the point size of the selected text and the tracking table in use. In PageMaker, InDesign’s tracking would be called “range kerning.”

Figure 4-11. Tracking

Just as you cannot apply kerning using the Kerning field when you have multiple characters selected, you can’t change the Tracking field when the text insertion point is between two characters—you have to have one or more characters selected. (Actually, you can change it, but it doesn’t do anything.)

Note that the default keyboard shortcuts for tracking are exactly the same as those for kerning; which one you get depends on whether or not you have a range of text selected.

Tracking Tips. The following are a few of our favorite tracking tips.

  • If you’re setting text in all capitals or the small caps style, add 20 or 50 units of tracking to the text. Do not add tracking to the last character of the last word in the text, as that will affect the amount of space after the word, too.

  • Printing white text on a black background often requires a little extra tracking, too. That’s because the negative (black) space makes the white characters seem closer together.

  • Larger type needs to be tracked more tightly (with negative tracking values). Often, the larger the tighter, though there are aesthetic limits to this rule. Advertising headline copy will often be tracked until the characters just “kiss.”

  • A condensed typeface (such as Futura Condensed) can usually do with a little tighter tracking. Sometimes we’ll apply a setting as small as −10 to a text block to make it hold together better.

  • When you’re setting justified text and you get bad line breaks, or if you have an extra word by itself at the end of a paragraph, you can track the whole paragraph plus or minus one or two units without it being too apparent. Sometimes that’s just enough to fix these problems.

Horizontal and Vertical Scaling

Enter a value in the Horizontal Scaling field or the Vertical Scaling field (or both) to change the size of the selected text (see Figure 4-12). When the values you enter in these fields are not equal, you’re creating fake “expanded” or “condensed” type. We say “fake” because true expanded or condensed characters must be drawn by a type designer—when you simply scale the type, the thick and thin strokes of the characters become distorted.

Figure 4-12. Squashing and Stretching Type

Note that entering values in these fields does not affect the point size of the type.

Baseline Shift

Sometimes, you need to raise the baseline of a character or characters above the baseline of the surrounding text (or lower it below the baseline). In pre-DTP typesetting, we would accomplish this by decreasing or increasing the leading applied to the character. However, that won’t work in modern programs—remember, in InDesign the largest leading in the line predominates. Instead, you use the Baseline Shift field in the Character palette or Control palette (see Figure 4-13).

Figure 4-13. Baseline Shift

Enter an amount in the Baseline Shift field to shift the baseline of the selected text by that amount. As you’d expect, positive values move the selected text up from the baseline; negative values move the selected text down from the baseline.

While it’s tempting to use Baseline Shift to adjust numbers in formulae, registered trademark symbols, and so on, it’s better to use the Superscript or Subscript features (see “Superscript and Subscript,” later in this section).

Baseline Shift Keyboard Shortcuts. You can apply baseline shift using your keyboard. To do this, select some text and press Option-Shift-Up arrow/Alt-Shift-Up arrow to move the baseline of the text up two points—or whatever value you’ve entered in the Baseline Shift field of the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box, or Option-Shift-Down arrow/Alt-Shift-Down arrow to shift the baseline down by the same distance.

To shift the baseline of the selected text up by a distance equal to five times the value you entered in the Units & Increments Preferences dialog box, press Command-Option-Shift-Up arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Up arrow. To shift the baseline down by the same amount, press Command-Shift-Down arrow/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Down arrow.


When you apply skewing to a range of characters in an InDesign text frame, InDesign slants the vertical axis of the type by the angle you enter here (see Figure 4-14). You can enter from −85 degrees to 85 degrees. Positive skew values slant the type to the right; negative values slant it to the left.

Figure 4-14. Skewing Text

This might be useful as a special text effect, but you shouldn’t count on it to provide an “italic” version of a font family that lacks a true italic type style. Why? Because there’s more to an italic font than simple slanting of the characters (see Figure 4-15).

Figure 4-15. Real and Fake Italic Characters

Real: Minion Pro Italic

Note the differences in character shapes. Fake: Minion Pro Regular with 10 degree skewing.


The language you choose for a range of text determines the dictionary InDesign uses to hyphenate and check the spelling of the text (see Figure 4-16). Because language is a character-level attribute, you can apply a specific language to individual words—which means you can tell InDesign to stop flagging “frisson” or “gemütlichkeit” as misspelled words, if you want. The only languages that show up in the Language pop-up menu in the Character palette or Control palette are those for which you have a dictionary installed. If the language you’re looking for isn’t in this list, then you can use the InDesign installer to install that dictionary for you.

Figure 4-16. Assigning a Language

Select a word or phrase, then select a language from the Language pop-up menu.

InDesign will use the language you selected when composing text or checking spelling.

Case Options

You can change the case of selected characters to All Caps or Small Caps by choosing All Caps or Small Caps from the Character palette menu (see Figure 4-17 and Figure 4-18). Note that InDesign does not replace the characters themselves; it simply changes they way they look and print. To InDesign’s spelling checker or Find and Change features, the text is exactly as it was entered—not the way it appears on your screen.

Figure 4-17. All Caps

Select the text you want to capitalize, then choose All Caps from the Character palette or Control palette menu.

InDesign displays (and prints) the selected text in all caps.

Figure 4-18. Small Caps

If you’re using a PostScript Type 1 or TrueType font, InDesign displays scaled, capitalized versions of the selected characters.

If you’re using a PostScript Type 1 font, don’t use the Small Caps character formatting option; instead, change the font of the text to an “expert set.”

When you choose Small Caps from the Character palette menu (or press Command-Shift-K/Ctrl-Shift-K), InDesign examines the font used to format the selected text. If the font is an OpenType font, and if the font contains a set of true small caps characters, InDesign uses true small caps. InDesign is also smart enough to do this if you have a non-OpenType font that has an “Expert” version. If the font is not an OpenType font, doesn’t have an Expert font available, or doesn’t contain small caps characters, InDesign scales regular uppercase characters down to 70 percent (or whatever value you entered in the Small Cap field of the Text Preferences dialog box, as described in Chapter 1, “Workspace”).

Changing Case

If Chapter 3, “Text,” was all about entering text, why didn’t we put the Change Case command there? Because, frankly, that chapter is already laid out and we don’t want to upset our indexer.

In addition to being able to temporarily change the case of characters using the case options, you can have InDesign change the case of the characters by typing new characters for you using the Change Case submenu (which you’ll find on the Type menu and on the context menu when text is selected).

To change the case of selected characters, choose an option: Uppercase, Lowercase, Title Case, or Sentence Case. Uppercase and Lowercase are self-explanatory. Sentence Case capitalizes the first letter of each sentence. Title Case is very simpleminded: it capitalizes the first character of each word in the selection, even if the word is “the,” “and,” or another preposition or article (see Figure 4-19).

Figure 4-19. Changing Case

InDesign’s Title Case command capitalizes the first character of each word (you’ll have to fix articles and prepositions yourself).


When you choose Underline from the Character palette menu, click the Underline button in the Control palette, or press Command-Shift-U/Ctrl-Shift-U, InDesign applies an underline to the selected text (see Figure 4-20).

Figure 4-20. Underline

By default, stroke weights are based on the size of the text.

Custom Underlines. Fortunately, you can customize the underline style in each instance that you use it. The trick is to select Underline Options from the Character palette menu (or the Control palette menu when it’s displaying character formatting). The Underline Options dialog box is pretty self-explanatory, letting you set the thickness, offset from the text baseline, color, and line style of the underscore. You can’t save these settings as a style or preset, but you can build them into the definition of a character style (we cover character styles later in this chapter).

Breaking at Spaces. InDesign’s underline also includes any spaces in the selection. Some designs require that underlines break at spaces in the text. You could laboriously select each space and turn off the underline attribute, by why not use Find/Change to do the work for you? Find a space in the selection with the Underline attribute, then replace it with a space with Underline turned off.

Breaking at Descenders. At some point, we said that there was no way to break underlines at descenders. We lied. You can apply a white one-point stroke to the characters. The stroke overlaps the underline. It’s a thing of beauty. If you need to do this to a lot of text, use Find/Change to search for characters with descenders (such as the “j” or the “y”) and use the Format button in the Change To area to give them a stroke.


When you choose Strikethrough from the Character palette menu (or click the Strikethrough button in the Control palette or press Command-Shift-?/Ctrl-Shift-?), InDesign applies the strikethrough text effect to the selected text (see Figure 4-21). To remove the Strikethrough text effect, select the feature or press the keystroke again.

Figure 4-21. Strikethrough

By default, the stroke weight of the Strikethrough effect varies based on the size of the text.

You can use the Strikethrough Options dialog box to to specify the appearance and position of the strikethrough rule. To display the Strikethrough Options dialog box, hold down Option/Alt as you click the Strikethrough button in the Control palette, or choose Strikethrough Options from the Control palette menu or Character palette menu.

Custom Strikethrough. The strikethrough style isn’t particularly consistent; it changes its thickness and distance from the baseline depending on the font. However, you can control the strikethrough style by selecting Strikethrough Options from the Character or Control palette menu. The options here are very similar to those in the Underline Options dialog box: You can adjust the thickness, color, offset (from the baseline), and style of the line. If you’re applying a colored strikethrough on top of black text, you may want to set it to overprint so that it won’t knock out a fine white line—which would be difficult to register on press. If so, make sure you like the result by turning on Overprint Preview (from the View menu).

Highlighting Text. Want to make some text look as if it’s been highlighted with a felt “highlight” marker? You can simulate the effect using a custom strikethrough (see Figure 4-22). Make your strikethrough larger than the text it’s supposed to cover, then turn on the Overprint Stroke checkbox. (If you don’t overprint the stroke, you won’t be able to see the text through the “highlight.” You’ll have to turn on Overprint Preview from the View menu. The highlight color cannot match the color of the type, because overprinting doesn’t work with overlapping areas of a single color.)

Figure 4-22. Creating a “Highlight” Effect

You can also create interesting highlight effects by mixing a custom strikethrough with a custom underline. For instance, you could make a line appear above and below some text, sort of like putting the text in a stripe.


Some character combinations are just trouble—from a typesetting standpoint, at least. In particular, when you combine the lowercase “f” character with “f,” “i,” or “l,” the tops of the characters run into each other. To compensate for this, type designers provide ligatures—special characters “tied” (“ligature” means “tie”) together.

When you choose Ligatures from the Character palette’s menu, InDesign replaces some of the character combinations in the selected range of text with the corresponding ligatures (see Figure 4-23).

Figure 4-23. Ligatures

Select some text and then choose Ligatures from the Character palette menu.

If the font you’ve selected is not an OpenType font, InDesign replaces only the “.” and “.” character combinations. In Windows, InDesign uses these ligature characters if they’re available in the font (and they are, for most PostScript Type 1 fonts), even though they are not part of the Windows character set—that is, there is usually no way to type them. If the font you’ve selected is an OpenType font, InDesign makes the ligature substitutions are suggested by the font.

OpenType fonts can also feature discretionary ligatures—for more on this topic, see “OpenType Fonts,” later in this chapter.

Superscript and Subscript

While you can always create superscript or subscript characters (for use in fractions or exponential notation) by changing the point size and baseline shift of selected characters, InDesign provides a shortcut: the Superscript and Subscript text effects (see Figure 4-24).

Figure 4-24. Superscript and Subscript

Tip: To display the Text panel of the Preferences dialog box, hold down Option/Alt and click the Superscript or Subscript button in the Control palette.

When you select Superscript or Subscript from the Character palette menu, InDesign scales the selected text and shifts its baseline. (You can also press Command-Shift-=/Ctrl-Shift-= or Command-Option-Shift-=/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-=.) InDesign calculates the scaling and baseline shift by multiplying the current text size and leading by the values you’ve set in the Size fields (Superscript or Subscript) in the Text Preferences dialog box (see “Text Preferences” in Chapter 1, “Workspace”).

Note that InDesign does not display the effective point size or baseline shift values in the corresponding fields of the Character palette when you select the text. If you are using an OpenType font that has true Superscript and Subscript characters, you’d be better off using the Superscript/Superior and Subscript/Inferior formatting in the OpenType submenu (see below).

No Break

This one is really easy to explain: To prevent a range of text from breaking across lines, select the text and turn on the No Break option in the Character palette’s menu (see Figure 4-25).

Figure 4-25. No Break

It should be obvious that applying No Break to large amounts of text can make your text disappear (as it cannot be composed in a single column). Right?

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