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Prof.  Elizabeth  Macdonald

Computer Graphics for Planners
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InDesign Overview

Adobe InDesign is a commonly used page layout program, and is far more stable for laying out documents than Illustrator.


InDesign is used to lay out design boards as well as reports. Text can be imported from Microsoft Word, or typed straight into InDesign. Graphics can be imported in many formats, such as native Photoshop (.psp) or TIFF (.tif). These graphics are linked to the document, and any changes that occur to the original file are automatically updated in the document.             


InDesign CS2 is available in the LAEP lab. This program is included in the Adobe Creative Suite package, at about 200 dollars with the student discount (this purchase is highly recommended if you plan on using the software at home, as the full price of the software is about 2000 dollars).


The following tutorials are available in .pdf form:

The help menus available with InDesign are quite comprehensive, and About.com has some free lessons on learning the basic tools of InDesign:

Adobe Evangelists also have some tips and tricks:

Tips and tricks for using InDesign

  •  Adobe InDesign produces boards that are much smaller in size than Adobe Illustrator. Part of the way the program accomplishes smaller file sizes is by linking files instead of embedding them. Therefore, it is important to maintain the location of the graphics inserted into the file.
  • A second basic rule is to keep the number of pages down in an InDesign file. This will aid in printing and file handling. In general, boards should be kept in sets of no more than five per document, while reports should be broken into chapters of 25 pages or less.

    Some basic controls are described below:

    1. Control Window: The window located just below the main menu. This window toggles between numerical controls when the selection arrow is chosen, or text controls when the text selection button is chosen.

    2. Text and Image Boxes: Text and Images are contained within boxes subject to various types of controls. In order to add text or images, new boxes must be created first. Text boxes are added by selecting and dragging to the desired shape and size. Image boxes are created in the same way, using the tool. As seen in earlier tutorials, these boxes can be manipulated using the handles at their corners.

    3. Selection Tool vs Direct Selection Tool : These arrows are seen at the top of the toolbar. The Selection tool is used to move and resize objects, while the Direct Selection Tool is used to resize and move the imagery within the outer frame, as much of the time, the image frame is cropping some part of the original image. This is only a visual crop, and the entire image is still available, but hidden by the frame.

    4. Master Pages: Master Pages are used to create artwork that will be seen on multiple pages, such as page numbers, headers and footers, or title boxes. Artwork placed on Master Pages can only be altered from those masters and not in the body of the document. Multiple master pages can be created in a single document.

    5. Tabbed Toolbars: InDesign is the only Adobe program with tabbed toolbars that sit to the right-hand side of the screen. Clicking on the tab you want will cause it to pop out. Click again, and it retracts. Many users like the screen organization this creates, and the toolbars can be shifted about or turned off to best meet the needs of the project at hand.