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Beware Basic Styles


We’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s worth repeating: You need to be careful with your Basic Styles, and you’re almost certainly using these “basic” styles even when you don’t know it. For example, whenever you draw out a text frame with the Type tool, InDesign automatically applies the Basic Text Frame object style to it. (However, strangely, if you using Place or Paste to create a new text frame, it doesn’t get any object style applied to it.)

Okay, let’s say you edit the Basic Text Frame object style so that it has a fill or stroke color, or has a text inset or vertical alignment or text wrap or something. For example, here’s a frame set to the Basic Text Frame object style (which, obviously, as been redefined):


Now what happens when you cut or copy this object from your document and paste it into a new document? This:


Why? Because the definition of the Basic Text Frame object style in the new document is very different than in your original. This would be a problem with any two documents that have same-named-but-differently-defined styles, but the problem appears the most with “Basic” styles because that’s what so many people use by default.

The problem appears with the Basic Paragraph Style, too, of course. I don’t like using Basic Paragraph Style one bit.

So, what to do? My feeling is avoid “Basic” when you can, and create your own styles, especially when you have an urge to redefine something called Basic. Of course, it would also be great if Adobe gave us an alert that says, “Hey, you’re pasting in some text/object that has a style name I’m already using; what do you want to do about it?”

But how can you avoid the Basic Text Frame style or Basic Graphic Frame style if you want to change the default formatting of these kinds of frames? No problem: First make a new object style, then drag the little “T” icon that is usually next to the “[Basic Text Frame]” down to your new style. Now your new style is the default!

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
  • Jerome says:

    I never liked the [Basic] style, it should be [None] for this very reason. Although I realize the need for styles in a production environment there are times in that environment but more so in for smaller jobs where it makes sense to use a locally styled paragraph which is not linked to any of the styles in the document.

  • Personally, I think forcing people to use styles is great, but I’m all for social engineering. For example, I think Adobe should show a flashing, nagging alert at you every time you launch InDesign until you can prove that you have created a custom monitor profile for your screen.

    But I have to agree with you that I wish Adobe would let us choose [None] for a paragraph style.

  • What does [None] do that No Paragraph Style doesn’t?

    In CS3, at least paragraph styles will only be based on [Basic Paragraph] if you choose to make it so as opposed to defaulting to being based on it. On the other hand, the trick for deleting [Basic Paragraph] that is available in CS2 does not work in CS3.


  • Brian says:

    You can choose to not have a default paragraph style. You have to choose “Break link to style” from the flyout (with no documents open, of course). Simply clicking off the default style doesn’t work (even though it looks like it does).

  • Dave, I think we’re talking about the same thing, but there is no “No Paragraph Style” anymore. I don’t care if they call it “none” or “nps” or “late for dinner”!

    Brian: You are absolutely right! Wow! I didn’t remember that you could choose the Break Link to Style feature when nothing is selected to make it the default. That does appear to apply “no paragraph style” to all new text frames.

  • But you can still use No Paragraph Style by activating Break Link to Style, and No Paragraph Style does appear on the Find/Change style drop downs, too.


  • Bluehz says:

    Sheeesh – where was this info about 2 months ago when our newspaper switched to InDesign. This problem plagues me to this very day and I have never really been able to put it in words to explain whats happening but this article describes it perfectly.

  • Jim says:

    I’ve defined a stroke color in an object style that never seems to stick, although the weight and effect (line end arrow) do. Is this related to the “basic style” problem you describe above?

  • Leslie Nicole says:

    Another unforeseen problem was when our seperations house would pick up our files and paste them into their larger layouts (for instance, we design the inside front covers for catalogs, but not the inside back covers. – or sometimes there is a gatefold overwrap) The font would change to their default and no one would notice. I’m having to go back and change all my templates as I had redefined the default font in all of them. :-(

  • Leslie Nicole says:

    Also, how can you revert InDesign back to it’s defaut paragraph style?

  • Gecko says:

    Is there any way to open “old” files in ID 5, and have it use the Application preferences, instead of that documents? Quark had a workaround for this, promting you to choose which preference you wanted to use when you launcehed a file, but I can’t find a way to do this in ID? Specifically, I want to maintain my Advanced Type/Subscript & Superscript settings for ALL docs, not just newly created files. Thanx!

  • Sorry, Gecko, I don’t know of any way to do that.

  • Evadne says:


    Find the Paragraph Styles panel, and double-click on [Basic Paragraph].

    You shall find a button called “Reset to Base”. Click it and you’re done.

  • Evadne says:

    Also, you could duplicate the [Basic Paragraph] style first (let it be [new]), then after you have reset it, use the Find / Change function to swap the styles.

  • MH says:

    It’s very annoying when apps decide to reformat at their discretion.

    Duplicating the [Basic Paragraph] style, then swapping them back and forth with the find/change function seems like a good way to go.

  • Old Jeremy says:

    Dave Saunders wrote:
    > What does [None] do that No Paragraph Style doesn?t?

    It may give the impression that InDesign can do the same thing with paragraph styles as it does with character styles. (Such as removing one altogether.)

    But it can’t, can it?

    — Where no character style is applied, the formatting is determined by something more basic, usually the paragraph style. Where no paragraph style is applied, the “more basic” formatting takes on the role of a paragraph style, only now it works in a stealthy way!

  • […] align to grid is turned on for a paragraph style (say, for instance, the Basic Paragraph Style, if someone has been so foolish as to edit that style definition) in one document, but not in another. In that case, when someone copies text from document A to […]

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