What makes artists and designers similar is their signature style. Cat uses quite a lot of regular design themes and, when in doubt or suffering from designer’s block, she can often been seen to reach for her trusty box of tricks. It’s always a good idea to keep a sketch book of ideas; an unused design can always be recycled next time around. Not only can this apply to ideas but also techniques.
One of InDesign’s palettes that Cat uses most often is the ‘Align and Distribute’ palette . Cat was agog to find that some of her fellow graphic designers were either aligning and distributing by eye or, even more time consuming, by hand-measuring the gap between multiple objects. Life’s too short and time is money, etc.
For those of you who don’t know how ‘Align and Distribute’ works, see this handy guide. It’s the same in Illustrator too.
Most often Cat uses align and distribute to centre two items, horizontally and vertically to each other – particularly text on a rectangular background for example. The end result could be achieved by specifying some ‘inset spacing’ in the text frame options dialogue box and colouring the background of the text frame but, if you subsequently change the text to outlines for print (as is occasionally necessary) any text box attributes, including paragraph rules, background colours and bullets all disappear. This is not what is required and is a serious fault in InDesign, IMHO.
Today, having spent some time meticulously selecting pairs of objects and applying first horizontal then vertical align to each pair using the align and distribute palettes, Cat wished for a better way. The interweb was no help but Cat’s well-thumbed copy of InDesign CS by Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner pointed the way.
Centring objects to each other is a two-step process, there’s no getting around that. However Cat has set up keyboard shortcuts, one for horizontal align (shift+h) and one for vertical align (shift+v). This takes a matter of moments. Go to edit-keyboard shortcuts… and the following dialogue box should appear:
Choose your action from the menu, in this case select ‘Object Editing’ from the ‘Product Menu’ dropdown lost. Then highlight ‘Horizontal Align Centre’ and, in the ‘New Shortcut’ field, type your proposed keyboard shortcut. If the shortcut has already been assigned you will get a notification (Cat first tried ‘h’ for horizontal align only to be informed that it was assigned to the hand tool). Once you’re happy with your keyboard shortcut, click on assign. Once you have finished assigning keyboards shortcuts, click ‘OK’. That’s it!
Using keyboard shortcuts doesn’t remove the tedium of repetitive tasks but lessens it slightly, leaving you more time for a quick look at things like this.