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Learn InDesign One Feature at a Time

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I’ve seen it many times. New users frustrated trying to learn InDesign and saying that it was way too complicated with way too many features.

And when you look at it on the surface, it’s actually true. There’s simply no way to learn InDesign (or any other major application) all at once. If you’re a frustrated newcomer to InDesign, or even if you’ve been using it for some time and want to expand your knowledge, here’s a suggestion: Set aside about 15-20 minutes every day to learn the basics of one feature. It doesn’t really matter what that feature is.

You could try random keyboard shortcuts to choose a feature. Or, pick up a magazine or book and pick one noticeable design or text feature like paragraph rules, or rounded corners, but no matter how you choose, you’ll find yourself getting more and more comfortable as each day goes by. Once you’ve spent some time learning about it, expand your knowledge a bit more by coming back here and searching InDesign Secrets to see if someone’s blogged about it.

Try it and let us know how you’re doing.

Bob Levine is a Southern New Jersey based graphic designer and consultant He provides guidance in developing efficient, collaborative InDesign and InCopy workflows as well as a full array of graphic design services including WordPress-based web development. For more background, visit his website, or his blog,
  • LuisRM says:

    I wanted to learn all the shortcut keys to the toolbar. It took a little time, but now I know them all and don’t even have it open. It opens up precious real estate, especially on a laptop.

  • I totally agree, Bob. The best way to learn InDesign is to play with it… Try new things, try laying out something you haven’t tried before. The more you know, the more fun it is!

  • Bob Levine says:

    And the more fun it is, the easier it is to learn. Frustration is the biggest barrier to learning.

  • Eugene says:

    I agree. I started by taking on a project. I’d tackle all the stuff I already knew how to do. Then I got into the nitty gritty bits.

    The Real World Series was a big helping hand. Just having a book at your side too look up how to use the Table of Contents feature etc.

    First few months involved me sitting at the computer going through pages of books finding how to do something. When all else fails, just ask someone.

    Similar sort of approach when learning HTML, for me. I bought a book “HTML for Dummies” and sat down at the computer and built the website one step at a time. Starting by doing all the stuff I already knew how to do and then looking up all the code stuff I needed to put in.

    Once I entered a bit of code, I’d check it on the browser, and move on.

    Similar to learning InDesign, I’d test whatever I was doing to make sure it was printable and that it worked ok and that no oddities were happening. Once satisfied I moved on.

    It was the same when learning GREP. I had a whole book to style, 3,200 pages. I opened the first section and started testing out GREP on the text, made sure it all worked. Then opened all the other sections and applied the GREPs to all the sections, I had 3,200 pages styled in a week.

    It’s just about being patient and not only taking one thing at time, but understanding that one thing and knowing the ups and downs of that particular way.

  • Tim says:

    My learning process came about through migration from Quark 6.5 to early CS2. A highly demanding client specification was the driving force with a brief to use the software and not to use it like Quark, I rebuilt an entire book (A business English language training text book) at first from a Quark file and the new version from scratch. This strict brief to ‘use the software properly’ was a god send making me find the cleanest and best ways to make the layout and typesetting work. Structured learning.
    Still learning though, that’s why I come here, cheers guys.

  • Jena says:

    It would be even simpler to do this if Adobe included training videos with CS4, or even allowed users to download the videos, as they did with CS2. I’m in a rural area on slow internet, and it’s impossible to watch video online.

  • Eugene says:

    @Tim – when I first started using InDesign I had moved from Quark 5. I was hired to migrate some documents from Corel Ventura to InDesign. I only had Quark knowledge, so had to learn Ventura and InDesign at the same time as I migrated stuff from one package to the other. Thankfully Ventura is no more.

    I had 15 books from 300 – 3,200 pages to reset in InDesign.

    That process alone taught me so much about InDesign and how to handle long documents – then CS3 came out and the Automatic Numbering which turned out to be one of the biggest time savers (along with GREP) for me.

    And the folks at InDesignSecrets will remember my week-in-week out questions after questions :)

    Thanks for the help guys.

  • clets says:

    Hi, I could not figure out what feature in InDesign CS3 is this. Instead of applying a table, tabs were used and the leading has underlines appearing as if it was in table format (manually drawn a rectangle to close the lines.

    How could I remove and adjust the lines between the leading? Thank you, this is really bugging my work.

  • @clets: I suggest posting this on the the forums. (You’ll need to sign up for a free membership in order to post there.)

    But it sounds as though maybe they used Rule Below?

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