Working with tabs in InDesign

If you’ve been exploring the menu in InDesign, you will see, just as in Photoshop and Illustrator, there is a Windows dropdown that gives you every palette you need. Well, almost every one. It’s strange to me that Tabs isn’t listed anywhere here seeing as how they are very important in the structure of your document.

You can find them under Type however. If you select the type you want to adjust the tabs for, then go to Type>Tabs (Shift +Command + T for those of you who want to do things a bit faster), you will see a wide palette open that contains a ruler of sorts. By default it usually starts and ends at the borders of your text box.
Tabs palette

The four small buttons in the upper left are your “Left Justified, Center Justified, Right Justified and Align to Decimal” tabs, consecutively. For the first three you simply drag from the button across the top of the ruler to set where your first tab will be positioned. If you have one selected that you want to change the justification of, simply click the button you want it to be identified with and it will change. you can drag as many tabs as you need this way.

Tabs palette with first tab selected

The box marked X tells you the position along the ruler where your tab is set. Each tab position can be changed by either dragging the tab marker itself or selecting it and typing in the position where you want it in the X box.

There is also a Leader box which allows you to set a character or symbol that will precede that tab. In other words, if you are pricing items on a menu and you want that familiar …. leading across the page to the item price, you can select the tab that is set for your price and put a . in the Leader box.
Tabs palette with Leader box active

You’ll notice that the Align On box also now has a decimal displayed. What this is telling you is that everything this tab is set for should align according to the decimal in its number.

If you are wanting to simply set a paragraph indent for multiple paragraphs then you don’t actually have to use a tab. On the left side of the ruler there are two triangles. The top allows you to set how far the first line of a paragraph will be indented. The second allows you to set the indention point for all of the copy in the text box. Also, on the right end of the ruler, there is a triangle that allows you to set the right indention of your copy.

Indents set in the Tabs palette

Each paragraph can have separate indentions (as in a long quote case) and all the tabs can be customized for whatever specific section of type you are using. Simply select the type with the Type Tool and examine the Tabs palette.

The small magnet to the right of the ruler snaps the palettes alignment to that of your text box, positioning it directly above the text box so you have a good visual of where your tabs are.

The dropdown options on the right are Clear All, Delete Tab, Repeat Tab and Reset Indents. Clear all deletes all tabs you have set. Delete Tab will only delete the tab you have highlighted. Repeat Tab creates another tab with the same spacing and features as the one before, and Reset Indents simply resets your Indentions to their starting positions.

The Tabs palette comes in very handy when dealing with structured type.


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