Understanding Liquid Layouts – Part Two

Last week, we looked at InDesign’s Liquid Layout Rules in a general sense and explored the tools we need to master to work with them. This week, as promised, I’m delivering a 2-for-1, as we look at the Scale and Re-center rules. Though fairly basic, each of these rules fills a niche in our liquid workflow.

Liquid Layout Rule: Scale

First up is Scale, which seems pretty straightforward, and it is. But even though it sounds like a one-trick pony, don’t discount it just yet. The little guy has a trick or two up its sleeve.

The Scale page rule—when applied to a document page—scales page items to fit on the page as you manipulate the page’s dimensions. The rule fits items to the page, shrinking or adding whitespace as needed when scaled non-proportionally. Oddly, when the rule is applied to a master page and “Controlled by Master” is chosen on the document page, the page elements are distorted to always fill the page. Note that the Scale rule is the only Liquid Layout Rule that actually scales type. All the others scale only the type frame, which might be a plus or a minus, depending on your particular needs.

Type in the original layout (top) and after using the Scale rule.

Type in the original layout (top) and after using the Scale rule.

I know you’re thinking, “I could simply manually scale objects, why use the rule?” Well, the most obvious answer is that when you scale objects manually, you can only do so on one spread at a time. Using the Scale Liquid Layout Rule, you have the option of scaling objects on each page or spread throughout an entire document. One thing I favor the rule for, over the manual approach, is that I don’t have to deal with items snapping to random guides. If you’re like me, you have a lot of guides on your page and getting items to snap to the right guides while scaling can be tricky. Manually adjusting the scale of items takes more patience than I care to muster. Scale rule to the rescue!
Scale is a great choice when working with a proportional change in page size. Maybe you had a document that had been intended for the original iPad, set up for 1024 x 768, and now you need to design for the retina iPads (at 2048 x 1536). Or maybe you need to go from 8.5 x 11 to 11 x 17. Using the scale rule will let you increase your page size, and scale all elements up easily. In the case of the letter-to-tabloid example, Scale won’t get you perfect results, but it will get you very close. Check out the video below to see the Scale rule in action.

Liquid Layout Without Alternate Layout

When making changes to page dimensions—such as in the examples above—you might not want to keep both the old and the new layouts, you might simply be migrating from one to another. Well, these little wonders do some heavy lifting, even when you’re not using Alternate Layouts. Setting up rules on pages or objects tells InDesign what to do whenever the page changes size or orientation. So, by applying Liquid Layout Rules to your pages, then changing your document size in the Page Setup dialog box, you’ll also see the results of the LLRs.

Setting up a bunch of rules throughout a document seems like a lot of work, just to avoid having to make manual changes to page objects. It certainly can be, so I always weigh the pros and cons of taking time to set up rules vs. manual adjustments. The one place that I always opt for the rules over manual adjustments is with templates.

For instance, I have a client that I generate ads for on a monthly basis. These ads are destined for publications with differing size and orientation specs. I have one template for my wide ad and another for my tall ad. In each template I have all the rules applied to my page elements. When it comes time to create a new wide ad, I open the wide template, enter a new page size in the Page Setup dialog box, and voilà! My new ad is nearly ready, requiring only minor tweaks. Considering all the objects I have in these ads, using Liquid Layout Rules is a huge timesaver!

For the most part, I use the Scale rule when I have many pages in my document and I don’t want to have to manually scale each item to fit the new page size. And even though it doesn’t usually do 100% of the work, overall it saves me time, and I call that success!

Liquid Layout Rule: Re-center

The Re-center Liquid Layout Rule is the most basic of all the rules. This rule does what it says: It re-centers items on the new page. In fact, the results are not that much different than when you re-size a document without any rules applied. It might go without saying, but this rule often works best when increasing page size. Going to a smaller page size will result in items falling off the page.

Sample page with the Re-center rule applied.

Sample page with the Re-center rule applied.

There isn’t really much more to this rule, or much more to say about it. Except that I’ve never found much of a reason to use it. If you’ve used it in a way that’s been beneficial to your workflow, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Come back next week, when we’ll be looking at the Object-based Liquid Layout Rule.

Posted on: May 14, 2015

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, tech edited How To Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS4, and served as leader of the Denver InDesign User Group. After living as a nomad for almost a year, she recently put down roots in El Paso, Texas, where she hikes and bikes every chance she gets. Check out ericagamet.com to see all of Erica's upcoming events, tips and tricks, and workbooks.

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