Using character styles for dot leaders

The topic of tabs and leaders has been covered on InDesignSecrets before in a 6-part series but it’s worth sharing this particular tip as it saves me plenty of heartache in my day-to-day role.

Usual technique

The usual practice of creating a dotted line (usually for either leading up to a page number in a table of contents OR preparing a space for users to add information to a handwritten form) is often accomplished by the tabs feature. For example:

This is achieved by making a paragraph style that has a tab stop that has been right-aligned to the end of the text frame, and in the leader text field of the tab dialog box, a period has been entered, and it is this period that repeats to generate the dotted line.

Issues with this technique

However, I find this is quite restrictive in terms of:

My preferred technique

Instead, I prefer to make a character style called “dotted line” giving it the dotted line appearance that I’m after in the underline panel of the character style dialog box.

If more control is required, I can also prepare a stroke style specifying the dot style and frequency that the dots appear.

I can then either apply the character style manually to the areas requiring the dotted lines, or I can make a paragraph style that calls the dotted line character style using a GREP style that looks for tab spaces.

Bonus tip

Note that my GREP style is looking for \t|~y rather than just \t – the ~y represents a right indent tab. For dot leaders that need to go to text at the end of a text-frame, I prefer to use a right indent tab instead of setting a right align tab, because if the text frame changes width and I want the right aligned item to remain right aligned to the text frame, I don’t have to adjust the tab stop of the right align tab.

To insert a right indent tab, press SHIFT+TAB. This will work anywhere in a text frame except within a table where it will highlight the previous cell. To apply a right indent tab inside a table, either insert one via right-clicking to call upon the contextual menu, then navigate to Insert Special Characters, Other, then Right Indent Tab.

Otherwise, it can be called upon by opening the quick-apply menu via COMMAND+RETURN on Mac (or CONTROL+RETURN on Windows) and type either Right Indent Tab (or, if you’re really lazy – nt tab as highlighted in pink in the figure below).

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Preparing artwork for a Tête-Bêche book

On rare occasions, my employer will be tasked with printing a book that is really two titles in one, but both titles are bound together so that the first title will read correctly until the end of its content, and then the content of the second title is upside-down and in the wrong page order. This doesn’t make sense until the book is turned upside-down, and then the second title reads correctly. This style of binding two titles into one is known as Tête-Bêche (French for Head to Tail).

titlepic

If this still isn’t quite clear, have a look at some of the titles from the publisher Abe Books

While this isn’t a question that’s asked often, a post on the Adobe InDesign forums asked how to create such a book, so I thought I would write up an article of how I tend to prepare the text component of these publications.

Make two separate titles first

It is certainly possible to layout both titles in the same InDesign file using the rotate spread view, but I’d advise against doing this as not only is it generally confusing, the second title won’t be able to take advantage of automatic features such as page numbering, table of contents, indexes, etc

Instead, create the titles as either two separate InDesign files, or two separate InDesign Book files.

PDF only method

Create print-ready PDFs of both titles, and then decide what will become the first title and what will become the second title. Leave the PDF of the first title alone, but to the second title, do the following:

  • Rotate all pages 180°;

01 rotatepages

  • Reverse the page order*.

02 reversepgorder

*Rotating the pages is easy enough in Acrobat, but reversing the page order will call for a technique that has been outlined in an earlier article.

This will result in the first title right-reading in the correct page order, and the second title upside-down in reverse order. From here:

  • Use the Combine Files into a Single PDF… option and join the two files together;

03 combinefiles

or

  • With the first title open, open the pages panel and drag the second title from Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) to the end of the last page.

04 dragdrop

InDesign method

The advantage with this method is that it will work with either a PDF of each title, or an InDesign file of each title, provided that each title is its own InDesign file. If InDesign book files were used, then PDFs need to be made for this method.

Another advantage is that if late changes need to be made, the alterations can be made to the original InDesign title, and then updated in the “conjoined” title automatically.

This method requires the multipageplace script. Make a new non-facing pages document that will be the same trim size as the titles – the document is only being used as a “conjoined” title to put the pages in the correct orientation and order, so facing pages isn’t required. Run the script and import the first title. When the script’s dialog box appears, enter the following options then click OK:

05 importone

Once the script has run, add a blank page to the end of the document.

06 add a page

Run the script again, selecting the second title. This time, enter the following options into the dialog box that appears:

07 importtwo

In this example, the script is starting at page 13 as the previously placed file finished at page 12. Obviously this needs to be changed depending how long the original title is.

Note that this dialog instructs the pages to rotate 180° and to reverse the page order.

08 tada

This will now place the pages in the correct order for Tête-Bêche binding.

Confirmation of page sequence

To confirm that the pages in the conjoined file will now read correctly, make a PDF of the conjoined file and repeat the first two steps used in the PDF method (rotate 180° and reverse page order) – this will show the PDF of the second title’s reading order, and that the first title is now upside-down and in reverse.

The cover

This file will be prepared like any other book, with the exception that the Outside Back Cover (OBC) will now become the Outside Front Cover (OFC) of the second title. Rule to remembering the head directions of the outside covers is that – for a western audience with binding to the left – the head directions should be anticlockwise to the page.

09 headirections

 

 

Is this why Data Merge PDFs are “throttled back”?

Some time ago, I wrote an article about the difference between Data Merge PDF Export vs regular PDF export. The article highlighted the difference between the two PDF exports, but not why the data merge PDF export appears to have been throttled. Admittedly, this seemed more of a curiosity than anything else, and no further research was undertaken.

dmmystery001

The Data Merge PDF export dialog box. The yellow highlight shows items that can’t be checked.

In October 2018, the issue was once again raised by a reader who asked about preparing tagged PDFs via the Data Merge palette for the purposes of Section 508 accessibility – a way tagging a PDF so that PDF-reading software with accessibility features can assist users with limited accessibility in various ways, such as the example of tagging an image with a description that can be read aloud for users with little- or no vision.

As I couldn’t offer an explanation, all I could do was point to my previous article and submit a request to the InDesign Uservoice team to allow the Export to PDF to have all features of a regular PDF.

Then one month later, I fielded a query on the Adobe InDesign Forums concerning Interactive PDF and Data Merge Conflict where a user had hyperlinks in an interactive PDF where data merge fields were present, even though they weren’t linking to anything.

dmmystery002

Notice the tooltip displayed by the name “Zolly” – text that was a Data Merge text field.

That reminded me of an article from InDesignSecrets about Ghost Hyperlinks explaining that data merge fields can also be shown in the hyperlinks panel, meaning merge fields are hyperlinks themselves.

dmmystery003

The highlighted field in the art is the data merge field, as well as hyperlink 2.

However, Data Merge can’t export to interactive PDF from the data merge panel, so the only way I could replicate the forum poster’s issue was to prepare an InDesign data merge file, navigate to a relevant record,  then go to the file menu and export an Interactive PDF of the visible record on the page.

It was at that moment it occurred to me that THIS may be the reason that the hyperlinks checkbox is greyed out from the “export to PDF” dialog box in the data merge palette – because the merge fields are – in effect – hyperlinks themselves, and having hyperlinks enabled would also make the variable text clickable in the resulting PDF, despite having no actual link to go to. It would also explain why data merge does not offer an “export to interactive PDF” option from the data merge palette.

So, despite having a “eureka” moment of solving why the exports were different, it also made me realise that – without overhauling the way data merge works in InDesign – it may be unlikely to directly export PDFs with hyperlinks or interactivity via the Data Merge Panel anytime soon.

It is worth noting that if the data merge is exported to an InDesign file first (as explained in my workaround linked at the start of the article), and then exported to an interactive PDF, these issues do not occur. However, it is double-handling.

Still, this is frustrating in a world moving online, particularly for marketers who want to prepare unique PDFs that contain:

  • Hyperlinks, not just for navigating to URLs, but within the PDF itself, such as footnotes or page navigation;
  • Interactivity such as form fields for the purposes of surveys and feedback; and
  • Accessibility, not only from the legal standpoint of Section 508 conformance, but the genuine desire to engage with people with limited accessibility.

On that note, isn’t it about time to update the data merge feature so that exports are no longer limited to throttled-back PDFs or InDesign files as their only options? As an addition, how about the ability to print a merge directly from a data merge file, a feature that has been available in Microsoft Word for nearly thirty years.

Or what about the ability to merge to uniquely named files based on each record, something that I’ve already prepared a script for but would welcome as part of the InDesign user interface. And why stop at full-throttle PDFs… how about image formats such as jpg or png, or other formats such as html? Statistics from an InDesignSecrets poll show that print PDFs account for just under half of the participants’ usual file output exports.

Quick and Dirty comb-style forms using GREP Styles

I was recently asked to assist with the creation of a large amount of forms that were intended for a print output. The forms themselves were a “boxy” format that also had comb-style fields to indicate how many letters each area of the form should be.

combgrep1

The challenge with this particular brief was how to prepare the forms not only before the deadline, but so that they were also uniform in appearance. The solution was to create a paragraph style that had four GREP styles that would assign parts of the form, namely:

  • The start or end of the form
  • A letter space
  • A small comb
  • A large comb

Each part of the form is a monospaced font such as Courier New that has no fill or stroke, but has an underline and strikethrough that go to making the appearance. Take the following example that shows the style that represents the letter space:

combgrep2

The character styles that represent the start/stop lines or the small/large comb fields are effectively the same, but the horizontal scale is reduced to 3% and the underline and strikethrough options are changed to show different amounts of white (or none at all).

To make the form appear, characters that would not generally be used within the form are used to activate the GREP styles. For example, the pipe symbol will not be used in the form details, so this can be used for a start/end of form. Here is a list of the GREP substitutions made in this example:

  • | = start/end of box
  • ^ = white space
  • ` = small comb
  • © = large comb.

combgrep3

The following illustration shows the GREP styles in use, how a form would appear, and then how the text appears in the story editor.

combgrep4

There are several advantages of using this method to quickly make comb style forms, such as consistent sizing in forms, or easy to copy and paste portions of a form within a document.

However, there is a significant down-side to this method of form construction, namely that it is for print purposes only. While the forms can be created quickly for a print publication, the form fields do not translate that well to interactive forms via Adobe Acrobat using Acrobat’s Identify Form Fields feature.

combgrep5

 

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