10 InDesign Preferences You Must Change Today

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By Kelly Kordes Anton

InDesign CC makes a lot of assumptions about you. For example, it’s pretty sure that your world view is pretty Dark. It thinks you understand picas. And it’s pretty sure that you don’t want to take advantage of that gorgeous display your monitor offers. I can’t tell you why it makes these assumptions—but I can tell you where to change them if they’re not working for you. So if you've never customized your InDesign preferences, just press Command+K (Mac) or Ctrl+K (Windows) to open the dialog box and follow along.

1. Lighten Up

Does anyone really like that awful Dark interface? You do? Fine, skip to No. 2. The rest of you, select Interface > Color Theme in the Preferences dialog box. Choose a different option from the Color Theme menu in the Appearance area. I like the retro soft gray, so I go with Light. Whew. So much easier on my aging eyes.

2. Keep Those Curly Quotes Comin’

Now, this one is a little tricky because Use Typographer’s Quotes is actually checked by default in the Type panel of the Preferences dialog box. But how many times do you suddenly find that your quotes are no longer converting to curly? You take a peek at Preferences and, lo and behold, Use Typographer’s Quotes is mysteriously unchecked!

Guess what happened? It’s likely you accidentally hit a keyboard shortcut that toggles off this preference. Check Use Typographer’s Quotes again, then lock it down by changing the keyboard shortcut. (Do you really need to toggle this off? If you need foot and inch marks, just use those keyboard shortcuts: Command+’/Command+Shift+” or Ctrl+’/Ctrl+Shift+”.)

To change the keyboard shortcut, choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. Then select Text and Tables from the Product Area menu and scroll down to Toggle Typographer’s Quotes Preference. Click on the current shortcut and click Remove. (If you’re not using a custom set of keyboard shortcuts yet, you’ll need to create one in order to make this change.)

3. Keep Line Spacing Consistent

When do you not want the leading to be the same within a paragraph? There might be a case here and there, but chances are, you want the same spacing between lines no matter the text sizes. Check Apply Leading to Entire Paragraphs in the Type panel. (If you need more details on this topic, read Rein in Rogue Leading.)

4. Rulers that Rock

Guess what system of measurement I learned in grade school in the 1970s? The metric system. But I never really used that system because “metrication” faded in the US. As a writer and page layout person with no design training, I never learned picas.

But I felt guilty about this. I should know picas. I should figure out how to use them. Apparently, Adobe thinks I am a sophisticated designer who not only understands picas, but is most comfortable using them. So I never changed the default rulers.

Last year, though, a brilliant production artist mentioned to me that nobody really knows picas except for people with newspaper training. Whether this is true or not, it freed me up to work in inches. Let go of your guilt and work in the measurement system you prefer. Choose different options from the Horizontal and Vertical menus in the Units & Increments panel of the Preferences dialog.

5. More Careful Kerning

Keyboard shortcuts for kerning and tracking are awesome for quickly experimenting with type and for copyfitting. But InDesign’s default increment of 20/1000 ths of an em is HUGE. I knocked it down to 5 in the Kerning/Tracking field (Preferences > Units & Increments > Keyboard Increments). Maybe you love it—leave it alone. Maybe you think it’s too small—bump it up. The point is, you can make this setting work for you.

6. Spot Those Spelling Errors

I work in Microsoft Word a lot, and it just loves to try to help you out. While a lot of its help can be a hindrance, the underlining of possibly misspelled words, repeated words, and the like can be pretty handy. If you’d like to see this in InDesign, check Enable Dynamic Spelling in the Spelling panel of the Preferences dialog. (You can quickly toggle this from the Edit > Spelling menu as well.)

7. Quick Corrections

Another preference that mimics Microsoft Word is Autocorrect. If you type in InDesign a lot, turning it on is worth a try. Check Enable Autocorrect in the Autocorrect panel of the Preferences dialog box. Tip: You can use Autocorrect as a poor man’s macro as well. For example, a recent project used the phrase “financial capabilities program” over and over. To speed up the typing of this tedious 30-character phrase, I added a new Autocorrect entry that automatically changed “fcp” to “financial capabilities program.”

8. Ditch the Typical Display

Why would I want my stunning 27-inch iMac monitor to display jagged graphics? Because the default Display Performance is Typical. Who wants Typical when you can have High Quality? If there’s a significant speed difference in displaying High Quality graphics, I’ve never noticed it.

To change the default, choose High Quality from the Default View menu in the Display Performance panel of Preferences. For good measure, I also unchecked Preserve Object Level Settings so that even graphics that are set to Fast or Typical (via Object > Display Performance) always display at High Quality. (But what about that big background graphic that is slowing you down? Put it on a layer and hide it. Don’t display it as a shadow of its former self.)

 

This little hockey player’s shot is super crisp, but you can’t see it onscreen with Typical display. Bump it up to High Quality for a clean look.

9. Greek Be Gone

As with the Default View, I can’t recall a time that displaying characters onscreen slowed my computer to a crawl. But I can recall many times when I’ve been irritated by the little gray bars that appear instead of text. How does this happen? It’s the Greek Type Below setting in the Display Performance panel of the Preferences dialog box.

Essentially, the combination of the Greek Type Below value and the document view scale conspire to replace smaller text (default: 7 point) with gray bars. If you want to see all your characters, no matter how long it might take to draw the itty-bitty ones, change this value to 0. (Thank you to John Cruise for this tip.)

10. Spend Less Time on Links

By default, every time you open an InDesign document, the links to graphics and text files are checked. If anything is amiss, you get an alert rather than an open document. This seems slow to me, especially because I often open documents only to edit them. In many cases, I don’t even have the graphic files, so of course they are missing. InDesign is spending time checking something I already know about—and forcing me to respond with Don’t Update Links.

For my workflow, I decided to turn off Check Links Before Opening Document in the File Handling pane of the Preference dialog. Yes, sometimes I do have the imported files, but in those cases I don’t move the files. And I have to check the links before output anyway. Anything you can do to make opening documents more seamless is nice, so check out this preference and others in this area.

Now, are you thinking to yourself, “I did change that once, but it didn’t stick…?” Even experienced users can get confused by which preferences are document-specific and which ones are application-specific. For help, read A Visual Guide to InDesign Preferences. In the meantime, anytime you find yourself irritated by the state of things in InDesign, take a trip to the Preferences dialog and see if you can change a setting to better suit you, your computer and your work.

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Kelly Kordes Anton works for Creative Quadrant. She writes regularly for filethis.com andgrowthegame.com

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