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Keyboard Shortcuts to the Reference Points

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When you select an object in your layout, the Control palette changes to Transform mode and shows you a little 9-button grid on the far left.

Reference point

These buttons, called Reference Points (aka Proxy Points) let you tell InDesign where to measure from when changing the selection’s X/Y position, its dimensions, or where the point of origin should be when you enter a rotation value, for example.

One question I hear a lot (and just read for the umpteenth time on one of the Adobe user forums) is how to assign a keyboard shorcut to these points. There’s no entry for “Reference Point positions” in Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.

While there’s no direct shortcut for each button, you can get there from here:

  1. Select something with either Selection tool to make the Control palette jump to Transform mode
  2. Press Command/Ctrl-6, which selects the first field in the Control palette, regardless of its mode. InDesign considers the X Position field to be the first one in this mode. But it’s not!
  3. Press Shift-Tab to move the focus one field back and you’ll see the Reference Point grid highlighted:

proxy grid selected

Now you can use the number keys to select a point on the grid. They’re mapped like so:

7 8 9
4 5 6
1 2 3

Alternatively you could use the arrow keys to move from point to point.

When you’ve got the point you want, press Tab to move the focus to the next field in the palette, in this case, back to the X position field in the Control palette.

Use Tab and Shift-Tab as usual to navigate around the palette until the focus is on the field you want, enter a measure, and press Return/Enter to “make it so!”. (Or use Shift-Return/Shift-Enter to “make it so” but keep the focus on the field in case you change your mind.)

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 lynda.com 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
  • Steve Werner says:

    Anne-Marie’s keyboard shortcuts are my favorites.

    However, just today, Dave Saunders suggested using scripts to get to the reference points more directly. See this thread in the Adobe InDesign Mac forum:

    https://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx/.3bc0a59b/1

  • Daryl Pagel says:

    This is a great short cut. One minor problem, the statement “Press Command/Ctrl-6” should actually “Command-6” to highlight the first field in the Control palette. Command/Ctrl-6 will hide/show the Control palette. Great tip! I use it often.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Daryl, I meant (and should’ve written) “Command-6/Ctrl-6” … I wanted to put in both the Mac and Windows keyboard shortcuts. Just a little shorthand gone awry. ;-) Glad you liked the tip…

  • Unfortunately, all the shortcuts to switch references points or to switch between Character and Paragraph Options on the Control palette DO NOT work in the French version of InDesign as stated in the Help…

  • Johnny Rotten says:

    the link to the script :

    https://www.adobeforums.com/cgi-bin/webx/.3bc0a59b/1

    doesnt work any more… could anybody post working link ?

  • Stephan Möbius says:

    Put this in a script and you can put a keyboard shortcut to set the reference point to TOP LEFT:

    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.TOP_LEFT_ANCHOR;

    This for BOTTOM LEFT:

    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.BOTTOM_LEFT_ANCHOR;

    THIS FOR CENTER:

    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.CENTER_ANCHOR;

    ETC…

  • Kelly Vaughn says:

    Sweet! I’ve always thought it rather annoying to have to take my hands off the keyboard in order to change a reference point. Now I don’t have to. Great Tip!

  • Filip Vavra says:

    dear, i don’t understand how to make indesign use my new script (below) as shortcuts, please help…

    according to instructions above i made a new script and placed it to applications/indesign/script folder. what should i do now to set my shortcuts, please? :-)

    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.TOP_LEFT_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.BOTTOM_LEFT_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.CENTER_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.TOP_CENTER_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.BOTTOM_CENTER_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.LEFT_CENTER_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.RIGHT_CENTER_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.TOP_RIGHT_ANCHOR;
    app.layoutWindows[0].transformReferencePoint = AnchorPoint.BOTTOM_RIGHT_ANCHOR;

    thank you very much for help.

  • DHC says:

    Thank you!! 11 years later, this tip just made my day!

  • JB says:

    awesome! thanks bunches for this!

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