This is the Macintosh version of this document.

This InDesign course will begin by giving a general survey of some of the most important features of InDesign CS5. In the sections that follow, you will be guided through an existing InDesign publication. Having that publication on your screen enables you to test and to develop your InDesign skills. After you have completed this part of the course, you should have developed a general understanding of how InDesign works. Before you start reading the next sections, please obtain the ready-made InDesign publication which has been placed on this website. The file is called

Click here to download "".

Your browser will download the file. Safari will download it to the Downloads folder(~/Downloads/). If you are using a different browser, open your download manager to find the downloaded file. If you are unable to find the file activate Spotlight with Command + Space and type in the filename: clerk.publ or the filename of the .zip archive if the system hasn't unarchived it. If the file has been downloaded successfully, Spotlight will now tell you where to find the file.

If the computer is unable to locate the file, try downloading the document again. If you still cannot manage, contact the course coordinator.

1. Starting InDesign

Having obtained the file clerk.publ, start the application InDesign CS5.

  • The InDesign Application usually resides in the Adobe InDesign folder in the Applications folder.
  • To open it double-click the Adobe file.

With InDesign as the active application, open the file clerk.publ:

  • Pull down the File menu and select Open.
  • In the dialog box, select the location of the file, for example ~/Downloads/.
  • Click clerk.publ once (so that it will highlight) and click the Open button or press Enter.

Your InDesign screen should now show a brief travel account called Leyden in the Seventeenth Century, written by Sir John Clerk, who visited Holland in the 1690s. This document will serve as an illustration for the functions that are explained below. During the following sections, you will be invited to experiment with the publication, using the functions and the options that are discussed. If you have made a mess of the publication, it is best to close the clark.publ tab in InDesign, not saving changes when InDesign asks you what to do. Then, re-open the original file. A convenient way to erase mistakes is offered by the multiple Undo function, which you can find under the Edit menu.

2. Looking at the items on screen

After you have started InDesign, your screen should display the following items:

  • The InDesign workspace is enclosed by the usual Macintosh window, with the familiar scroll bars, scroll arrows, closing box, scaling boxes and title bar.
  • At the top and to the left of the workspace are rulers, which indicate actual sizes (you can change measurement units in InDesign > Preferences > Units & Increments).
  • The workspace is filled with an actual page from the publication which you have just opened: clerk.publ.
  • InDesign also uses many so-called palettes. They are all listed under the Window menu. For now, make sure that only the Tools and the Pages palettes appear on the screen by checking and un-checking palettes from this menu. The function of these two palettes will be discussed below. Note that when InDesign is not active the palettes are not visible.

3. Publication v. design: the basic distinction

To be able to leaf through the publication, you need the Pages palette (Choose Window > Pages). On your screen, you should see the same palette shown here. The icons that you can see in the lower half of the palette correspond to the actual pages of the document. You can bring each page on the screen simply by double-clicking on any of these numbered page icons. Except for page 1, your workbench shows two facing pages at the same time, a so-called spread. The page that is selected and highlighted in the Pages palette is the page that you get on your workbench. If you look at the first page of the Leyden publication, you will see that it has a few text paragraphs and a header with text and a page number (folio). If necessary, you can zoom in or out on the document using a keyboard shortcut. While holding down the Command key, press on either + or - on your keyboard.

Now check both the variable and fixed page items while leafing through the publication. While the body text changes from page to page, every page also has items which are the same throughout the publication. There are, for example, the blue helplines (guides) which indicate the position of the header and of the page numbers. Likewise, the purple lines occur on every page. These indicate the type area, which is the area of the paper where body text may be placed: the paper minus the margins.
As you can see, the palette contains two separate sections. In the upper half of the palette, above the grey bar, there are four page icons, one labelled [None]. Double-click one of them to get them on your workbench. Notice that these pages have no body text; the type area is empty. Instead, they have only the fixed items which occur on every page/spread in the publication. Precisely this is the function of these so-called Master Pages. The designer has to indicate items such as headers and guidelines only once on these pages, to have them appear exactly the same throughout the publication. The same applies to headers, margins, columns, etc. These items as they occur on the master pages, are part of the publication's design, called a template or grid, which is the mould in which you pour the text (jargon: import or place) once the design is finished. As you can see in the upper half of the Pages palette, this publication contains three different Master pages (the Master page labelled [None] is not actually used for the publication; its function will be discussed later). Why is this the case? The pages which you can see in template mode all look similar, but they are not exactly the same. If you try and spot the difference between the A-Master and B-master (by double-clicking on the icons of the A-Master and B-Master successively) you will see that the two Master pages have different headers. The pair (left-hand) pages of this publication take the header of the A-Master while the impair (right-hand) pages take the header of the B-Master. This publication also uses a C-Master. If you click the C-Master icon, you can see that it contains two blue lines that run horizontally across the page. These guides have been placed on the document to facilitate the placement of the chapter headings. The labels on the page icons in the lower half of the palette indicate which of these three templates or moulds has been used to place the text or the graphics. Note that each one of these pages is labelled either A, B or C. All document pages are "based on" either one of the three Master pages. Using such Master Pages saves you the effort of having to insert the fixed items anew on every single page. Moreover, it ensures that a consistent and unitary style is used throughout the whole publication.

A piece of InDesign jargon: when you are working on the master pages, you are designing in template mode. When instead, you are working on the publication pages after the template design is final and finished, you are in publication mode or layout mode. This is where you import text and graphics and fit them to the design; this is where you do the actual layout job. The Pages palette of InDesign CS5 aptly visualises this basic distinction. You are working in template mode when one of the page icons in the upper half of the Pages palette is highlighted. When one of the page icons in the lower half of that palette is selected, you are working in publication mode.

Think for a moment why you would not want to import body text on the master pages, in template mode: the same text would turn up on every spread of your publication.

This important InDesign distinction between template and publication is based on an important distinction in publishing practice: that between design and layout. For a long time, these have been the distinctly separate stages in the production process, and the respective tasks are carried out by professionals with quite different training and skills. The development of Electronic PrePress (EPP) with desk top publishing (DTP) programs such as InDesign, often results in one person carrying out both task, working as a designer on the template and working as a layout artist on the publication pages. However, this practice should not be allowed to obscure the essential distinction between design and layout.
Part 4 of the course deals with the different tasks of designer and layout artist in general and in EPP in particular. Make sure to read this section of Part 4; not only because you yourself will be carrying out both jobs at the same time, but also because your work on either one of them will improve from knowing the differences and similarities, and the stages in between design and layout. Click here to go to Part 4 of the course.

Now that the importance of the distinction between design and publication, template and layout mode is clear, let us have a closer look, firstly, at the design and, secondly, at the layout part of the Leyden in the Seventeenth Century publication.

4. Looking at the design

When a designer starts working on a new publication he first creates a so-called stylesheet. An InDesign stylesheet consists of two parts: the template (the Master Pages) and the Paragraph styles palette.

The template

In this section, we will trace the way in which the designer of this publication has created the Master pages. Make sure that you are working in template mode by double-clicking on the word A-Master in the upper half of the Pages palette. Choose View > Fit Page in Window. This function makes the page that you are on fit to the confines of the active window, no matter what size the window is.

You now see the finished A-Master for the Clerk publication on the workbench. It shows the basic proportions of the page and type area as well as the placement of folios (page numbers), headers, etc. The designer created the template in two steps: first he defined the basic settings of the template (the number of pages, the page size, the margins, the number of columns, etc.) Next he finished the template on the workbench. The basic settings can be arranged in the dialogue box that appears after selecting File > New > Document... (Cmd + N). Under File > Document Setup and Layout > Margins and Columns, these settings can always be checked and modified if necessary.

  • Choose File > Document Setup... and look at the specifications given for Page Size and for Orientation
  • InDesign offers a wide range of page sizes (A4, A3, Letter, Compact Disc, etc.).
  • Try a number of different formats and switch from Tall (portrait, vertical) to Wide (landscape, horizontal) orientation and back; see what the effects are on the boxes for Page dimensions
  • Click cancel to return to the template without changing it
  • Under Layout > Margins and Columns..., look at the Margin specifications; these determine the dimension of the type area (type area is page dimensions minus margins)
  • Click cancel to return to the template without changing it

Note that, when you choose File > New > Document..., a menu appears which offers you a combination of these two menus. Filling in these dialog boxes will result in a workbench with a template of certain dimensions (check with the rulers!) with margins and nothing else. As a next step, the designer may want to add some more elements to this bare template:

  • Guides are help lines which make it easier to position text or graphics when designing, importing and laying them out. Create a guide yourself by clicking on a ruler (left or top), keeping the mouse button depressed and dragging the cursor down or sideways or downwards. You can also create guides by using the dialog box that appears after choosing Layout > Create Guides.... You can erase the guide you have just created by choosing Edit > Undo Add New Guide.
  • Headers were typed with the Text tool from the Tool palette and placed in their exact position by means of the Pointer or Selection tool (these tools will all be discussed below);
  • Folios/page numbers. Look at one of them in detail: You will see not an actual page number but a code, namely an A. This code generates pages numbers automatically in publication mode.

When you look at the three Master pages, you will see that the differences between the three Master pages are only slight. To create the B-Master, the designer of the Clerk publication simply copied the A-Master and made a few alterations. The fact that this Master page has been copied is indicated by the label on the page icon. The B-Master carries the label "A" because its design is "based on" the A-Master. Making such a copy also has the result that all changes that are made to the A-Master will also appear on the B-Master. The C-Master is based on the B-Master in a similar fashion.

Whenever you create the design of your publication, you should decide beforehand on the number and the nature of your Template pages. It is advisable to include only the minimum number of items on your Master pages. Because all objects that you place on them will appear on every document page that is based on it, placing too many objects on your template may cause confusion or distraction. The extra guides on this document's C-master are only functional in the case of a chapter opening. They have no use for any of the other pages in the chapter. If the book that you are designing contains many chapters, having such an extra template for chapter openings is convenient because it will save you the time of drawing these helplines on every single page that begins a new chapter.

The Styles palettes

The other part of an InDesign stylesheet, beside the template, are the Styles palettes. (Though we will be examining the Paragraph styles palette, much of what is said about that, is also valid for the Character styles palette.) Again, retrace the steps taken by the designer:

  • First look at the document in publication mode, by clicking on one of the icons in the lower half of the Pages Palette. Note that the different structural elements of the text (chapter heading, body text paragraphs, captions) all have different typographical features. For instance, they have been assigned different font sizes or different font types.
  • Next, choose the Paragraph Styles Palette from the Type menu. You will see that this palette lists items such as Body text, Folio, Caption and Chapter Heading.
  • Double-click, for instance, on the words Body Text. A new dialog box pops up which offers you all sorts of typographical options. These options are listed under General. In this dialog box, the designer of this publications assigned specific typographical features to each structural element of the document. Having defined the style in the Paragraph Styles palette, that style can then be applied consistently to any element in the text for which that specific style is required.

5. Looking at the laid-out publication

We now leave the finished design to take a look at the work of the layout artist. In InDesign jargon: we switch from template mode to publication mode. Go to publication mode by clicking on one of the numbered page icons in the lower half of the Pages palette. Creating a design should result in an empty mould in which the layout artist can pour the text and graphics. So before placing text and graphics, the publication pages only contain the items that are on the master pages: other than that they are completely empty.

The first thing, then, that a layout artist does is to import text and/or site/graphics into the empty InDesign publication. Usually these come in the shape of a computer file, produced in a wordprocessing or graphics application. In all cases, the layout artist uses the Place option in the File Menu. By all means, have a look at the Place dialogue box; by pressing the Cancel button it disappears from your screen again.

However, once the text and graphics are imported, still a lot of work remains to be done before the publication will look like anything the designer had in mind. site/graphics and sections of the text may need to be moved, pulled apart, resized and given their appropriate style. To do this, you will mostly use the tools that you find in the Tools palette. If it is not on your screen, choose it from the Window menu.

The Tools Palette

The Tools Palette, or Toolbox, normally appears to the left of the workbench. The most important tools in this palette are:

The Selection Tool or Pointer Tool is used to select, move, resize and delete items in the publication. InDesign is an object-oriented application, which means that each item you put on the screen is a separate object. Objects need to be selected before they can be manipulated: dragged, deleted, copied, resized, etc. To select items, click the pointer tool, top left in the Toolbox. To practice, try to select some elements from the Clerk publication. Note that the frame the object is in will light up if you select it. Also, blue handles or windowshades appear at the edges of the frame and a small blue square appears in the centre of the frame.
This central blue square is the best point to focus on if you want to move a text frame. If you click that little square and keep the mouse depressed, you can drag the textblock to anywhere you like in the document. If you press backspace on your keyboard after you have first selected a text frame, this will delete that object. To resize a text frame, take hold of one of the windowshades and drag it in any direction. Remember that you can also undo all of these actions under the Edit menu.

The Type Tool or Text Tool allows you to enter or to manipulate text in the publication. After you have selected the Text tool, you can place a cursor inside a text frame. If you do this, you will have two cursors on your screen: one flashing bar indicating where the next character will appear, and secondly the mouse cursor, which you can move elsewhere as you type. The Text tool allows you to do several things in the publication:

  • For instance, you can use the Text tool to correct typing mistakes. A small error actually occurs in the Clerk publication. In the tenth line of the first paragraph on the first page, two consecutive commas appear. Try to remove one of them.
  • You can use the Text tool to create a new frame. Do the following:
    • Click on an empty space, anywhere in the document. If you can find no empty space left in the document, add a new page by dragging a Master page down into the lay-out area across the grey bar. (You can also click on the 'New page' icon in the bottom of the Pages palette window.)
    • Keeping the mouse button depressed, move the mouse firstly in a horizontal and secondly in a vertical direction. Use the horizontal bar on your cursor as an indication of where the first line of your frame will appear. The blue rectangle that appears is the text frame.
    • If necessary, change the shape and/or position of the frame using the pointer tool.
  • You can select sections of the text and assign Character styles to the sections that you have selected with the Text tool.
    • Find the words Corpus Juris on page 2.
    • Select them by putting the text cursor next to it and dragging the mouse over it.
    • Select Italic under Character Styles. It is the second tab in the Styles Palette. Select Type > Character Styles if the styles Palette is not visible.
    • Look at the result.

The Zoom Tool: Click the Zoom Tool in the Tools palette and then click the area you want to zoom in on. To zoom out, use the Zoom tool while holding down the Alt key on your keyboard. Notice that the symbol in the glass changes from + to - as you press the Alt key.

The Shape Tools allow you to draw shapes in the document. Their use is very similar to that of the Type Tool. Simply click on an empty space in the document and move the mouse while you keep the mouse button depressed. The Rectangle Tool is the default Shape Tool. You can switch between Shape Tools in the Tools palette by first clicking on the active Shape Tool, and then dragging the mouse to the right. As you will notice, you can choose a rectangle, an ellipse or a polygon. If you double-click the Polygon Tool a new menu will appear which allows you to modify its shape further. These tools will be discussed in greater detail in Part 3 of this course.

6. Threaded Stories

In InDesign, a unit of text is called a story, regardless of length. Apart from the Chapter heading and Caption, the Leyden publication also contains a longer story: the travel account of Sir John Clerk. Note, however, that this single narrative has been divided over separate text frames which you can select individually. During the placement of the text in this document, these separate frames have been linked invisibly. Such links are called threads. If you choose View > Show Text Threads, the connections that exist between the text frames will become visible on screen. You can see that no text thread appears between the chapter heading and the body text, and between the body text and the caption below the image on page 4. These three items all belong to different stories.

An important consequence of having Text Threads is the following: If words are added to a text frame that is already filled and that can contain no more words, the words at the bottom of the text frame will "spill over" into the immediately following threaded text frame. This feature of Text Threads explains why the chapter heading and the body text are not threaded. Obviously, you do not want to find that words spill down into the first paragraph of the body text when you add extra words to the chapter heading. Secondly, if the cursor is placed in any of the text frames that make up a threaded story, the function Edit > Select All (or keyboard shortcut Cmd + A) will apply to the whole of the story, not just to the individual text frame where you were working.

In-ports and Out-ports

If you select an item with the Selection Tool, the handles that appear around the frame also give you information on whether or not the frame is threaded. Please turn to page 1 of the Clerk document and select the body text on that page. Choose View > Fit Page in Window or zoom out so that you can see the whole page on your workbench. Apart from the windowshades at the edges, the selected frame also displays the so-called In-ports and Out-ports. The In-port appears at the top left of the frame, the Out-Port at the bottom right. Notice the further differences between the two ports:

  • The In-port on the top left is empty. Such empty ports indicate the beginning or ending of a story. A similar port appears on page 4 of the publication, at the end of Sir John Clerk's account.
  • At the bottom right of the first frame, you should see an Out-port filled with an arrow. This arrow tells you that the story is not yet finished, and that it is continued in another text frame.

A third type of port will appear if you double-click the Out-port on page 1. Double-clicking on a port will break, or unlink, an existing connection. A red plus sign now appears in that Out-port. It tells you that there is more text to be placed, but no more room to place it. In this case, you will have to enlarge the text frame, or create a new frame.
When preparing to publish you should never ignore such a red plus sign, because you text will be missing from your publication if you do!

If you double-click the red sign of a selected text frame, your cursor will change into a loaded text icon. This cursor allows you to find a new frame in which you can place the rest of the story. These two text frames will then be linked automatically. This function will be discussed in more detail in Part 3 of this course. For now, choose Edit > Undo Place and Edit > Unload Place Cursor.

Threading and Unthreading

All text imported from a file in one go will be threaded, even if it appears in several text frames, for example because the story is too long to fit on one page, or because you have two columns on a page. However, it may sometimes be necessary to isolate certain sections of the file you have imported into a separate story.

To break the link between two frames, do the following:

  • Select one of the frames with the pointer tool.
  • Select Cut from the Edit menu (or use the shortcut: Cmd + X.)
  • Next, select Paste from the same menu (Cmd + V).
  • The pasted text frame now appears in a separate, unthreaded story.

You can apply a similar strategy if you want to unthread only a section of the text.

  • Select that fragment with the Type Tool.
  • Select Cut and place the cursor outside the original text frame. Create a new text frame, if necessary
  • If you Paste the fragment outside the original frame or into the new frame, it will appear in an unthreaded story.

Conversely, to join two unthreaded stories into one story, use the Type Tool to place the cursor in one of the two stories; choose Select all from the Edit menu (or select whatever portion of the text you wish to select by dragging the cursor); select Cut; set the cursor down in the second text frame on the place where you want to insert the text; and choose Paste from the Edit menu. Both stories now appear in the same text frame. See to it that the text frame is large enough and that it contains all the text. Check the last Out-port to make sure that it does not contain a red plus sign!

  • Experiment with threading and unthreading blocks and check the In-Ports and Out-ports.

7. Saving your work.

This completes Part 1 of the InDesign tutorial. Hopefully you have sufficiently experimented with this ready-made file. Before you quit InDesign, make sure to save your work. If you want to preserve the file in its original state, the way it was when you opened it, this is what you do when quitting InDesign:

  • Close the window by clicking the box top left.
  • Press the button labelled Don't save when the computer asks you what to do.

If you do want to save your version of the publication as well as the original, this is what you do before closing the window:

  • Select the Save as option under the File Menu.
  • Type a file name of your choice (different from the original name!) in the box bottom left (click in the box to place the cursor there and then start typing). You can also choose to create a new folder for your own files.
  • Choose as its format: InDesign Document.
  • Click OK.
  • Quit InDesign by choosing InDesign > Quit InDesign (Cmd + Q).