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This guide gives an overview of digital media resources offered to faculty and graduate students by the Scholar's Commons. You'll also find tutorials, links, and advice for all students.



Answers to Common Questions About Adobe InDesign

Common Questions About Adobe InDesign

Units and Increments

  • Why is 10 pt type too large for my document?
  • Why is my text so huge?
  • What does 66p0 mean?

Your text looks wrong because you aren't aware of InDesign's units of measurement. By default, all InDesign measurements (widths, heights, columns, gutters, etc.) are in picas, a typographer's unit equal to one sixth of an inch. Twelve points make up a pica. Thus one inch equals six picas equals seventy-two points.

There are a few ways of dealing with picas if you are unfamiliar with them. Perhaps the easiest method is to choose a predefined page size in the 'New Document' or 'Document Setup' window. Choose 'Letter' from the 'Page Size' dropdown menu to create an 8.5 by 11 inch document; 'Legal' size equals 8.5 by 14, whereas 'Ledger' measures 11 by 17 inches. A3, A4, A5, and B5 are international standard paper sizes in use throughout the rest of the world, Mexico and Canada excluded.

You can specify measurements and units directly in the 'Page Size' 'Width' and 'Height' boxes; use an abbreviation for the units.

  • in for inches
  • cm for centimeters
  • mm for millimeters

You may also change the units system in the preferences menu:

  • Mac: InDesign→Preferences→Units & Increments→Ruler Units
  • Windows: Edit→Preferences→Units & Increments→Ruler Units

See Also

User Interface

  • Why do my images look so bad?
  • What's wrong with my images?
  • Will all those lines print?
  • I can't find the [gradient, color, character, paragraph, etc.] window.

InDesign defaults to a display setting that draws low-resolution versions of images to the document workspace, allowing InDesign greater interactive responsiveness. You can change the display quality by right-clicking (control-clicking on a Mac) an empty space in the document and choosing the appropriate 'Display Performance' setting.

Guidelines, gutter-lines, margin-lines, etc., are there to help the designer with laying-out and aligning the elements in his or her document and by default do not print. You can turn off display of all helper lines by putting InDesign in 'Preview' mode: View→Screen Mode→Preview.

You can reset the position and appearance of all toolbars and palettes by clicking Window→Workspace→Default. You can also save a custom workspace by clicking Window→Workspace→Save Workspace.

See Also

Master Pages, Page Numbering, Running Headers

  • How do I make page numbers?
  • How do I create a running header/footer?
  • How do I make the backgrounds of every page consistent?

To start, use Master Pages during the design of your document. Place whatever you'd like to appear on every page on a Master Page, then make sure you've applied the Master to the pages in question. InDesign documents can have multiple Master Pages.

InDesign hides the page numbering function under Type→Insert Special Characters→Markers→Current Page Number. You will need to insert the page numbering marker at the desired position in a text frame on a Master Page.

Adding running headers takes two steps. First, reveal the Character Styles palette by clicking Window→Type and Tables→Character Styles. Then create a character style called "Running Header" and apply it to whatever text you would like for a heading. Finally, place the running header placeholder (Type→Text Variables→Insert Variable→Running Header) within a text frame on a Master Page wherever you would like it to appear.

See Also


  • How do I divide a text frame into columns?
  • How do I set up my document to have two or more columns?
  • How do I make uneven columns?

There are two types of columns in InDesign: document columns and text frame columns.

Create text frame columns by right-clicking (or control-clicking) on the text frame you would like to divide into columns. Choose 'Text Frame Options...' from the context menu, look for the 'Columns' heading, and fill the 'Number' box with the number of desired columns. InDesign will automatically calculate the width of each column and fill the text frame. You may also specify the width of each column, and either overfill or underfill the frame. See Figure 8 for a step-by-step illustration.

Document columns guide the layout of your publication. For example, if you wanted two thirds of a page dedicated to text and the remaining third reserved for illustrations, creating a two-columned document would provide the guides for later placement of text frames, shapes, pictures, etc. Specify the number of document columns you would like in the 'New Document' dialog, or alter the number of columns on an existing page or Master Page from the 'Margins and Columns' dialog box (Edit→Margins and Columns...).

Text frame columns must be of equal width; document columns can be differently sized. You can fake the appearance of variable-width text frame columns by creating multiple text frame columns and threading them together.

See Also

Use preset page sizes, found in the 'New Document' or 'Document Setup' dialogs.

Use preset page sizes, found in the 'New Document' or 'Document Setup' dialogs.

Specify units of measurement when creating new documents.

Set the default units via Preferences

Set the default units via Preferences

  1. Create a Running Header style by first revealing the Character Styles panel.
  2. Create a new style.
  3. Name the new style 'Running Header' and set its font, color, etc..
Menu location of Page Numbering and Running Headers

Menu location of Page Numbering and Running Headers

Use Master Pages for numbering and consistency.

Use Master Pages for numbering and consistency.

Change how InDesign previews your work and activate grids and guides from the view menu.

Change how InDesign previews your work and activate grids and guides from the view menu.

Create columns within your text frames

Create columns within your text frames.

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