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The Worst Designed Feature in InDesign


Everyone gets frustrated with InDesign sooner or later… even us! (And you know I truly love InDesign.) But a few features in this program go beyond just frustrating and enter a realm called “bang your head on the desk trying to figure out why Adobe did it this way.”

Don’t get me wrong—I know no one on the InDesign team designed these features maliciously in order to make our lives miserable. On the contrary, I know that those folks work long and hard to make the best product they can. And I’m sure they had the best of intentions. I suspect the engineers look back at some of these features and think, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

But whatever the case, Adobe did ship these features and we’re stuck with using them. Or, more likely, not using them. And because they’re rarely used, few people complain about them, and so there’s little incentive for the InDesign team to improve them.

So perhaps we should have a contest for “The Worst Designed Feature in InDesign,” and the winner (the feature, not the person who suggests it) gets worked on in the next version of the product.

Here’s a list of some of the features that I would submit:

  • Edit > Place and Link. At first this feature appears so promising, but the whole process of linking and the confusing presentation in the Links panel makes this feature really hard to get excited about. I actually wrote a rather upbeat tutorial on how to use it a few years ago, but I have to be honest: I’ve never once used it in a real job since then.
  • Alternate Layouts. I know my friend and colleague Erica Gamet likes Alternate Layouts, and I don’t deny that they could be useful. But the actual design of this feature—how we’re supposed to use it—is so tortured. This is a feature you have to forcibly convince people to use.
  • Add Fonts from Typekit. I love fonts and I love Typekit, but the way this feature was implemented leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, the primary feature (right at the top of the Type menu) does nothing in InDesign. It is literally just a link to launch a web browser and take you to a web page. Really? Why can’t I do this inside InDesign? Second, about 40% of the time when I open a document that uses Typekit for Desktop fonts that are not currently installed, InDesign can’t figure out what to do, or it claims Typekit isn’t running (when it obviously is), or it doesn’t know that this font is part of Typekit, and so on. Come on, Adobe, I know you can do better than this.
  • Gap Tool. Oh my gosh, where to begin? It’s bad enough that this is the only tool that requires people to read the manual or the Tool Hints panel every time they use it. (Did you even know InDesign has a Tool Hints panel? It’s really hidden.) But the fact that you can’t use this tool to specify a numeric gap (e.g. “I want exactly 10mm between these objects”) is, in a word, bizarre.
  • Indexing. No one likes indexing a document. And many people today think indexing is passé because people can use electronic search. (If you think that, consider yourself slapped with a wet noodle. Indexing is more than just search. Indexing is about helping your audience find what they’re looking for, even when they don’t know how to ask the right question.) Anyway, creating a good index is hard enough, but InDesign makes it torture.

I’m not even going to touch XML (because… well, just because).

There are plenty of other features that could be made a little bit better, but what InDesign features can you think of beyond this list that could use a massive makeover?

(Yes, we all know want features that aren’t in InDesign yet… let’s focus on what is there already, but just need to be made better.)

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
  • Billy Ölvestad says:

    Agree on the indexing part, especially when making a book in say 10 different languages, including arabic and persian, and at the same time using indesign books with a separate file for each language.
    You have to really be prepared to wait while the computer seems to try to strangle itself.
    It works, but man do you wait, and wait and wait.

    • Billy Ölvestad says:

      Sorry, meant separate file for each CHAPTER. Separate files for each language goes without saying :-)

  • Thanks for mentioning the woes of indexing. I regularly layout books whose indexes have hundreds of subjects and thousands of entries. Entering them is horribly tedious: scrolling down long lists th find the existing subject, clicking on tiny targets, etc.The UI is absolutely horrible. Gripes include:

    1. Tiny text. Not everyone has the eyes of a twenty-year-old.
    2. Limited size of the panel list. That means a lot of time is spent scrolling.
    3. The list doesn’t it update after each entry, so we can check its accuracy. That especially matters when the entry is a page range. Why do we have to do that refresh manually?
    4. No way to format a portion of an entry inside an entry, say italicizing a book title. I’ve got a work around, but why is it necessary?
    4. Entry fields are far too small. Why do we have to scroll to see everything? This isn’t 1992. We have displays 23-inches are larger. Why make everthing small, the text, the fields, the icons to click on. Make the panels larger. Allow users to select a 2X size for them. We have the display space now.
    5. Too much counting. Where an entry will span more than one page, we have to hand count the number of pages, paragraphs or whatever. Why can’t we just select a range and have ID handle that automatically?

    I could go on, but notice that almost everything is the dreadful UI like David said.

    The good side, it that the problems lies almost entirely with the UI. With a few exceptions, what it does is quite well designed feature-wise. I particularly like being able to alter entries without going to every use of them. Almost all the woes lie with entering and editing the entries. Whoever designed it didn’t seem to realize that indexing is done hundreds of times.

    Possible solutions:

    1. A total redesign of the UI, fixing the worst problems.

    2. Even better, creating a specal panel intended just for creating new page entries. Generic, do-all panels are tolerable for a feature we use only occasionally, such as defining paragraph styles. They’re horrible for indexing that’s often done thousands of times. Leave the existing panel for special purposes, but create a index entry panel that’s designed to be fast, easy and painless.

    3. Some wonderful script developer could create a tool, complete with its own panel, that’d make this process much easier. Personally, I’d like to see Adobe, who’d charging us a hefty subscription fee each month, work out arrangements that let us get for free, with the developer being paid, the handier third-party scripts. Perhaps they could allow us to acquire one each month.
    This also brings up an idea I’ve already shared with the ID design team when I lived in Seattle. That’s using an app on a tablet to provide a touch-screen UI into Adobe products. A large iPad screen makes an extra large panel and for certain features a touch UI beats the socks off a mouse one.

    For ID, that would a tablet-to-ID link and an app that’s intended to do specific, oft-repeated ID tasks easily and efficiently on a touch screen. Indexing is a perfect illustration of that. Users would simply mouse click in the document where an entry will go, and then turn to their tablet. A large, scrolling list would let them quickly select the entry. The most common types of index entries could be handle by tapping on the tablet screen rather than tediously wading through panel entries and clicking on tiny icons. Indexing is a pain, in part, because it requires us to use our fine-motor skills to much.

    Other repetitive work could also be handled with a tablet app working in synch with ID. Users spend a lot of time formatting paragraph of text in a new document. Why not have a table app that lets us apply a style via an easy-to-scroll list and then ID automatically jumps to the next paragraph. Why the tedious clicking in a paragraph, clumsily mouse-scrolling down what in my documents is often a couple of hundred styles, selecting the right style, then clicking in the next paragraph and repeating the process?

    In short, for tediouos, oft-repeated tasks, Adobe needs a tablet app that works with ID and is specifically designed to make the procsss much easier. That’s solve these indexing woes and other repetitive.

    Adobe might even come up with a way that would open ID to third-party tablet apps much like it allows scripting. Someone could create a scipting app that would be a delight to use.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Creative Cloud Libraries – not only is it badly designed, but it’s only called “Libraries” in Photoshop and Illustrator as opposed to “CC Libraries”, which on first glance makes it near impossible to find in PS and Illy.

    But my main issue with it is there is no button/menu item to add swatches to the Swatches panel – you need to right click to get the option to that.

    What’s the point in having a library panel if you can’t import a library of styles/colours/branding etc directly into a new working job?

    • Libraries could be so powerful — they’re already pretty functional, IMO — but I totally agree that the panel itself is clunky. Needs simple updates like drag-to-reorder, which the swatches and styles panels have baked in. It’s also very annoying when things get accidentally added or, as has plagued me lately, renamed. I seem to have a number of swatches all named “t”.

  • Of these, I totally agree with TypeKit and Alternative Layouts. For Typekit, auto-activation is *everything*, and if it can’t detect-and-activate a remote font, than really this entire endeavor is incomplete. Alternative Layouts could be so great, but it’s clunky as all heck to the point where I simply don’t use this feature. Lately, I’ve taken to using the Artboards hack to create single spreads with multiple sizes — very handy for social media graphics which fall into different sizes and aspect ratios.

  • Tudor Vedeanu says:

    I’m going to add a basic one: working with gradients in InDesign is so last century. For me it’s unusable. Why can’t they copy the gradient engine from Illustrator?

    • Now you’re going into the realm of small stuff — a long, long list. For me, it’s scrubby sliders and HSB colour mode. If PS and Ai can do it, why can’t we have it in ID? Plus the huge list of verbal/naming inconsistencies piss me off. Even something as simple as “Interface” vs. “User Interface” irks me. And please, whatever you do, don’t get me started on the Print dialogue windows — different in every app. They should all use the most complex one (which I think is InDesign) and then simply grey out the parts that don’t apply.

  • ohmm says:

    ” I know that those folks work long and hard to make the best product they can”

    Maybe they just should start USE product they produce ? It would solve many problems.

    In many aspect InDesign seems to be projected by people who have no idea what typography is or why people use programs like InDesign. For example formatting of tables styles is horrible solution.

    • ohmm: Can you say more about what, specifically, you don’t like about formatting of table styles? The more specifics they hear, the better.

      • ohmm says:

        Im afraid David that nobody hear us here :) Problem with tables appear when you would like a bit more complicated table style across document. It will turn out that table style dont cooperate in reasonable/logical way with cell styles – there is a mess. Generally table styling is bad designed and they know very well about it – as far as i remember there was a few topics in adobe forum, some time ago.
        BTW your list is very modest :)

      • Thanks, ohmm. I can assure you that the Adobe InDesign team is listening! They cannot always make every change people want, but they do listen and try.

        The InDesign product management team will also be at our conference — PePcon: The Print + ePublishing Conference — in San Diego in June. We hope many people from the InDesignSecrets community will join us there to discuss the product with them.

      • This may seem petty, but one thing about Tables that drives me mad is the use of the Escape key. Normally, you can “escape” from a text or image frame by tapping Esc, but with a Table, your cursor just stays there, toggling between the entire table and the top-left cell. Next thing you know, I’ve typed t a a v v t a and wondering why nothing is happening.

        It’s also monstrous that Tables are still placed within other frames. They should be free-standing objects like a placed image … or at least give us that option. This would also change the way the entire Table is scaled (eg the entire Table, not just whichever cell/row you happen to be grabbing.)

      • Prescott: You know that you can now create a table without making a text frame first (using Table > Create Table). Of course it is still technically inside a text frame, though. I don’t think there’s any way Adobe can break them out of text frames.

        I totally agree with you about the weird Esc key problem.

      • crych says:

        On tables placed in line: I recall arguing with the team when tables were first introduced but they preferred the model of MSWord rather than that of FrameMaker. The topic has been discussed here and elsewhere since then but I don’t see that there is any inclination to change the architecture. Table styles: the plug-in that Adobe bought to supply table styles is flawed, unintuitive, and limited (it doesn’t account for geometry). It should be replaced. Again, this is a topic that has been discussed in detail here and elsewhere many times.

  • Anita says:

    What about the Content Collector/Placer tools? I find them lumpy, cumbersome and they get in the way!!

    • scoobydoobydude says:

      That’s a great point. The way I “expected” the content collector and placer tools to work was that if I want to switch photos around in a layout, I can collect them and then place them into the EXISTING graphic frames. I can’t get it to do anything but create new graphic frames when I place.

  • Ari S. says:

    I feel that the GREP Find/Change dialog box really needs an update. It’s still the same as in CS3! And can/should be made much more intuitive.

    I would appreciate the following:

    Much larger input area, with an option to use multi-line strings.
    Color coding the strings that you enter (just like ESTK does with JS), so for example: lookarounds should be red; wildcards, green; actual text to be found, blue etc.(“In your dreams…”, right?)
    To finally put in all the important special characters in the @ flyout menu. (Why isn’t the more powerful Negative Lookbehind (\K) in there?)

    I could go on and on… But I think the reason not enough people are utilizing GREP is because of this intimidating dialog box.

    Anyone with me on this?

    • ohmm says:

      The findchangelist script is one of most usefull things – but unfortunatelly its projected only as “demo” of scripting. I dont realize why. If they added it to find/change panel with possibility in easy way to change/save content of that file – that would be really great new (fundamental though)feature.
      At the moment, we have to use third-party plugins.

    • Erica Gamet says:


  • Melise says:

    So my recent, most irritating pet peeve in InDesign is related to the docking panel (on the right hand side). It’s much easier for me to use it when it is set for “Collapse to Icons,” but there are a couple of frustrations when I use it that way. The first is that when you expand the tool set at the very top of the panel, they hide the scrolling arrow that allows you to scroll up in the page. I keep the Pages panel up there–and it is particularly frustrating if I want to review my master pages (for example). I open the pages panel to select the master page–if I had recently enlarged that page so that it doesn’t fit in the screen, I have to close/minimize the darn pages pop-out panel to scroll up in that document, and then immediately reopen it to look at another master page.

    Also, I wish it was possible to open up more than one set of tools from the docked menu. Let’s say I am working with styles and want to set a fill color for a specific cell style, it would be really nice to be able to see all of the swatches at the same time as I am able to see all of the different cell styles I have in my document.

    • crych says:

      I agree it’s a bother but here are two suggestions to make things a little easier. [1] Put the docking panel on the left-hand side. This has the additional advantage of grouping it with the tools so one always moves the cursor to the same side of the screen. With large screens, this also gains a significant efficiency. [2] Dock a couple of infrequently used panels at the top so the more commonly used panels don’t mask the top left corner of the screen when you open them.

      • Melise says:

        I will definitely try moving the docking panel to the left side-I am pretty set in my ways, but I can see that this idea has a decent set of benefits to it.

        And, as to your second suggestion-I did try this for a while, but see the “set in my ways” comment above-I was too impatient to retrain myself to look for panels in a different place. (lowers head and slinks off with embarrassment…)

    • Dan says:

      One work around that I have used on wanting more than one fly-out open is to actually pull one loose from the tool array. When I am finished using, I just click to reset my workspace.

      • Melise says:

        I’ve done that too…but my screen is not that large, and invariably the fly-out gets in the way of something else. I will sometimes put the additional fly-out onto my second screen–but neither of these options allow me to work with the program the way I prefer to. I never said that these were unsolvable problems–just things that irritate the heck out of me.

  • scoobydoobydude says:

    YES on the Gap Tool! I have spent so much time searching, asking, and pondering how to possibly specify an exact gap between objects. For me, that would be the way I would most frequently use that tool. So counter-intuitive the way they’ve implemented it.

  • ohmm says:


    Ok. David if anybody turn up from Adobe at “PePcon: The Print + ePublishing Conference”, please ask them why they still dont want to implement HSB/HSL color palette in InDesign? We are waiting for this for so long time… many years!

    They should also enable feature of adding new color (and eyedropper) in places where we can choose color from swatch list, but we cant add color just there. Its very frustrating. For example – table styles -> fill/stroke; object style->fill and so on. Every time you need to go out, add some color and come back.

    Also i cant figure out why in swatch panel there is always set as default object color not text. Im forced every time switch to text first. I think that 90% our work is about text not objects?

  • Ariel Walden says:

    Great question! A couple sprint to mind:

    1. Default text frame object style: InDesign allows you to set a default object style. Which is great. Problem is, InDesign ignores it so often! For example, when autoflowing text! Surely all new text frames should be created with the default text frame object style applied, no? No! Ditto when using Smart Text Reflow: InDesign creates new text frames, but fails to respect the default text frame style.

    2. Captions: This is a disappointing feature. But one thing that is sorely missing is the ability to set the object style of a caption frame! So much could be done if we could only specify the object style for captions.

  • Gobit says:


    1. Ease these aging eyes by giving me the ability to increase the text size in the Control and all other panels.

    2. Let me put rounded corners on tables so I don’t have to paste them into other frames which then have to be pasted into text frames so they still flow with the rest of the text

    Cheers, Gobit

    • Anubhav Rohatgi says:


      We are actively working on fixing eye strain problems in the UI and then move onto visual redesign of the UI. You will see a glimpse in the update in the next couple of months.

      Anubhav Rohatgi
      Group Product Manager, Design

  • Jen says:

    Why oh why can’t we link bookmarks with paragraph styles? For example wouldn’t it be awesome if all A heads could be automatically turned into bookmarks when you apply the style?

    • Mike Rankin says:

      As a workaround you could make TOC with only the styles that you want to generate bookmarks for. The bookmarks are generated as soon as you place the TOC content. Then just leave the TOC on the pasteboard or a hidden layer so it doesn’t appear anywhere in the document.

  • Am I going to be the first to say it here? Footnotes and Endnotes – please fix this! Seriously, the last two conferences I’ve been two where Adobe faced a Vox Pop, nearly the first question asked was “When will footnotes and endnotes be fixed?”. When Microsoft Word does a better job at footnotes and endnotes, you know there’s a problem!

    I’d also say that Tables could be greatly improved. Some table improvements could be see-through strokes, rounded corners, ability to set widths and heights in the table styles.

    Once upon a time, this site had created it’s own version of the Adobe Wishlist, and I think it might be time for a reminder that it exists and to add to it.

    When the subscription model for CC was first suggested to me, I thought it was a great way to be up-to-date on all the latest features for ID. Trouble is, there doesn’t really seem to be any you-beaut features added within the last few years that make a significant difference for me in the field of print. Each time there’s an update to the CC programs, I cross my fingers and go “what’s coming to ID”, only to be disappointed like a kid at Christmas who is the last to be served any turkey. There are so many improvements that have been suggested on this site, the Adobe forums, etc, but I’m often bemused when I see the improvements that make it into the new releases of ID.

    That said, I largely find InDesign easy to use and would prefer to use it over any other print layout application on the market. What I miss is the innovation that led it being better than it’s competitors in the first place – innovations that were largely customer driven.

    • Anita says:

      I couldn’t agree more about footnotes and endnotes. If the ‘powers that be’ need to see the value of footnotes and endnotes then they should take a look at University sites in the US where, in some cases, they will find tutorials on how to use endnotes using Thomson Reuters Endnote X7.(This is the latest version.)

      I used this software years ago – it was fantastic, especially when dealing with academic material. It was invaluable!

      I’m absolutely amazed that Microsoft Word outstrips InDesign in these particular areas.

    • Great points, Colin.
      Thanks for remembering the wishlist page! People can find it here:
      Vote for your favorite features and enhancements!

      • crych says:

        On footnotes and endnotes, I agree with Colin and others. Matthew’s ‘b. Footnotes don’t seem to want to honor hyphenation and keep rules when splitting the notes across pages … [and] c. … there’s no way to add the initial tab in the footnote definition’ are a constant problem and the final typesetting, despite tweaks and hacks, unsatisfactory and often embarrassing.

  • Matthew Williams says:

    OMG! I’ve been compiling a bugs and enhancements list for a year now, and I know that I’ve forgotten to write some things down. I typeset books, primarily, so my concerns are mostly with book production and may not be of interest to designers of other publications. (I also realize that there may be answers to some of these that I’m unaware of; do let me know if I’ve crabbed about something that’s been addressed.)

    Here’s my list of dreamed-for enhancements (I’ll save my bug list for another venue.):

    1. Tables should include gutters so that there is some logical way to get space between columns (and rows?) without also adding space before the left-most column or after the right-most column and without having to have a bunch of weird cell styles. To the best of my knowledge, conventional typesetting systems like Miles 33 have been doing this for at least 20 years.
    2. Table rows should be allowed to split across pages.
    3. It should be possible to keep multiple language versions of InDesign installed at the same time. At one point this spring, I was setting books in English, Arabic and Hebrew, and Chinese all at the same time. Because I don’t want all the clutter of the Asian or Middle Eastern interface in my way while I’m working on an English-language book, I had to keep deinstalling versions and reloading the language version I needed for that afternoon. I sometimes had to reinstall InDesign as many as three times in a single day! Even an option to show or hide ME and Asian interface options would be a help.
    4. I could really make use of a “do it again” feature for those occasions when I have to manually change a number of elements but cannot select them all at one time. It’s a poor example, but I could use the feature if I had to change the stroke width and color and the fill on 30 objects on 30 different pages. That’s a lot of selecting, mousing to the stroke palette, making the color and width changes, switching to the fill palette, and making the color change. It would be great to be able to do the sequence once, then just scroll through the pages, selecting the objects one at a time and hitting a keyboard shortcut to re-execute the sequence.
    5. Footnotes are a mess.
    a. I know of no way to add a real unnumbered footnote, and those come up a lot in academic books, especially edited volumes.
    b. Footnotes don’t seem to want to honor hyphenation and keep rules when splitting the notes across pages (possibly a bug, but perhaps by design).
    c. My clients generally want [tab][number].[tab] leading in their footnotes so that the numerals can decimal align, but there’s no way to add the initial tab in the footnote definition.
    d. Footnote boxes should be customizable. I’ve set one-column books that use two-column footnotes, for example, but there’s no way to make footnote boxes double-column.
    e. I sometimes have to have multiple text boxes on a page—especially chapter openers—and when something in the highest box on the page gets a footnote, the note is inserted at the bottom of that box rather than at the bottom of the page. Thus, I get, for example, a chapter epigraph followed by a footnote followed by the first paragraph of text in the chapter.
    6. Why is there STILL no Tagged Text code for a forced line break?

    That’s enough for now. If you decide you want a bug list, let me know! LOL.

    • Matthew: Great list!

      Re: Multiple versions of InDesign: sounds like you might need WorldTools from so you can do it all.

      Can you say more about unnumbered footnotes? What would that be for?

      Re: Multiple text frames per page… have you tried replacing the multiple frames with a single multi-column frame and then apply Span Styles to the paragraphs for things like headings? That often helps (see )

      • Matthew Williams says:

        HI David

        I tried WorldTools, but it didn’t (seem) to include all the features and felt a little buggy to me, so I felt more comfortable sticking with the out-of-the box solution. And of course, that’s free. (Well, it doesn’t add to the cost of my subscription and doesn’t incur a cost when a new version of INDD comes out.)

        I do a fair bit of work on edited volumes—each chapter is an essay by a different author, and one editor oversees the book and makes sure all of the articles are consistently edited. It’s very common for the authors to include an unnumbered footnote—some people call them headnotes—at the beginning of their chapters acknowledging someone who helped with their research or or noting a publication history for the chapter. These kinds of notes aren’t tied to a particular word, quote, or other textual bit in the chapter, so they get no number, but at the same time, they need to be treated like footnotes. If you go to and look at the book, _Garner’s Modern English_ by Bryan Garner, you can see an example. Open the “Look Inside!” link and search for the text, “The Ongoing Tumult in English Usage.” It will find two occurrences—one in the TOC and one on a chapter opener. On the chapter opener, at the foot of the page, you’ll see an unnumbered note that begins “Adapted from….”

        The multiple frames issue cannot, unfortunately, be resolved with columns. It’s not in a single book to have one chapter that opens with a one-line chapter title and another chapter that opens with a title, subtitle, and one or more epigraphs and have a design that requires that the running text always begins at the same sink. The only way to do this that I know of—without having to locally modify the spacing above or below elements on a case-by-case basis—is with multiple text boxes. If an epigraph has footnote 1 and the running text on the same page has footnote 2, InDesign will layout the first page of the chapter like this:

        1. Footnote
        Running text
        2. Footnote 2

        Does that make sense?

      • That’s very helpful, thank you!
        I show a tip in this video (behind the paywall, sorry) which discusses how you may be able to use a single frame and still maintain the same vertical position (sink).
        Of course, this might not work for your particular designs, but it’s at least a good trick to know. :-)

      • crych says:

        Matthew, I’d be very interested to see a sample of these pages as I set similar publications quite often. I usually place the numberless footnote in a separate text box at the bottom of the page and apply the para. style for footnotes. One loses automation but gains control.

      • Matthew Williams says:

        Thanks for the tip on maintaining the sink. I was only able to read the preview text without going behind the paywall, but I see where you’re going with it, and it might be a good option. I’ll definitely try it out!

  • Melise says:

    You know, I have been grumbling for years that Adobe has not done a major upgrade to the book feature. I take it all back–from now on, all of my energy is channeled towards hoping that I never have to use the footnotes feature.

  • caddingt says:

    I end up using Tables for many functions, e.g. when I want to make a box with different-color or -weight rules on each side. Most of the time it does the job, but my biggest beef is not being able to independently control the column widths from row to row. I recently did a complicated form and made each row a separate table so that I could manipulate where the columns started and stopped. What a pain! I’ve also given up hope that InDesign will ever embrace percentage-based fields: set the leading to 115% of the point size; put the paragraph rule 5% below the baseline, etc. Really, the only thing I miss about Quark days.

  • Scott Citron says:

    Despite years of experience in InDesign, I have little experience with footnotes. Until now. Recently I took on a project that relies on footnotes. After wrestling with them for weeks I now understand what all the noise is about. My sympathies to those who work with footnotes on a regular basis. I have to agree with others that it’s surprising that a product this powerful falls down when dealing with footnotes.

  • TABLES: Why do I have to put tables inside of text boxes? They’re impossible to accurately position or adjust the size of. Just let me drag out a table box the same way I drag out a text box or picture box!

  • QUICKLOOK PREVIEWS: InDesign has a bunch of preferences for adding previews to a file, but they don’t work in the Finder where they’re most needed. Shouldn’t InDesign files have a QuickLook preview like files created by Illustrator, Photoshop, Word and almost every other program?

    • bob meyer says:

      from what I understand after talking to friends at Adobe is that it’s an Apple issue not and Adobe issue

      • That’s a little hard to accept. There are at least two utilities that create QuickLook-esque previews for InDesign files (Art View and ID Util), and if they can do it, Adobe can do it.

    • Rob W. says:

      There’s a QuickLook Extension that enables the inDesign previews in the Finder, one of the first things I install on any new OS now!

    • Markzware just released a new free product that offers QuickLook previews on the Mac (as well as other features). I linked to it in this article:

      • Thanks, David. I’ve been testing the free Markzware software, ID Util, which was announced about a week ago. At first I thought it had to run as a background app, like Art View, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it has been working like a real QuickView extension. So far, so good.

      • crych says:

        I have been using ID Util since it was mentioned above and have found it very handy. I also came across a little bug and would like to let you all know that the chaps at Markzware are very serious about improving the product. They have spent most of the day testing and sending me questions as they worked out how to reproduce the bug.

  • PrairieGirl says:

    VERY simple:
    1. In Preview screen mode, why isn’t there an option to turn invisible characters on or off? Quark was able to do this from the start. You are forced to be in Normal view to see invisibles.
    2. In the Paragraph Style Options, why is Character Color separate and so far down in the list? It should be right in with Basic Character Formats at the top. Color is the most important “basic” format after fonts, everything else in the list is optional.

  • bob meyer says:

    Actually I just don’t use the PITA parts of it but the rest is wonderful . . . but . .. I keep waiting for the “Unified Interface” they kept touting a while back . . . wouldn’t it be nice if Illustrator had the same print dialog box, the same swatch system, the same separation preview, etc as InDesign . . . life could be sooooooo much easier . . . .

  • Ari S. says:

    BTW, kudos to the designer of the super-creative thumbnail of this article…

  • Charlotte A. Sinclaire says:


    1. For some reason, InDesign doesn’t always hold on to fonts I’ve installed, thinks they aren’t available, and I often get the “Font (typeface?) not found” message. If I choose Find Font, I’d like to be able to get to TypeKit from THAT dialogue instead of having to close out of it and go to the separate TypeKit launch button up top.

    2. Nested styles are great, but why can’t we set one up with an EM dash? I even see EM dashes used as examples in online articles about setting up nested styles, but in reality, InDesign doesn’t let you chose an EM dash, nor — at least as far as i can figure — accept it even if you type it with the Alt-151 keyboard combo. Am I missing something? If not, then InDesign is.

    3. PLEASE, let us be able to incorporate a “page break after” into a paragraph style.

    There are some others, but these are the ones that bug me most, or at least most recently.

    • Amy says:

      For Charlotte:
      In nested styles, you can pick from the short popup list, or type in any character (or word), including em and en dashes. You might have to type it in text, then copy/paste to the field.

      I agree that having a choice in the para style to go to next frame or page would be great, instead of a para return.

  • PARAGRAPH STYLES WINDOW: I think someone complained about the paragraph styles window, and I’d like to add my beefs. This window hasn’t really changed since InDesign 1.0, and it’s due for a makeover. (1) Let it be resizable. We’re not working on 12-inch screens anymore. (2) Let the list be editable. There are some pretty obscure items that I NEVER use (Grep Style, I’m thinking of you) that I’d gladly turn off in paragraph style preferences, if such a thing existed. Others I’d like to reorder because even after using the program every day for over 10 years, I still have to look for Paragraph Rules and Character Color. (3) And finally, speaking of paragraph rules, why do I have to pick Rule Above and Rule Under from a dropdown menu. There’s room for both!

  • I wonder if there could be some way to hack the Footnotes feature — maybe you can create a 1×1 pixel image (ahem, spacer.gif), and give that image an elaborate caption. When you place the image, you can choose to show the caption next to the image frame, or relative to the page bottom. It’ll likely be clunky, but perhaps someone else can get to thinking along these lines.

    If one things is clear, it’s that the Footnotes need work. Sadly, it’s becoming a long-tail feature. Even among book designers, footnotes are rare; basically just for academia or nerdier aspects of business.

  • Linda Hall says:

    My biggest complaint with InDesign (and I know I’m not alone here!) is that when working on my 27″ iMac, all the controls and measurements are the size of gnat poo! It is crazy that we are unable to adjust the text size to something more readable. Working with those microscopic numbers gives me horrible eyestrain.

  • jageez says:

    Tables and footnotes are an ongoing issue for me as well, but I have a big problem with the loss of an interface feature.

    I don’t know when it changed, but I used to be able to reopen a file to the view settings of its last use. Now every file opens to fill the entire screen and I have to manually adjust each one to suit my workstyle. Maybe it always worked that way on PCs, but it didn’t on Macs. Since most of us have large screens now, why would we want a single file to fill them. A simple preference setting should be able to fix the problem.

    The problem is also present in other CC programs. I’ve complained on at least one Adobe forum, not that I think it will do any good.

    • Amy says:

      i have a little script i found on internet some time ago, called ResizeWindow, for which i made a key command. It allows you to set the size and postion of the window, so that the script resizes and positions your window on command. I run it every time i open a file and every time i switch to another open window. But yes, that should be how InDesign does it by default, WITHOUT a script! Window size, view, and position should be saveable as part of Workspace, and also remembered when file is saved.

  • Bob says:

    Application Frame = Good. Not being able to turn off Application Bar when Application Frame is on = Bad. Example of it being done right… Photoshop.

    Editing preferences with nothing open, creating workspaces, customizing shortcut keys = Good. Not being able to easily share those changes = Bad. Example of it being done right… Illustrator.

    Pixel Ruler values = Good. No Pixel Preview = Bad. No Save for Web??? = Unforgivable. Example of it being done right… Illustrator & Photoshop.
    Can I take a moment to say how much I believe the addition of a true Save for Web in InDesign would change the face of web design. Not having an eyedropper that reads true values in the info panel, not having pixel preview, any number of other missing features, I can live with. But the lack of a true Save for Web, with the ability to slice or define objects or areas to export with the same options as the classic Photoshop (ImageReady!) Save for Web … that kills me.

    Sorry, that went to a dark place. Let’s get back to something light.

    Grep Find/Replace saved searches = Good. No saved Grep Expressions in the Grep Styles window = Bad. And someone already covered this, but not being able to resize the styles window… (face palm).

  • zipread says:

    Two peeves: inability to select non-contiguous rows or columns in Tables but really the one that really burns me is the stupid way you have to link text boxes. I often work on a laptop and (at age 64) it’s difficult to aim for that tiny little box, then have to move (sometimes several pages away) to the receiving text box. I miss Quark! One tool, click, click, click, done.

  • Melinda says:

    My most pet peeve of InDesign is the font conflict issues. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I work with Packaged InDesign files (from clients for production) that have fonts in a font folder and my computer already have that font installed via Suitcase Fusion 3. That can create some conflict sometimes after the second time I open that file. It causes me to spend extra time trying to get the font to work by redirecting the fonts. So annoying. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often.

    • Melinda says:

      I forgot to mention this is in regards to using CS5.5 … yeah, I still use it! I’ve rarely used InDesign CC to fully work in it so I haven’t complained yet! I access the CC from a remote computer just to convert files to be sent to me and then work on the file from my computer, lol. Hopefully these issues mentioned above including mine will be fixed by the time my computer finally gets CC installed. :D

  • Linda Bergeron Szefer says:

    Little things, but how annoying at the end of a long day…

    1. Table rows should definitely be allowed to split across pages (come on! My old Quark used to do it).
    2. An easier way to control the look and behaviour of the TOC/bookmark feature (too many fixes to do once exported in Acrobat)
    3. A way to create a set of preferences that can be reapplied all at once to a document. For example, when reediting documents that have been modified at the print shop (different units, type options, interface, etc.).

  • Sharon says:

    yes the TOC/Bookmark fiasco is a constant irritation to me as I yet again rearrange the order of bookmarks. Is there a fix to ensure the bookmarks arrive in the pdf in the correct order? Also TOC entries in ID are often out of order. I have to search pages of TOC entries to ensure they are in the correct order then check the pdf bookmarks as well.

    One thing I would like is the ability to select non-contiguous text on a page that needs the same tag eg multiple headings on a page. I could do this in Ventura. There are quite a few things I could do in Ventura that are difficult or impossible in InDesign.

  • Dwayne says:

    I feel Matthew’s pain when it comes to un-numbered footnotes.

    I too used to use separate text boxes for those awkward chapter openers and a separate text box box for the unnumbered foonote. But since the the eBook revolution and what our clients want—I can no longer set up my pages that way.

    Instead, I’d just made multiple master pages for openers with just a chapter title, one for chapter titles and subheads, and masters for chapter title, epigraphs, etc. And lots of style sheets to take care of the spacing.

    In jobs where I don’t have separate text boxes for the chapter opening pages, I usually just anchor the un-numbered foonote at the bottom of the page.

    @Prescott Perez-Fox: I agree that the footnote feature needs work. However, footnotes are not rare at all or basically for nerdier stuff in book publishing. I work on a lot of books a week and I’ve had footnotes in novels, political books, self-help books, etc. I’d say a third of the books I work on have some footnotes in them. I’ve had polticial books that have had hundreds of foonotes.

    @Linda Hall: I’m also on a 27-inch iMac and it really kills my eyes when wearing my progressive bifocals. I can’t read the controls and measurements. For now, I went out and bought a pair of single-lens glasses just for working on the IMac. The only other option I had was to change my screen resolution to make everything bigger—which wasn’t a good option for me.

    @Jageez—I have the same problem with InDesign remembering the file size. There is nothing more aggravating than to save and close the file, only to open it a few hours later and it’s a third of the size it had been previously.

  • Chris says:

    One more eyedropper fix – please make it work like eyedropper plugin from FLUX consulting. A simple hotkey sequence and it can be temporarily toggled from anywhere. For example, when in a text field, hold down ctrl+alt and the eyedropper shows up, click to sample, then let go and you are back to what you where doing.

  • ohmm says:

    Paragraph/style palette
    Font palette

    It wish to had near after paragraph/character style possibility to mark my most used style. If you have almost 40 paragraph styles or more it takes long time to find some of them even they are sorted. If there was possibility to mark style like it is in Photoshop (layers) that would be great.

    • Amy says:

      Good idea.
      A couple of tricks for style pallettes while we wait:

      Rename your most-used style with a letter or number at the beginning of the style name that will make it go to the top (or bottom) when you choose Sort by Name in Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.

      In the flyout menu’s Style Options, make yourself a keyboard shortcut to apply the style.

      Keep your style list alphabetized for easier searching by choosing Sort by Name from the flyout menu.
      This is a command that you can find in Edit> Edit Keyboard Shortcuts and create your own shortcut, if you want to.
      You must make your own New Set first, before you can start making or changing shortcuts.

      All this works for character styles, as well.

  • Matthew Williams says:

    @crych: For an example of an unnumbered footnote, go to and look at the book, _Garner’s Modern English_ by Bryan Garner, you can see an example. Open the “Look Inside!” link and search for the text, “The Ongoing Tumult in English Usage.” It will find two occurrences—one in the TOC and one on a chapter opener. On the chapter opener, at the foot of the page, you’ll see an unnumbered note that begins “Adapted from….”

    I’m seeing so many more things here that I’ve (fortunately) not had to deal with or that I’ve forgotten about. What a great list. I truly hope Adobe is not going the way of Quark and ignoring customer requests and that they really look at this list and make some serious improvements to InDesign. They seem lately only to want to add new features that, frankly, I couldn’t care less about. I understand that others do, but I think they need to spend at least as much development time fixing the bugs and enhancing or improving the existing features that their users have repeatedly said are not working as well as they could. I told them (verified with one of their own techs) several years ago that as far back as InDesign 4, the World-Ready composer treats discretionary line breaks as characters and adds space around them in justified type, and that’s still not fixed. How hard could it be to fix that when they know it works for the non-World-Ready composer?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to apply multiple character styles to a range of text? I miss Quark’s H+J styles, too, though I’ve gotten used to living without them.

    I’ll end on a positive note, though. I’m really glad Adobe finally added paragraph shading. I haven’t used it yet, but it will make my life so much easier when I need it. Thanks, Adobe.

    • crych says:

      I see what you mean. In a case like this, I would insert a unlinked paragraph, formatted with the fn para. style, above fn 1 and insert the text. Not ideal by any means but it works for print though not for EPUB. Might have to tweak the para. style if one uses a leading nested style.

  • Amy says:

    Anchoring art: our book production workflow demands that we anchor images to the end of the referenced text para, to aid in conversion to ebook. But there’s no way to anchor an image to the previous or next spread. Seriously lame functionality, unless I’m missing something.

    Percentage specs: would LOVE to be able to spec space above and space below as a percentage of leading:
    100% for 1 line space, 50% for a half-line space, etc. That way, if leading changes spaces adjust. Would save SO much time!

    Fonts: I don’t want to see any System or Font Book fonts in my Adobe app font lists. Is Apple against this for some reason?

    H&j settings: I agee that independent hypenation & justification settings are extremely useful. In Quark, we used the settings tight, tighter, tightest, loose, looser, loosest to push out or pull back paras for page makeup. Marked as such, it was easy to see where the were and much better than local overrides.

    Subscription model: Who does this benefit other than Adobe?
    If you’re working in a corporate setting, or freelancing for a company, you are most likely not free to upgrade at will. Companies are extremely conservative about upgrades, waiting sometimes years to make sure the upgrade is time-tested before rolling out to hundreds of users. Freelancers have to save to IDML format for these clients. Not hard, but a pain, especially if they don’t remember to do so. Most users only use a few apps, not all, and are not that interested in incremental upgrades that don’t make their jobs easier. Many of us deeply resent paying dearly for stuff we don’t need or can’t use.

    Nuff rant.

  • crych says:

    Anchoring art: I agree. The inability to place an image or table other than on the spread where it is anchored makes for a very inefficient workflow when both ebooks and print are required. It is also inefficient when the publishing house’s style guide for print calls for images and tables to fall at the top of the page following the reference to it, whether the page with the anchor is a recto or a verso. This is something I asked for when tables were first introduced to ID and again when anchored frames were added. FrameMaker could do this automatically in the early 1990s but the architecture of ID seems locked to the spread, no doubt the result of decisions about the code made years ago.

  • Linda says:

    TEAMS/LIBRARIES: Am I incorrect in thinking the only way you can use the Creative Cloud team features are if you and your “team” are in the same subscription? What about freelancers? What about if I work on-site I use the agencies subscription. When I work from home on using my license. I can not connect or share through the cloud. Sticking with DropBox

    • Ari S. says:

      Adobe does give you the option of sharing any CC library to any person including anyone not in your subscription. But you have to explicitly share it with them through the ‘Collaborate’ or ‘Share Link’ functions from the CC Libraries flyout menu. The recipient does not even have to be a subscriber at all! Just a free Adobe account is necessary.

      For more on this subject check it this article:
      (But note, it’s for premium members only)

      • Linda says:

        If I’m the only one on my team who owns premium, can I “Collaborate” or just share my “Library”? I think I tried a shared library with myself. Don’t shared libraries just make a duplicate copy of what I already have on my computer? I have an iMac with two hard drives, one smaller for startup/running software, the larger for storing files. Creative Cloud stores it’s folder on the smaller “start-up” drive then I’d run out of space… DropBox did the same thing but I’ve been able to store it on the larger hard drive.

      • Linda: Ari meant that the article he was sending to you was for InDesignSecrets premium members only (same as InDesign Magazine subscriber).

        My suggestion is to move this “how CC Libraries works” discussion into the Forums, as it’s not really about “how to make InDesign better” (the theme of this article). Thanks!

  • Mehmet mese says:

    Indesign 2016: We want the appearance panel in illustrator program!

  • Jeff Potter says:

    I think the relative explosion of this thread should speak volumes to Adobe.

    I would love to see Adobe temporarily shift gears — as Apple did years ago with Snow Leopard — and just take the next upgrade cycle to FIX EVERYTHING THAT’S BROKEN? To OPTIMIZE ALL THE BLOAT OF THE PAST DECADE-PLUS. I would see that as a positive sign of practicality and reality that I would respect and embrace. I would see that as an investment in the long-term sustainability of my choice in 2003 to adopt InDesign as my most-used digital arrow in my quiver.

    For what it’s worth, Adobe, you may consider mine a voice for fixes, enhancements, and tweaks that speak to the needs of print designers: robust, reliable, and practical tools for managing documents, pages, assets.

  • How about, when exporting a file to PDF, etc., having the ability to set /all/ images (both low effective ppi and high effective ppi images) to get resampled to 300dpi, etc.?

    • Michael, InDesign can’t “upsample” low-res images. Photoshop has some tricks to kind of do it, but it’s rarely very good. If the data isn’t there in the image, software can’t fabricate it.

      • Thanks for the reply, David. You’re right that programs like Photoshop, Perfect Resize, etc. have to interpolate data to enlarge otherwise lo-res images, but at least InDesign could do the same thing so users wouldn’t have to pass through another program in order to upsample subpar images. Blurry enlargements beat the jaggies any day. Anyone else agree with me?

    • Linda Hall says:

      I often have the need to upsample photos, using Photoshop. Sometimes it does a great job, but all too often they come out worse than the jaggy original. I would much rather work with photos on an individual basis in Photoshop, than rely on InDesign to upsample an entire document full of photos, where some will be okay, but some will come out worse!

  • linda says:

    There’re too many programs to learn. InDesign and Illustrator need to merge into one program. Been asking for that B4 CC User since 1990 AD

  • MADink Designs says:

    I have one to add to the list: Forms.

    It would be great to set basic properties to form fields such as font, font color, etc. on text fields.

    Also, the ability to set a field to read only would be nice. I’ve created a workaround by changing an object to a checkbox as that DOES have a read only option. You just have to worry about the on/off states if anything needs updated.

    JavaScript in forms would be a great addition as well. Sometimes Acrobat and InDesign don’t play nice together. I’ve had instances of JavaScript code that is sound in theory producing null errors or InDesign button icons disappearing when applying JavaScript.

    InDesign also lags when you have a lot of buttons and forms.

    Only being able to show/hide six objects at a time is also very frustrating. Setting tab order is just as painful. Imagine a few thousand interactive objects and having to set tab order or show/hide fields a window with six objects at a time.

    • Ariel Walden says:

      @MADink Designs: Regarding forms, our FormMagic product goes a long way to easing the pain ( I’d be happy for you to get in touch also to discuss features it doesn’t include (like making fields read-only; recently it was pointed out to me that although there is a “read only” checkbox in the Buttons and Forms panel in InDesign, that setting doesn’t actually seem to be respected when the form is exported to Acrobat, and this is something that would be fairly painless to add to FormMagic if needed).

    • Jason J Dancisin says:

      tab order is the WORSt!!!!! Dealing with this right now

  • Raj Patel says:

    Adobe should get rid of “Registration” color from “Swatches Panel” in (Id, Ai, Ps etc). Most of non-InDesign user always use this color instated of Black in print.

  • MADink Designs says:

    I agree completely! That was the basis of my post a few posts up. Not just buttons but any interactive object such as text fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, etc. are controlled in the buttons panel.

    For the bug regarding stacking order, I’ve not have an issue with that and I have documents that have a couple thousand interactive fields. What I do is go to Object > Interactive > Tab Order to change the tab order of certain objects. I also export to pdf with layers and design the document with the objects in the layers I specify.

    • Megan says:

      I’ve been creating documents that use Show/Hide buttons extensively to pop up additional content, and for some reason the bug sometimes persists even when I’ve corrected the Tab Order and include organized layers. (Other times the Tab Order does fix it – I can’t figure it out!) The documents usually work perfectly when exported to FXL ePUB or SWF, but the PDF still insists on putting the wrong things in front.

  • Anita says:

    Why can’t we have an Appearance Panel for InDesign?

  • Megan says:

    How about the ‘Buttons’ panel for interactive documents? I’d love to even be able to resize the list of buttons so I could find the one I’m looking for to Show/Hide. Next on the list would be a way to copy actions from one button to another.
    Also, the PDF stacking order bug continues to give me problems — despite all the suggestions here ( ) I find they only work some of the time, and this hasn’t improved since 2013. It’s led to some very ‘creative’ workarounds on occasion.

  • Jodi says:

    In a perfect world the features in InDesign and Illustrator would resemble each other at least somewhat across both programs. For instance, if I want to draw a stroke box and turn it into a guide in InDesign like I do in Illustrator I should be able to perform that same function the same way in both programs. Little things like that…

  • Ariel Walden says:

    I just remembered another one:

    Quick Apply is a great shortcut to many things. But for something that is meant to be a really quick and efficient shortcut, it’s got this maddening ~0.5 second delay until the item is selectable. And if you invoke it and hit enter too soon, usually something wrong happens.

    Quick Apply could really use some optimizing to make it instantaneous.

  • ohmm says:

    Its shaming that running headers are also still very very limited… :/ What are they waiting for ?

  • JL says:

    I work in a healthcare-based office and we aren’t allowed to save anything to our desktop – everything is on a server including my InDesign files. Up until the CC version I never had an issue with InDesign crashing but once I went to that version, anytime InDesign “lost” connection with the server it would automatically close (i.e., crash) the program. Sometimes I recovered my work. Sometimes I didn’t.

    Everything published by Adobe indicated this was a “feature”. Feature, my a$$. It was a horrible inconvenience. Happily someone posted a workaround on one of the Adobe forums that finally helped me work without crashes. I would really like it if they removed this “feature” from future versions.

  • CP says:

    MY ADOBE CC WISHLIST (or just a few things)

    1. Please try to make similar features between applications, well, SIMILAR.
    Example: Why doesn’t Illustrator have a 0pt option in the STROKE dropdown like InDesign has?

    2. Can’t we have all Adobe CC applications pick the color swatches THE SAME WAY?

    3. Why doesn’t Illustrator have a ‘Center Horizontally to Frame’ like InDesign?

    Consistency and Familiarity among programs sure would help us users

  • Becky says:

    It’s not the worst feature, but it would be nice if the superscript preferences had a preview option so you could see if the percentage you are entering is what you need.

  • Sudheesh says:

    Why don’t we have a shortcut for changing font size like in Quark Xpress

  • Christopher Chidsey says:

    Ctrl+shift+> (increase)

    Ctrl+shift+< (decrease)

  • >