InDesign’s Layout Grid—fact or fiction?

Recently, in researching for a new title that I have been working on, I came across this page on Adobe Support for a feature called Layout Grids:

They look fantastic, but the only thing is are they seem not to exist at all. There’s lots of mention of really exciting stuff like character grids for horizontal and vertical text, a Horizontal Grid Tool and a Vertical Grid Tool, but they are as evident as unicorns in my world.

The page prompts users to choose Layout > Layout Grid and modify settings such as:

Direction: Select Horizontal for text to flow left to right horizontally, and Vertical for text to flow top to bottom vertically.
Font: Select font family and font style.The font selected will become the Frame Grid default setting. Furthermore, if the grid is set as ICF in the Character Grid in Preferences, the grid size varies depending on the ICF of the font selected. (See Customize layout and frame grids.)
Size: Specify the font size to be used as a base for the body text in the layout grid. This determines the size of individual grid cells within the layout grid.
Vertical and Horizontal: Specify the transformation ratio as a percentage for the font defined in the grid. The size of the grid will alter according to these settings.

It seems it would also be possible to set a measure by establishing a line count of characters, too. This sounds absolutely brilliant—but where is it hiding? With the unicorns, I guess.

I know that over the last few years I have been focused much more on Illustrator and the mobile design tools, but didn’t think I’d missed anything at all, let alone something this important in the world of InDesign. To check my sanity, I messaged my friend and InDesign guru Nigel French, who was equally baffled. So where is the Layout Grid feature? Is it one of those things that got pulled at the last minute from the MAX 2017 release, perhaps—and no-one remembered to let the web team know?

Who can solve this Indesign mystery?

Turn Off Highlighting Form Fields in Acrobat

Recently I’ve been working on an interactive PDF that contains a number of form fields, and is intended to be used live in meetings, to gather information about customer workflows; the attendees will see the form displayed on a large screen so they can see what I’m adding to the form. The layout is a very clean and attractive design based on Material principles and the PDF is an intermediary step in designing a web experience, eventually, so it’s important that as far as is practicable (as there are obvious limitations) it looks to them like that kind of experience.

This is one of those occurrences where form-field highlighting gets in the way; that feature is an important aspect of usability if a form is being distributed or made available for completion anonymously, but in a presentation scenario such as this case it has an effect on the design.

Because it is such an important part of the accessibility/usability aspect of forms, it is turned on by default and where there used to be a toggle for highlighting form fields at a document level, that has been removed in Acrobat DC, and it’s a preference for the user/application.

So, is it still possible at a document level? Yes—AcrobatUsers has a solution for XI, and here’s how in Acrobat DC:

Turn Off Form Field Highlighting in Acrobat DC

If you’re stuck for a PDF, there’s a very simple one here: (it’s the one used in this tutorial and pictured below—did say it was very simple).

When you have your form ready to use and open in Acrobat DC, go to the Tools tab and type a J into the search field to reveal the JavaScript Tool (if you’re not short on time, scroll down the page)—click/tap on the Document Javascripts link and a dialog will open.

Adding the Script to Turn Off Highlighting

  1. Give this Script a name to tell you what it is/does—something like hilightOff—then click Add
  2. The JavaScript Editor will open, pre-populated with an empty function—you can delete that and replace it with:
    var rths = app.runtimeHighlight ; 
    app.runtimeHighlight = false ;
  3. Click OK to return to the Document JavaScripts dialog, and click/tap Close to exit

Save your document, close it and reopen it—highlighting should now be turned off—but as we are modifying a user preference that will affect all documents we should turn it back on again when we close this document.

Restore Highlighting on Document Close

In the Tools Panel (on the right-hand-side—if you can’t see it there’s a little arrow there that will expand the panel for you) type Ja in the Search field at the top and click/tap on Document Actions:

  1. In the When This Happens area choose Document Will Close
  2. Then click/tap Edit and the JavaScript Editor will open
  3. Add this script:
    app.runtimeHighlight = rths ;
  4. Close the editor and you’ll see your line of script in the Execute This JavaScript field—close the dialog by clicking/tapping OK and save your document

This resets the user’s preference back to the default. Save your document and you should be good to go!

Doughnut Chart: Question from Youtube

Good question from a viewer on YouTube, relating to creating segments as part of a whole with a doughnut chart, so that you could represent constituent parts of a whole. Take for example a chart like the [entirely fictitious] one below, showing sci-fi titles in my media library:

You can see that there are 60% Star Trek movies, 25% Star Wars and 15% Doctor Who; of that, the Star Trek titles are composed of 20% Original series, 10% Next Generation, 50% Deep Space Nine and 20% Voyager.

All I did here to achieve this was first of all create my major-split pie chart, then position that in the centre of my document (you really need the Smart Guides turned on to do that quickly) then copy that to the clipboard.

Modify the data

Right-click the chart and select the Data… option to modify the data. All you need to know now is what 1% of your major value is (in this case, with the major value being 60%, then 10% will be 6, so 1% would be .6) so you can use multiples of that to achieve your divisions. The splits in this example are easy, of course, but 20%=12, 10%=6, 50%=30 and then we have another 20% so the first four values entered would be 12, 6, 30, 12 followed by the two remaining major values of 25 and 15.

Now Tap S to access the Scale Tool and enter a uniform value over 100% to make this chart larger (the example above was something like 116%), then once you’ve applied that, use the Paste in Front command (CMD-F on the Mac and CTRL-F on Windows) to drop your original pie chart down on top.


Use the Group Selection Tool (nested with the Direct Selection Tool) to target your slices, and then apply your colour swatches to them. Don’t forget that you’ve got the Color Guide Panel to help you if you want to create quick variations of colours, too.

Make the Doughnut

Now you can make the clipping mask, then apply it to the two charts—refer to the original movie if you don’t know how to do that—and you’re done. The Layers Panel will be your best buddy if you need to select either of the charts to modify the data, and the Group Selection Tool makes targeting pie-slices.

Learn More

Want to find out more infographic tips, tricks and techniques? Then why not check out my course “Creating Infographics with Illustrator

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