is now part of!

Free Guide to InDesign Special Characters


Editor’s Note: The Guide to InDesign’s Special Characters has been updated for CC 2018. See this post for details, and a link to download the guide (free membership required).

Yesterday morning I started on a medium-length post to the blog about some interesting hidden characters I’ve had to identify in a recent InDesign project. But it just grew and grew until I realized, this makes more sense as downloadable PDF.

So here’s my early holiday present to you: The InDesignSecrets Guide to Special Characters in Adobe InDesign. The five-page PDF, about 450K, includes magnified screen images of every hidden character and marker to be found in InDesign, up to an including the new ones in CS4 (such as Hidden Conditional Text). (Note: the PDF is current as of 2012, and we now have a German version, too. –AM).

There are other cheat sheets around, I know, and the online help has a few of these pictured as well. But I haven’t found any guides that (1) Show the hidden characters in context, that is, next to actual text (I used the lowercase “d” and “b” for all my examples because of their straight edges); and (2) Show them really big, as though you had zoomed in to about 800% onscreen — as I often need to do when trying to identify a flea speck like a column break hidden character in 12 pt. type.

You know what I’m talking about — here’s that column break, about the size of the serif on the d:

Also, many of InDesign’s special characters and markers take on different guises depending on their position in the text flow (inline or at the end of a line) or if you’re viewing it in the Story Editor as opposed to the layout. So when appropriate, I show their permutations side-by-side.

For example, a discretionary hyphen looks like this when it’s breaking a line:

But when it’s not breaking a line, the discretionary hyphen is still there in the text flow, and looks like this:

Similarly, an index marker looks like this in the layout:

But the marker looks quite different in the Story Editor (Edit > Edit in Story Editor):

It wasn’t until about midway through that I realized the letters I was using for my screenshots, “db,” were also David’s initials. ;-) I’m jealous! I wish my initials were mirrored opposites, think of all the cool personal logo designs I could come up with.

Anyway, have fun with the guide, and let me know if I missed any!

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @amarie
  • Five says:

    This is great! I often stare at some of those custom white spaces and forget which one I used. And I learned a few things I didn’t “odd page break”!? Very useful stuff.


  • Shmuel says:

    This is fantastic!
    It would be great if it also included keyboard shortcuts for the characters that have them. I’m going to fill them in by hand on my copy.

  • Fritz says:

    The even page break looks pretty happy.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Okay Jeremy, I’ve added the non-joiner to page 3 and updated the PDF on the server. Thanks again!

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Shmuel … I considered doing that (adding the keyboard shortcuts). But it was already getting a bit complex.

    I mainly meant this as a way to quickly scan through the reference to find the squiggle that matches the mystery squiggle or whozits on screen.

    Still I might decide to add kbsc’s later… dunno. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • ElRobbo says:

    If only I had this last week…
    I eventually figured out that some weird glitch when converting an InDesign CS2 doc to pdf was due to hyperlinks!
    But can you find the symbol easily in the help file?
    You’re a saint, Anne-Marie!

  • Klaus Nordby says:

    Thank you, Anne-Marie, for this VERY useful collection of . . . bizarre little doodahs!

  • Jennie says:

    Thank you Anne-Marie! This goes great with the shortcut posters I gott from you guys!

    The one space that I found I “had” to make a shortcut for was the flush space. Just couldn’t live without it. My typesetting experience dates back to an EditWriter 7500 from CompuGraphics…that should explain my love of the flush space!

    I appreciate all of the time and effort that everyone puts into this site!!! Thanks a million!!!

  • Patti says:

    Thank you, thank you!

  • Paulo Fialho says:

    Thank You. Very useful.

  • Lisette says:

    This job aid is too totally cool!
    Thank you!

  • Trish says:

    This is AWESOME!!!!!

    Although I was wondering why was em-dash and en-dash excluded from the list…

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Trish, thanks! In answer to your question, because em dashes and en dashes are actual characters that print. The “special characters” in the chart are the ones that disappear when you choose Type > Hide Hidden Characters.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Note: I updated the guide this morning with the Split Footnote indicator, as explained in this post.

  • Amina Ali says:

    I understand about hidden characters. I left my document open over night and when I came back the hidden characters looked different, for example, the space icon was now an “indent here” icon. Is there a key command that I might have done to change them? How do I change back?


  • Madeline says:

    Wish I’d thought to look this up earlier! Thanks!

  • Dare Porter says:

    Dear am (a nice, playful letter-pair of your own;), Thank you! The yen note mark that positions an anchored object was bedeviling me as I reworked a textbook layout. I discovered your site a few days ago, and I too was disappointed that you didn’t include the keystrokes needed for each secret. But then I found the key strokes, on this site I think, but can’t find them now. Are they here somewhere, or elsewhere?

  • Carolyn Culbert says:

    Hey maybe someone can help — I have a document in Sinhala (language of Sri Lanka) that has a non-joiner coupled with a discretionay line break that is making the “joined” characters not correct on my Indesign document. They were original typed in Word and appear correctly in the Word document. How can I remove them? I have enlarged my Indesign document up to 1000% or more and can’t “grab” them to delete it? Thanks for any insight

  • Carolyn, try the Story Editor. Click inside the story, then choose Edit > Edit in Story Editor. Often these embedded things are easier to grab and manipulate there. You can change the size of the type and the linespacing for the Story Editor in Preferences > Story Editor Display.

  • Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d
    like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  • Cyrill says:

    It seems to me the appearance of these invisible characters changed a little bit since this really helpful pdf was created in 2008. Is there an updated version you could upload? Would really appreciate it!

  • Ruth says:

    How do I delete the end-of-text-in-this story character?
    Thank you.

    • Uwe Laubender says:

      Hi Ruth,

      you could show or hide the “character” that is no character at all.
      It’s nothing that you can type in or you can select and therefore you can delete.

      It’s just a marker.
      An indication that no text is following.

      In a text container ( text frame or text on path ) of a story,
      in a footnote or
      in a text cell of a table.

      What you can do:
      1. Change the view on your document from “Normal View” to any other view
      2. Turn on “Overprint Preview”
      3. Turn on “Hide Hidden Characters”


  • Carey Martin says:

    Hi Anne-Marie, do you have a list of the weird bits that hang off a cursor from time to time.

    I have one where a symbol like a mini table hangs off the cursor when pointed at certain cells/rows and I cannot select those cells either with the mouse or ESC and I have trouble getting into them to edit them as well.

    I have a pic but cannot post it as an attachment here.

  • Ulrich Dirr says:

    I’ve found another special char which I couldn’t find in the PDF-guide:
    It’s probably from an imported Word file but I don’t know the function and it can’t be copied into the search/replace field (I want to get rid of this char).
    Any ideas?

  • >