InDesign for Book Formatting: Cheat Sheet I

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Rank Beginners is Us!


This is part of a series. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet.

This next post in my “crazy-journey” series as I experiment with various options for POD book-formatting deals with some of the things I found you must learn—and will want to learn—if you are interested in trying InDesign as your formatting option.

I’ve written already that I found the program a lot easier to learn than I thought it would be when I first opened that cluttered, intimidating screen. I still claim that for a book consisting of basic black-and-white text, InDesign is a reasonable choice.

Last time, I wrote about a number of things you already know how to do—functions that work the same in InDesign as in any other word-processing program I’ve ever used, for example, commands you know already from Word.

This and the upcoming posts lay out some of the new pieces that served me well. Many of these components are intuitive; the trick is often just using an item often enough to begin remembering where it lives.

Today: Navigating with The Pages Panel and the Layout menu.

The Pages Panel is the first and arguably the most important of the components you’ll want to get to know. It opens from the “Window” menu at the top of the InDesign screen. As with all the other panels, you can position it wherever you want, even outside of the program workspace. I’ve been keeping it open all the time.

It shows two sections. The top section displays your “masters,” which you set up in advance with the formatting you want on your pages—in the case of a black-and-white book, specifically a text frame or box, running heads, and page numbers.

Pages Panel annotated

The Pages Panel, showing the Master Pages at the top and the thumbnails of the front matter of my book below. Here, pages 2 and 3 are selected. You can scroll or use the “go to page” option in the Layout menu to move through these thumbnails.

Your masters should be the “trim size” of your eventual book, say, 5X8. Set up the text frame with Margins and Columns, accessible in the Layout menu, much as in Word. Ingram specifies at least 0.5 inches. Running heads and page numbers should be inside these margins, so the top margin of your text frame should be larger than your other margins (as should your bottom margin, if you plan to position your page numbers at the bottom of your pages). I opted for 0.8 on left, right, and bottom, and 1.0 at the top, which gave me room for my heads.

You can set up as many different masters as you want, so that different sections of your book can have different formats. I only needed one, because the only “different” pages I included were those for front matter and chapter title pages; for both of these, I simply applied the “none” option, stripping the heads and page numbers.

More on what I learned about setting up the masters and running heads later!

The second section of the Pages Panel shows thumbnails of the various pages of your developing book.

For me, the panel itself had three major functions

  • I could double click on a page and go there;
  • I could select one or more pages and either apply the masters or choose not to apply them (more later);
  • I could drag and drop pages or spreads to re-order them. When my text didn’t load in the right order (it sometimes didn’t), this feature saved a lot of time.

I found that the Pages Panel operates in partnership with the Layout option in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

  • You can move from page to page via Layout→Next Page or Layout→Next Spread (or “Previous” in both cases). I found this easier than clicking on the next set of thumbnails. (Actually, Adobe provides a useful list of key commands so you really don’t have to click on anything. “Next Spread,” for example, is “Option + Page down” on my Mac.)
  • Layout→Go to Page (CTRL or COMMAND + J) allows you to select a particular page to work on. Much better than scrolling through the Pages thumbnails looking for a page.
  • You can delete selected pages: Layout→Pages→Delete Pages
  • You can similarly add pages or insert pages after a selected page. Layout→Pages→Add or Insert Pages
  • You can apply formatting to a group of pages or to a single page. You do this through Layout→Apply Master to Pages, which gives you a menu of any masters you’ve created, or, helpfully when it comes time to set up your front-matter section and chapter title pages, the option of “None.”

Layout annotated

The only other navigation tool I used regularly was View→Fit Spread in Window (CTRL or COMMAND + Shift + 0). I found this command useful because sometimes, when you “go to” a page, the spread may not be centered, and I liked working with entire two-page spreads visible. Fit Spread in Window became my fix for this feature.

I’d argue that this is all you really need to move around comfortably in InDesign: your Pages panel, the commands in the Layout→Pages menu, the key commands for “Next” or “Previous” spread, and Fit Spread in Window. That’s not really very much, and it’s easy to remember.

My version of Word offers a “Navigation Pane” with much the same function. I began experimenting with using Master Pages in Word so that I could see whether I had the same options in Word as in InDesign, such as the ability to apply masters at will, which, as I’ll discuss in a later post, is one of the features I found essential. At first glance, working with masters in Word is different in several ways and possibly not as flexible as in InDesign. More on this as I continue my education!

Have you worked with master pages in Word? What options does it offer, and how have you made them work for you?



Filed under business of writing, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Tech tips, Writing

2 responses to “InDesign for Book Formatting: Cheat Sheet I

  1. Pingback: InDesign Cheat Sheet 2: How to Get Started | Just Can't Help Writing

  2. Pingback: BOOK FORMATTERS CHEAT SHEET FOR INDESIGN! | Virginia S. Anderson

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