In this post I’d like to tackle a few of the common tasks faced by layout artists and designers every day, and speed them up a bit with some InDesign layout magic. We’re also going to use some productivity tips by using Bridge and metadata, which is best practice in any event—making content searchable and indexable is essential, but often overlooked—you’ll also see how this can be pretty useful in InDesign!
While this file may not be the most exciting thing you’ve ever made, it will quite possibly open up your eyes to a few tucked-away InDesign features.
Adding Metadata to Files in Bridge
We have a series of eight images here—but it could easily be eight hundred—and we can apply some common metadata to them all. For that we’re going to apply a metadata template, but if we don’t have such a thing (let’s pretend we don’t) then we’ll need to create one first.
Creating and Applying a Metadata Template
In Bridge, go to the Metadata Panel (in the Essentials workspace it should be at the bottom right) and from the fly-out menu choose Create Metadata Template… and you’ll be presented with a form. Complete the fields as desired. My basic template just carries my essential creator information, such as my contact details and copyright information, as this is something I can apply to any file. It’s easy to append metadata either on a file-by-file basis or even with additional templates; find out more here: http://adobe.ly/1sm7by5.
Applying the template is easy, simply select all of the files that you’d like the template applied to, revisit the fly out menu in the Metadata Panel, then select Append Metadata (so that the original shot data, etc. is preserved) and choose your desired template.
To add descriptions to each image, select them individually and in the IPTC Core section of the metadata panel, click on the pencil icon and type a short description. Tip: It’s worth noting that you can do this with any file in CC applications, while you’re creating or working on it using the File Info dialog which can be found in the File menu.
If you’re using the files provided (see below) then the images all have descriptions in their metadata.
Creating the Layout
For this exercise, we’ll be using an A4 layout with a landscape orientation, equal margins of 12.7mm and nine columns. The file I am using here and related assets are available for CC users, here: http://adobe.ly/10xgN1i, although you can of course work along with any files of your own. If you don’t have InDesign CC, a 30-day free trial is available here.
We’re going to have a little repeating structure, that will accommodate a photo—with a caption—and a star rating, under a heading of “Town Views”, set aside a graphic map and article.
Create the Heading Frame
Although this is often executed as two objects—a frame and a text box—we’rte going to make it all from one object. Create a text frame, add the words “Town View” [whatever] and create/apply a paragraph style as desired. It’s a no-brainer to do this as if we need to make a change later on, then we only need to modify the style definition for all of these headings to change. Hit ESC to exit the Type Tool, and then add a fill colour to the frame, then access the Text Frame Options dialog using CMD-B (CTRL-B on Windows) or Object > Text Frame Options… where we can set the vertical alignment to Centre. Tip: I often find that this sets the text a little low with many fonts, so I build in a bit of baseline shift to the paragraph style.
Create the Image Frame
Draw a frame (mine had the approx dimensions of 57 x 36mm, spanning two columns) and then click on the yellow box (towards the top-right of the frame) to access the corner options. Drag the top-right of the diamonds to the left and aim for a radius of about 3-4mm; the corner type should be “rounded” by default.
Now go to Object > Fitting > Frame Fitting Options… and choose Fill Frame Proportionally from the Content Fitting drop-down, and centre (should be the default) from the Align From grid; leave the crop amount fields all zeroed. Now any content placed into the frame will fill the frame without distortion and it will align the centre of the content, to the centre of the frame.
Adding the Caption
Right-click on the frame, and select Captions > Caption Setup… from the context menu. In the resulting dialog select Description from the Metadata drop-down, and set the caption offset to 1mm. Either use a paragraph style that should already exist in this file or create a new one—you can do this from within the drop-down. Those InDesign engineers think of everything!Tip: My caption paragraph style has a left-indent of a few millimetres so that it more-or-less lines up with the edge of the lower-left corner rounding. Click OK when you’re done.
Now right-click on the frame again, and this time choose Captions > Generate Live Caption. You’ll see a text frame appear with the text <No intersecting link> in it—the magic for that will happen very shortly.
Create the Stars
This one is the most fun—or fiddly, depending on how you see it—but once you get used to it, it’s fast. Select the Polygon Frame Tool (we’ll choose this as it creates a shape with no fill or stroke) and start to draw. The chances are you’re going to be drawing a hexagon—the default polygon shape—but we’re going to modify whatever it is you’re drawing, although we will assume that it’s the default for now.
Here are the steps, and the one thing to keep in mind here is to not stop drawing (i.e. release the mouse-button) until you have completed the operations:
- As you draw, tap the spacebar once—this switches the drawing modes for the Polygon Frame/Shape Tool
- Tap the DOWN arrow once to reduce the number of sides to five (or as required, UP increases this value, DOWN decreases)
- Now tap the RIGHT arrow to increase the star inset value (or as required, RIGHT increases this value, LEFT decreases)
- Don’t stop drawing! With the desired shape achieved, tap the spacebar again to go into Grid mode
- Tap the RIGHT arrow four times to create four copies
- Hold down the SHIFT key (locks proportions) and then release the mouse-button
You should now have five lovely star shapes in a row. Grid drawing in InDesign is awesome (just a shame that Illustrator doesn’t have this feature) and you can find out more about it here: http://adobe.ly/10DQcjD.
While they are still selected, give the stars a fill colour (my example uses black at a 50% tint) and resize as necessary.
Changing the gaps
This nugget is another great hidden power of the spacebar feature. With the stars selected, you should have a frame that surrounds them all. Go to one of the central-side handles, mouse-down, wait for about half-a-second (so you’ll get a live preview: “patient user mode” as you drag) and start to drag inwards. As you’d probably expect the stars begin to distort but if you hold down the spacebar you’ll see that the gaps between the objects is the thing that gets resized—Boom!
Making the Copies
You should be ready to go!
- Select all of the items you just made: Text frame, image frame with caption and stars
- Hold down ALT and start to drag a copy—you should see a “ghost” copy moving with your cursor
- Release the ALT key but keep the mouse button down, drag the copy down to the opposite corner, where you’d like the last set to be placed
- Now tap the RIGHT arrow once, and the UP arrow once—this will create one extra column, and one extra row of copies
Release the mouse-button, and hey presto! You now have six copies of your structure.
Making the Magic Happen!
You don’t need anything selected here, and let’s assume you’re using the files provided—if not just follow along with your own assts.
Choose File > Place… (Cmd-D/CTRL-D—probably the best known InDesign shortcut) and navigate to the Links folder inside the userFiles folder from the downloaded assets—or use your own files—and select six of those images. Remember that you can select contiguous ranges with the shift key, and separate files with the CMD (Mac) or CTRL (Win) key.
A small thumbnail of the first image will appear in the place cursor, and you can cycle through the loaded images by tapping the arrow keys. Click on each of the image frames in turn. You should see that the frame is filled proportionally, and that magically the caption is now populated with the description from the metadata. Try clicking on one of the image frames, and then replacing it with one of the left-over images—you’ll see that the captions are completely live.
Hopefully you’ve seen here how a little bit of setup and InDesign’s layout features are a powerful combination. We only used six images here but imagine if you were laying out an A2 organisational “head-shot” sheet or something like that—it’s also a great way to create content for multi-state objects in DPS, too (see the exercise in the PDF this post for more on that).