TypeTalk: Timesaving Tips for Designing with Type, part 1

There is never enough time when working on a design project. Even your best efforts to complete a job before the deadline can result in late nights and rushed presentations. This is especially true when a project includes type. For this reason, I complied a group of tips and shortcuts that can help make the job of designing with and setting type faster and easier. NOTE: Software-related topics are explained via Adobe InDesign, as that is the industry standard for page layout and typesetting. Other software might have similar features.

Customize the Desktop Workspace

One of the most overlooked features of Adobe design software is the Workspace. Located in the upper right corner of the Application Bar, the Workspace allows you to create custom configurations of the panels and menu items. Most people don’t realize they can change their workspace, and so they settle for the default, which is named Essentials. But you may benefit a lot in terms of efficiency by switching to another workspace that fits the kind of work you do. I like to use the Typography workspace, because it gives me easy access to Character, Paragraph, Story, and other panels that I most frequently use. When things get too scrambled up to find what you need easily, you can select Reset Typography (or whatever other workspace you are currently using). You can also create a custom workspace.

InDesign’s Typography Workspace displays the most commonly used features for working with type. When things get jumbled, you can always Reset Typography.

InDesign’s Typography Workspace displays the most commonly used features for working with type. When things get jumbled, you can always Reset Typography.

Changing measurement units

If you create work for both print and web, you might find yourself switching your units of measure between inches and pixels, and perhaps even other measurement units. Default units can be changed via Preferences > Units & Increments. If you change this preference with no documents open, your choice applies to all new documents. But if you need to change measurement units just for the current document, there is a quick and easy way to do this:

  • Show Rulers in your document (Command + R).
  • Hover over the crosshairs in the upper left corner, then Right-click to show unit options, and select.

If you want different units for horizontal and vertical, just click on either the horizontal or vertical ruler, and then Right-click to view and select your preferred unit. Note that the unit you select for the horizontal ruler governs tabs, margins, indents, and other measurements.

Changing unit measurements in an open InDesign document is quick and easy when you Show Rulers, then hover over the ruler crosshairs and Control + click.

Changing unit measurements in an open InDesign document is quick and easy when you Show Rulers, then hover over the ruler crosshairs and Right-click to reveal units.

Identifying font formats

Today’s OpenType fonts, with so many more features than either old Type 1 or TrueType fonts, are a tremendous boon to designers. Once you’re aware of this, you’ll want to begin new projects with OpenType fonts. Since many designers have hundreds of fonts, it can be challenging to identify and then select OpenType fonts. There are two ways to simplify this task: Most commercial font management utilities (such as FontAgent Pro, Extensis Suitcase Fusion, and Linotype FontExplorer) allow you to sort or filter by format. Once you do this for OpenType fonts, put them all in a self-named folder, and only select fonts from there. But if want to select fonts from within an application, this can easily be done as most Adobe software show the font format icon in the font menu. OpenType fonts have a slanted, two-tone cap O icon, making it easy to identify them.

InDesign and many other applications show the font format next to its name in the font menu (upper). OpenType fonts are indicated with a slanted, two-tone cap O icon. FontAgent Pro, a popular font management utility, allows the user to filter by format (lower).

InDesign and many other applications show the font format next to its name in the font menu (upper). OpenType fonts are indicated with a slanted, two-tone cap O icon. FontAgent Pro, a popular font management utility, allows the user to filter by format (lower).

Changing default settings

All software comes with preset default settings for new documents. Adobe InDesign has defaults for many typographic features, including font style and size, linespacing, alignment, hyphenation, figure style, and a lot more. When you regularly use a specific style, such as proportional oldstyle figures, custom hyphenation settings, or optical margin alignment, it makes sense to change the default to save time and reformatting later. This is easily done in InDesign by closing all open documents, and then changing any default to your desired setting. Then it is a good idea (but technically not necessary) to close the app, and relaunch it. Thereafter, any new document will reflect your updated defaults. This will not change any settings in existing documents. Note that the process can vary for other software, and thus requires a bit of exploration.

Changing InDesign’s defaults to your most commonly used settings is a real timesaver. Some of the settings I reset are indicated with a green arrow.

Changing InDesign’s defaults to your most commonly used settings is a real timesaver. Some of the settings I adjust are indicated with a green arrow.

Importing text

Whether when one is beginning a new project, or making corrections or additions to the text of an existing one, working with properly-formatted text is a tremendous timesaver. New copy )especially when lifted from the web) might contain typographically incorrect punctuation such as double hyphens instead of dashes, dumb quotes, double word spaces, and hard line breaks. There are two good ways to address these issues to speed up productivity and avoid major manual corrections in the final stages of production:

  • If you use a Mac, one option is to use Tex-Edit Plus before importing or placing any new text into your design file. This is a very useful text editor that can correct most of these issues, and a lot more. Just copy and paste text into a new Tex-Edit Plus document, then use Cleanup Copy set to your specs. Once this is done, you can then copy and paste it back into a word processing document, or directly into your document or application.
  • If you’re using InDesign, you can also accomplish many text clean-up tasks with Find/Change or the help of third-party tools like Multi-Find/Change from Automatization. See Cari Jansen’s article in issue 84 of InDesign Magazine for efficient text clean-up workflows.
  • You can also use the Import Options dialog box when you place text into InDesign to clean up common issues. When you place the text file, select Show Import Options. InDesign will open a dialog box for the document format you are importing (most commonly Word) where you can edit importing features, such as Convert to Typographer’s Quotes, remove styles and page breaks, etc.
    Tex-Edit Plus’s Cleanup Document is a fast and easy way to Smarten Up some common typographic errors as well as unwanted formatting.

    Tex-Edit Plus’s Cleanup Document is a fast and easy way to Smarten Up some common typographic errors as well as unwanted formatting.

    When importing a Word document into InDesign, click on Show Import Options and this dialog box will appear. It allows you to change dumb quotes to typographer’s quotes, as well as to edit other unwanted formatting.

    When importing a Word document into InDesign, click on Show Import Options and this dialog box will appear. It allows you to change dumb quotes to typographer’s quotes, as well as to edit other unwanted formatting.

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I hope you find these tips helpful and timesaving. Taking the time to read them all carefully and try them out will help commit them to memory, and improve your productivity to boot. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Timesaving Tips!

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Posted on: September 7, 2016

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

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