Why is [Some Feature] Grayed Out in InDesign?
Something that drives me crazy: I try a feature and it doesn’t work. I know it should work, but it’s not working! Sometimes the feature is even grayed out (disabled) in some menu or panel, even when I don’t think it should be. What is going on? Well, it’s usually because the feature is “linked with” or “dependent on” some other feature.
For example, you may see all your inks in the Separations Preview panel, but they may all be grayed out. Perhaps they were active a moment ago, but not now! What’s up? Well, this panel is linked to View > Overprint Preview. That is, if you turn off Overprint Preview, the panel disables, too.
Here’s another one that got me recently: Smart Guides (one of my favorite features in CS4 and later) wasn’t working in a document. The guides just wouldn’t show up! When I looked at the View > Grids & Guides menu, it showed it as “on” but it was grayed out. What the heck? It took me a while of searching around until I realized that someone working on the document had enabled View > Grids & Guides > Snap to Document Grid (a feature I rarely think about, much less use). I turned that off and, wow!, smart guides became enabled again. I still don’t really understand that one.
One of the most common reasons for things being grayed out is having selected the “wrong” tool. For example, if you have the Type tool selected and a text cursor flashing in a text frame, the Object Style and Effects panels gray out.
Alternatively, if you select a text frame with the Selection tool, the Character and Paragraph panels gray out, even though InDesign does allow you to apply text formatting to all the text inside a frame when you select it (or more than one text frame) with the Selection tool. The trick is to select the frame(s) with the Selection tool, then press T to switch to the Type tool. That enables the text-based panels and activates the text formatting options in the Control panel.
One last one that drives me bonkers: I’ll open a document, start working on it, decide that I don’t like the changes I’ve made, and try to choose File > Revert — only to find it grayed out. What the heck?! The clue is in the document’s title bar, which in these situations will usually include the word “[Converted]”. That means that the file was from a previous “version” of InDesign and the program converted it when you opened it. But “versions” are a slippery concept in InDesign-land. Sometimes adding a new plug-in you downloaded will trigger a new version; or even just a small “free dot upgrade” from Adobe might suddenly cause that ol’ Revert to gray out.
Are there other instances of “disabled” features that bother you? What’s the solution? Share your stories below.