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Building a Template for Tabbed Documents in InDesign

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CreativePro Magazine issue 16 coverThis article appeared in Issue 16 of CreativePro Magazine.

My work is niche: I create captain’s manuals for custom yachts, which are delivered in binders with tab dividers marking many sections of complex technical material (Figure 1). Whatever niche your InDesign work fills, you might have a similar need to deliver custom tab sets occasionally—or regularly. In this article, I’ll show you how I do it by building a template that leverages some of InDesign’s most powerful long-document features. I’ll also discuss the sometimes-harsh realities of getting tabs printed, so you’ll know everything involved in this kind of project.

Tab dividers mark multiple sections of complex technical material.

Figure 1. Tab dividers mark multiple sections of complex technical material.

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Kelly Vaughn (a.k.a. "Document Geek") has over a decade of print and design experience. She holds Adobe Expert Certifications In InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat, and specializes in writing and designing technical manuals for the marine industry.
  • Melise Gerber says:

    Kelly, this is a great tutorial, and I would love to make it work for my workflow, but how do you deal with a label that has too many characters and gets scrunched because it is a text variable?

    • Kelly Vaughn says:

      Hi Melise, In that case, you likely need to expand the text variable so that it is live text. Alternatively, you could use two text variables for your long tab text: Line 1 and Line 2.

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