Formatting Tips for Bullets and Numbered Lists
I love working with bullets and numbered lists in InDesign, I think it’s a quick and easy way to add some structure to your lists or title formats in your document. But I often see people avoiding this option because they think it’s either hard to master or complicated to manage. Let’s go over a few quick formatting tips when working with bullets and numbered lists in InDesign.
#1 Follow the leader
First of all remember that a bullet or numbered list characters will always copy the local formatting of the very first character of the paragraph to which the list has been applied to. So changing the formatting of just that first character in your paragraph will also alter the formatting of your list characters.
#2 Paragraph styles beat basic formatting
When you also include other formatting options like color or styling, apart from the actual bulleted or numbered list option, then that formatting will also be applied to your list characters. So the paragraph style basically paints over the list character.
#3 Character styles beat paragraph styles
Ok, so now we know that you can apply a paragraph style to your list to change the formatting of the list characters. But what if you want to make the list (the numbers or bullets) formatting different from the paragraph formatting? Well in that case you can use character styles on your list characters to overwrite this. To create and apply a character style, use the following steps:
- First select the paragraphs of which you want to change the list formatting.
- Now you need to open the bullet or numbered lists options (depending on the list you’re using). Tip: One quick way of accomplishing this is by holding down the ALT key (Windows) or Option key (Mac OS) and clicking the bullet or numbered list icon. This will instantly open up the options.
- Here, click on the [None] text in the Character Style option and choose “New Character Style…” to create a new character style from within your bullet and numbered list window. (Of course you can always create the character style separately if that makes you feel better.)
- Now change the name and formatting options, remember that these options will take precedence over whatever the current paragraph is applying. In this example I’ll choose a blue color. Tip: if you don’t see the color you’re looking for in the swatches list just double click the fill or stroke icon to open up the New Color Swatch dialog box.
- Click OK to close all the windows when you’re done.
#4 Text character styles or ignored
So in the beginning we agreed on the fact that the list character copies the formatting of the first character in the paragraph. But what happens if that number (or bullet) character is using a character style? Well the answer is simple, nothing! There is no link between the formatting of the list character style and a character style that has been applied to the paragraph text. So remember that the list character style always wins.
#5 Underlines don’t work
Applying a character style to your bullet or numbered list character allows you to apply any formatting you want … except for an underline. Even the activation of the underline option in the character style settings will result in InDesign completely ignoring you. For some reason this feature is unfortunately unsupported so it’s up to you to try to be creative with this. One possibility would be to use a Paragraph Rule (if possible) and just play with the Left- and Right Indent.
Well there you have it, I hope these formatting tips will help you on your way. Good luck!