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Easily Toggle Swatch Panel Focus Between Frame and Text

A recent post on the user to user forum was complaining about the difficulty of trying to apply swatches to text in InDesign. The poster went on to say that it seemed like a waste of time to deselect the text frame and then select text. Well, that’s correct. What the poster, and apparently a lot of other folks didn’t know, is that it’s simple matter to switch the focus of the swatch panel from the frame to the text itself.

With the frame selected, just hit the “J” key. The Swatches Panel focus will immediately switch to the text and you can apply the swatch you’d like to your text.

Just hit j to toggle between the frame and the text

Bob Levine is a graphic designer and a consultant focused on providing InDesign training and guidance in developing efficient, collaborative workflows to those moving from QuarkXPress or PageMaker. An Adobe Certified Expert in both InDesign and InCopy, Bob has written articles for InDesign Magazine and is an Adobe User to User forums host. He has more than 15 years of industry experience and has been using InDesign since version 1.0. For more background, visit his website, or his blog,
  • Bilgin Ozkan says:

    Just another reminder why this is the best indesign blog out there. I’ve been using indesign for many years and pride myself in knowing A LOT OF shortcuts… but this one, always bugged me. I shall be sharing this tip around.

    Now if only someone could figure out how to create a shortcut for the align tools in ILLUSTRATOR!

  • That’s great, very useful.
    Now, we are there, playing with the “J” key, is there a shortcut to toggle between Fill and Stroke, by any chance?

  • KENKEN says:

    @Guido Benigni: Yes there is: X toggles between fill and stroke! :)

  • Trond Thorsen says:

    @Bilgin Ozkan: I don’t know Illustrator very well, but it seems like you can’t assign a shortcut to the align tools in the typical “InDesign-way”.

    What you can do however, is to make an action for each align function you need, and assign a shortcut to the action. But I quess you are limited to use the Function keys in combination with the shift or/and command key.

  • Roland says:

    I never knew this and it’s been annoying the poo out of me ever for the longest time — having to click that stupid little ‘button’ to get the swatches for the text rather than the frame, and having to re-do that every time I deselect and reselect the frame.
    J, I have to remember J…

    This is kind of like me not having known for ages that you *can* align to the page in InDesign by holding the mouse down on the icon to the top-right of the align buttons and selecting “Align to page”.
    Ohh and I just found out Illustrator can do that too: in the Align panel there’s a little button with the word “Artboard” above it. Click that, and you can align to the artboard. That icon’s in the bar-at-the-top too (never know what it’s called).

    Yay, I learned something new!

  • Eugene says:

    You can pretty much assign a shortcut to most things in InDesign.

    The latest one I’ve added is align to margins for left and right, by holding Ctrl ALT Left Arrow and Right Arrow.

    Massive time saver for a current project.

    Also added the CTRL M, to merge cells, but changing the mode from Default to Tables gives it the functionality only to work within tables.

    I find that if I’m repeating the same task over and over, then finding a shortcut or assigning a short cut is the best option.

    It’s good to keep in mind that most things are easy enough to assign a shortcut to, if it hasn’t already got a shortcut.

  • Somerset says:

    @Guido Benigni: there is also shift+X to swap the fill and stroke colors.

    and / to set the active fill or stroke to “None”.

  • geal says:

    thanks for all the info. did not know those short cuts. thanks bob.

  • jonboy says:

    Now if only someone could figure out how to create a shortcut for the align tools in ILLUSTRATOR!

    try application called quickeys… can do anything….i think….. go try the demo.

    also, leopard mac can do shortcuts for menu options in any installed app…… on mac…….in system pref.

  • granja says:

    that’s only a short cut. Indesign is the only program I know where once a text box is selected I have to change Focus from frame to text. I would like to make it permanent or at least something I can choose in the preferences. I almost never use the frame color.


  • amateurer says:

    Thank you so much, this has been bugging me for a long time, never took the time to google it. Gonna save me so much frustration!

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