How to combine multiple files into a single PDF

January 6 2023

Adobe Acrobat is an incredibly versatile tool for document management and print production, that can save you a lot of time if used correctly. In this video we’ll look at how to use Adobe Acrobat to combine multiple files into a single PDF, how to add pages to an existing PDF, and how to save time in a production environment by replacing specific PDF pages if needed, without needing to re-export an entire document.

Using Adobe Acrobat to combine multiple files

If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud ‘all apps’ subscription, then one of the applications you have available to you is the venerable Adobe Acrobat. Not Adobe Reader, which is the free PDF viewing software, but the full version of what used to be known as Acrobat Pro, and was briefly called Acrobat DC, but is now apparently just called ‘Acrobat’. Because of course it is.

Regardless of name, Acrobat is one of the best PDF editing and management applications available, and also the most reliable for preparing output of design files for commercial printing.

If all you are using Acrobat for is opening PDFs to read, then you’re missing an incredible amount of functionality which can save you time and money.

Should you edit a PDF?

To get straight to the point: it’s generally better to output a PDF for press clean. That is to say, make sure that all of your edits are complete and your settings are correct when you output the file, rather than trying to modify the PDF later on. The reason for this is simply that modifying a PDF can possibly introduce errors; obviously bad.

But, sometimes you can’t avoid editing a PDF, and so for that it’s good to have Acrobat available.

How to combine multiple PDF files to create a new PDF in Adobe Acrobat

  1. If you have two or more PDFs, and all you need to do is join them together, then just head up to the ‘File’ menu in Adobe Acrobat, and go to the ‘Create’ option. In the ‘Create’ sub-menu you can find a range of different sources that you can import content from. Select the ‘Combine Files into a Single PDF’ option. You can also use the ‘Combine Files’ button, normally visible on the right hand side of the Acrobat window if you have a file currently open.
    Acrobat user interface screenshot
  2. Either option will open the ‘Combine Files’ screen. Here there is one big ‘Add Files’ button in the middle of the window, plus an ‘Add Open Files’ button that will only be available if you already had a file open in Acrobat. At the top of the screen there is also an ‘Add Files…’ drop-down list, from which you can select other sources (such as a whole folder of files at once, if needed). For most use cases, just click the ‘Add Files’ button in the middle of the screen.
    Acrobat user interface
  3. From the file select dialog box, navigate to wherever the PDF files you need to combine are stored on your system, and select the files. You can CMD/Ctrl + Click to select multiple files, or Shift + Click to select a range. Don’t worry if the files you need aren’t all in the same folder (we’ll deal with that in just a moment). When you’ve selected all the files you need that are in the folder, click the ‘Add Files’ button to load them into Acrobat.
    Composite of file selection window
  4. After Acrobat finishes loading the files, you should see a thumbnail for each file added, plus any additional pages within each file (if any) represented as icons behind their respective thumbnails. From here you can drag the thumbnails to re-order the sequence of documents, thereby changing the order of pages in the finished PDF, and if you click the ‘Combine’ button in the top right corner of the Acrobat window, Acrobat will assemble the separate files into one continuous document. But first…
  5. If you have additional files that you need to add, you can do this via the ‘Add Files…’ drop down at the top of the Acrobat window. Any new files will be added to the end of the sequence, and you can re-order them however you need to.
  6. When you’re ready, click the ‘Combine’ button to generate a new PDF.
  7. After the PDF is generated, go to the ‘File’ menu and choose ‘Save’ or hit CMD/Ctrl + S on the keyboard. In the file save dialog, you can choose a variety of formats to save the PDF, but really only the default ‘Adobe PDF Files’ or the ‘Adobe PDF Files, Optimized’ are likely to produce a predictable result.

How to add files as pages to an existing PDF

From the ‘File’ menu you can choose ‘Insert Pages’ and then select a source to import from. This will give you a thumbnail list of your document’s pages down the left side of the Acrobat interface, and allow you to append additional pages to your PDF file. But, despite this function being built into Acrobat specifically for adding pages, there is actually an easier way.

How to use the Organize Pages workspace in Adobe Acrobat

If you have the tools list open on the right hand side of the interface, then a couple of entries down the list you should see the ‘Organize Pages’ option. This is actually one of the most useful features in Acrobat. Select ‘Organize Pages’ from the sidebar, and you’ll be taken to the workspace.

Acrobat user interface screenshot

From the Organize Pages workspace, you can add, delete, replace, re-arrange and even export specific pages — or page ranges — to and from your document. And you can more easily work with the page arrangement in a much more convenient grid layout.

How to add pages to a PDF using the Organize Pages workspace in Adobe Acrobat

  1. Select ‘Organize Pages’ from the Acrobat sidebar, or choose ‘View -> Tools -> Organize Pages -> Open’ from the application menu. This will open the Organize Pages workspace.
    Acrobat UI showing page icons
  2. From the ‘Organize Pages’ toolbar, beneath the main Acrobat toolbar, click the ‘Insert’ button. This is a drop-down that gives you a list of source options. Select ‘From File…’ (the other options are somewhat esoteric).
  3. From the standard system file dialog, choose the file(s) you want to add and click the ‘Select’ button.
  4. Acrobat will ask where you want to insert the new pages. You can move the pages around easily in the grid view after import, so for simplicity just choose to insert after the last page and click ‘OK’.
    Acrobat dialog
  5. Your new pages will be added to the end of your document, and will remain selected for you, so you can now simply drag them to the position you want in the document.
  6. When the pages are ordered as you want them, you can just choose ‘File -> Save’ (CMD/Ctrl+S) and you’re finished. Or save a new file (‘File -> Save As…’) if you don’t want to overwrite your existing document.

How to replace pages in a PDF using the Organize Pages workspace in Adobe Acrobat

Replacing pages is a similar process to adding pages. You are just removing a selected page, or pages, and inserting new pages in their place, in one step.

To replace pages:

  1. Select ‘Organize Pages’ from the Acrobat sidebar, or choose ‘View -> Tools -> Organize Pages -> Open’ from the application menu. This will open the Organize Pages workspace.
  2. Choose the ‘Replace’ button from the ‘Organize Pages’ toolbar.
  3. Select the file that contains the replacement page(s) from the file select dialog. Click the ‘Select’ button.
  4. From the ‘Replace Pages’ dialog box you can enter the range of pages you want to replace (Acrobat will enter whatever page(s) you had highlighted in the grid by default) in the ‘Original’ section, and the new page(s) you want to import from the ‘Replacement’ section. When this is set as you need it, click the ‘OK’ button.
    Acrobat UI showing replace pages dialog
  5. The page(s) will be inserted in place. All you need to do is save your document.

How to package in Adobe InDesign

February 13 2022

In most programs, the question of “How do I save my document?” isn’t terribly complicated. When using InDesign it appears that it also follows a very simple File>Save approach, just like any other software. But someone new to InDesign may overlook that saving an InDesign file doesn’t necessarily save all of their work, as the .indd file is only one part of the document structure. In order to ensure everything is properly saved when a job is completed, it’s necessary to use the ‘Package’ command. This is because an InDesign layout is rarely ever limited to just a lone .indd file. Usually a layout consists of images that are separate files, and also any fonts which have been used. Without these elements, along with the .indd file, the layout will not appear correctly when opened either on another computer, or even just at a later date.

Why ‘packaging’?

The package command is a throw-back to the days when sending a job to print required sending the printer all the layout files, images and fonts so that the printer could open and output the document correctly. This was called a package. Nowadays, just about everything is sent to press as PDFs, and a package is rarely needed. When it comes to exchanging or archiving documents, however, packaging is still extremely useful.

Linked files can be everywhere

Diagram of various files relative to InDesign file

When an image is added to an InDesign layout, that image is not moved, attached or embedded in the .indd file in any way (although it can be if desired; that practice is neither efficient, nor recommended). The linked image remains stored exactly where it was on the computer, and this may be in a completely different location to the InDesign file. There are any number of different workflow approaches that can be taken to keep things organised, but InDesign itself does nothing to manage files in regular use, it simply links to them wherever they might be. So, if a file that is used in an InDesign layout is moved or deleted from its original location, InDesign will simply report this as a missing link when trying to display the document that uses that linked file.

There is actually a hierarchy of locations InDesign will automatically look for an image if it doesn’t find it in its original location. InDesign will first look for the missing image in the same folder the .indd file is in. If it doesn’t find the missing file there, it will check to see if there is a ‘Links’ folder in the same folder as the .indd file, and if it finds one it will check in there for the missing file. This includes within subfolders of the Links folder as well. Beyond that, InDesign will not look anywhere else for the file. It will report it as missing, and the user will have to fix the broken link manually.

Sharing and Archiving

It’s probably fairly clear why this type of file handling can cause a problem for exchanging or archiving files. If a designer has a complex layout it could potentially include hundreds of images. Reliably ensuring these are all included with the layout is better not left to a manual process.

What the InDesign ‘package’ command does (and what it doesn’t do)

The package function is the built-in process whereby InDesign will check all the links and fonts that you are using in a document, and it will copy all of the files needed to correctly open that document into a new location and organised in folders. So after packaging there will be a new copy of the .indd file, along with a Links folder, and a Document Fonts folder. And these files, altogether, should include everything that is needed to open that .indd file anywhere without error.


There are a few ‘gotchas’ to be aware of when packaging: InDesign will only package linked files that are actually in use in the layout — that is, on the page — but it will ignore any files just left lying around on the pasteboard. And it won’t package any cloud-based fonts (eg Adobe Fonts synced via Creative Cloud).

How to package your InDesign document, step-by-step

  1. Check that all the links in your layout are present and up-to-date. Fix any missing links using the ‘Links’ panel. It pays to make sure that the whole document setup is free from errors. You can check for errors using the ‘Preflight’ panel, or just look for a green indicator at the bottom of the program window.
    InDesign interface showing links panel
  2. Likewise, check that you don’t have any missing fonts in use anywhere. Find and correct any problems via the ‘Find/Replace Font’ option under the Type menu.
  3. Delete any unneeded links sitting on the pasteboard. These will not be included in the package, and so will appear as broken links when the file is re-opened under different circumstances, resulting in error messages. If you do have any linked files you want to keep with the package that aren’t used directly on the page (eg working copies or alternate version files) you can force InDesign to include them in the package Links folder by placing them onto the Slug area (see How to Use the Slug Area in Adobe InDesign for more information), or by placing them onto the page but moving them to a hidden layer.
    InDesign pasteboard showing image overlapping slug area
  4. Go to ‘File>Package’. In the dialog box that opens, you can select different settings from the list on the left to check the status of your fonts, links, colour management etc. Realistically, though, it’s better to not depend on this dialog box alone to check for errors. Make sure everything is in order before this stage.
    InDesign Package dialog
  5. Click the ‘Package’ button and in the ‘Create Package Folder’ box that opens, choose where you want to save your package, and give it a name. Remember that you’re naming the folder that your files will be copied to — the name of the InDesign file will be unchanged.
    InDesign save dialog
  6. In the options section of the window, be sure to check the buttons for ‘Copy Fonts’, ‘Copy Linked Graphics’, ‘Update Graphic Links In Package’ and ‘Include Fonts and Links From Hidden and Non-Printing Content’. You can also create an IDML file, which can be beneficial. It’s not a great idea to check ‘Include PDF’, as the PDF can sometimes fail to generate for no particular reason. If this happens InDesign will delete all of the packaged files and you then have to start over again. If you’re packaging a document with a large number of links this can waste a lot of time.
  7. Click the ‘Package’ button and InDesign will create your new folders and copy all the linked files over to them. This can take awhile, depending on the number and size of linked files. Upon completion, the new folder you specified will contain all the files needed to open the layout.
  8. Now create a PDF.

Backing up InDesign documents

Packaging is the most effective way of ensuring that your work is archived properly when completed. Once you have packaged your work, be sure to include the entire package in a proper backup system.

There are plenty of articles explaining best practices for ensuring your files are safely backed up, but a quick recap is:

  1. Make sure that you have more than one copy of your files — This is to safeguard mostly against accidentally deleting or overwriting a file.
  2. Make sure that you have more than one physical device that your files are stored on — So, more than one hard drive. Don’t just copy your files to a different folder on your computer and think “that’s backed-up”. If the drive fails, all the files are history. More than one drive.
  3. Make sure that you have copies in more than one physical location — This may be as simple as leaving your backup drive in your desk at work, or doing a swap with a friend (you take their backup home, and they take yours). The key is to ensure that if the location of one copy of your files is destroyed (fire, flood, or even theft), you still have a copy safe somewhere else.

Online backups

These days it’s actually easier than ever to have a safe offsite backup. There are many online options which enable you to upload your files to the cloud (so: some else’s computer, far far away) easily and quite affordably.

You can just use a file syncing system such as Dropbox or OneDrive. This is absolutely better than nothing, but it is important to remember that these services are geared primarily towards syncing files across different locations, not backing them up, per se, so there are some deficiencies compared to a true ‘backup’ solution:

  • They are normally limited to a particular folder on your system, so you have to keep all of your files there.
  • Most services will allow you to recover a file you may have accidentally deleted or overwritten to some extent, but capabilities vary.
  • Storage limits are usually in the 1–2TB amounts.
  • Not all files will copy reliably to all services — for example, some macOS files won’t copy to OneDrive.

Depending on your particular requirements, these limitations may be problematic, or they may never even be noticed at all. But if you do find yourself needing a more backup-specific solution, we recommend Backblaze.


Backblaze is an online backup service that offers unlimited backup storage at very reasonable prices. They have native applications for macOS and Windows that can backup extremely large amounts of data quickly and reliably, from everywhere on your system (including external drives). They have a number of different ways of restoring your data, should the need arise, ranging from simple direct downloading of files, all the way through to having a hard drive physically shipped to you if you need to recover a lot of lost data. Standard 30 day file version recovery is included — so you can recover any files you may have accidentally wiped out — and this can be extended to an infinite amount of time if you choose.

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Create that 3D effect in Adobe Illustrator — 3 different ways

Fix widows, orphans, and runts in Adobe InDesign

August 20 2021

GREP String to copy and paste

To fix Runts, copy and paste this string into the ‘To Text:’ field, in the GREP Style section of your paragraph style. Choose your ‘No Break’ Character Style from the ‘Apply Style’ dropdown, and click OK.


What are Widows, Orphans, and Runts, in typography?

The typographic terms ‘Widows’, ‘Orphans’, and ‘Runts’ may sound archaic and mysterious, but they are actually just a shorthand way of referring to common text flow problems that occur in typesetting.

Image of two columns of text, showing a single line breaking to the second column

Widows in typography

The term ‘Widow’ refers to the last line in a paragraph breaking over to the start of a new column or page. Instead of the paragraph ending neatly altogether, there is an awkward line that the reader must go searching for in a different place in order to finish. This interrupts the flow of the text for the reader, and also creates an untidy appearance.

Image of two columns of text, showing a single indented line at the bottom of the first column

Orphans in typography

The term ‘Orphan’ refers to the first line of a new paragraph occurring at the end of a column or page. While it is arguably not as disruptive to the reader to break the flow of text when a paragraph has only begun, rather than right before it ends, it is still an undesired interruption, and orphans also contribute to an untidy appearance.

Image of a single column of text, showing a single word breaking to a new line at the end of a paragraph

Runts in typography

The term ‘Runt’ refers to the last word (or part thereof) breaking to a new line at the end of a paragraph. Runts are often incorrectly referred to as Widows or Orphans. While runts aren’t overly disruptive to the reading experience in a block of type (unless they also occur simultaneously as a widow), they can nevertheless cause the overall appearance of type on the page to look untidy by contributing to white-space problems such as rivers within the text, and can create awkward gaps between the end of a paragraph, and an indented new line, due to insufficient horizontal overlap.

How to fix Widows, Orphans, and Runts when using Adobe InDesign

Widows and Orphans are relatively straightforward to correct using InDesign. The program has inbuilt capabilities to prevent lines from becoming separated at the beginning and end of paragraphs, although you will most likely still need to make manual adjustments on a case-by-case basis. InDesign can, however, do an excellent job of resolving Runts automatically using the program’s GREP Styles function, although this requires just a little bit more initial configuration.

Fixing Widows and Orphans

  1. Double-click the Paragraph Style you need to modify, in the Paragraph Styles panel.
  2. Go to the ‘Keep Options’ section of the Paragraph Styles dialog box.
  3. Check the box next to ‘Keep Lines Together’.
Screenshot of InDesign dialog box

The default setting for this option will force InDesign to keep the first and last two lines together (this can be changed as needed), so it is now technically not possible for widows or orphans to occur. The caveat here is that obviously this will now cause two lines to break across columns and pages, instead of just the single line, which may be less desirable itself and create different problems.

Fixing Runts (using GREP Styles)

  1. Create a new Character Style, and go to the ‘Basic Character Formats’ section of the Character Style Options dialog box.
  2. Check the box for ‘No Break’.
    Screenshot of InDesign dialog box
  3. Click the ‘OK’ button to close the Character Style Options dialog box.
  4. Double-click your Paragraph Style to open it, and go to the ‘GREP Style’ section of the Paragraph Style Options dialog box.
  5. Click the ‘New GREP Style’ button.
  6. Select the new Character Style you just created from the ‘Apply Style’ drop-down list.
  7. Enter this GREP string \<(\s?(\S+)){2}$ (you can copy/paste it) into the ‘To Text’ field.
    Screenshot of InDesign dialog box
  8. Click the ‘OK’ button to save and close the dialog box.

How does this GREP Style work?

GREP is incredibly powerful and useful, but also can appear very overwhelming. It uses what are known as ‘regular expressions’ to look for very specific patterns in text. Regular expressions are typically a confusing arrangement of different characters (such as the one above). Rather than try to cover the exact GREP commands being used (there are plenty of excellent resources online already that cover the specifics), let’s just look at the basic mechanics of how this particular pattern works to fix the problem of Runts.

Firstly, it’s helpful to understand that GREP can search for patterns both forwards, as well as backwards, with the text. So the first thing this pattern does is look for the end of every paragraph, and then it works backwards from there. From the end of the paragraph it searches for any two groups of preceding characters separated by a single space.

Diagram of last two words in sentence with pointers showing word space word end

And that’s it. It’s actually very simple. Every instance of this ‘found pattern’ within the text is then targeted by InDesign using the GREP Style function, to apply a ‘No Break’ rule to the last two words which occur at the end of a paragraph.

Cancelling the GREP Style

If you understand how this GREP Style is applied, then you can also understand how to deal with problems that can occur when using it. If you have narrow columns and some particularly long words at the end of a paragraph, for instance, you may find that having a ‘no break’ rule will cause all of your following paragraphs to inexplicably become overset. In a situation like this, it’s incredibly simple to fix the problem without needing to make any complex style changes — just add a space to the end of the paragraph, and the GREP Style will be cancelled. Remember, it’s looking for the last two words directly before the end of paragraph marker, not the last two words followed by a space.

The Slug Area in Adobe InDesign

April 4 2021

History of ‘Slug’ in typesetting

In traditional letterpress printing, the term ‘slug’ was used often interchangeably to refer to a range of different elements, usually related to the pieces of metal or wood used to affect leading. The only similarity retained in the modern usage of the term appears to be that it is still used in a fairly nebulous way.

The modern ‘slug’ in typesetting

Image of page showing different print marks in Slug area

When referring to the ‘slug’ in modern, digital-based, typesetting workflows, you would typically be discussing the area outside of the bleed on a printed page. This area is still printed, but is trimmed off along with the excess bleed. This space is used for elements such as registration and crop marks, colour bars, and notes and instructions for the press operator.

Uses of the Slug area

Most of the time you can ignore the slug. It’s mainly the province of the press operator, and best to not make a mess of it. With modern PDF output, the basics such as crop marks, registration marks etc can be added automatically at output. In a modern workflow your printer may actually prefer you don’t add any of these marks to your document anyway. Provided you output your PDF file to the correct specifications, these settings are stored within the PDF, and don’t need to be output as physical marks. And the slug area normally doesn’t need to be included at all.

As with all matters print related: ALWAYS check with your printer, and follow whatever specs they provide. Your printer has to deal with a lot of difficult customers. Don’t be one them.

However there may be some occasions where you have need to communicate information to your printer, and that is the purpose of the slug. A common example is package design. Printing for packaging involves things such as dielines, and multiple cuts and folds. The information about the job requirements will typically exceed what is carried by default in a simple PDF, and providing clarification of the specific job requirements for your printer, via the slug area, can make everyone’s job easier.

Print marks

The most basic print marks to include in the slug area are crop marks, fold marks and registration marks. In this basic implementation you would include the relevant mark manually in the slug directly in the specific area you need it. For instance placing a fold mark on either side of the job where it needs to be folded, or crop marks where it needs to be cut. If placing a registration mark manually (you will probably never need to do this in your entire career, just FYI) be sure to set it using the [Registration] colour swatch, so that the mark appears on every printing plate.

Print messages

Sometimes a document may have something that is intentional, but unusual, in its design and may appear to the printer as though it could be a mistake. In order to prevent delays with the job, the slug can be a lifesaver for including simple messages such as “this page intentionally left blank” or “image is intentionally inverted/negative” etc. That way your printer knows the abnormality is intentional and can proceed without seeking clarification.


When producing package designs, there will almost certainly be specific cuts required. Depending on the type of job this may simply entail a few additional standard trims, but typically will involve diecuts. Once again: ALWAYS check with your printer when setting up a job like this. There is no specific standard way of including dielines in your file, and the process varies from printer to printer.

As a generalised description, a dieline may be included in your job as an additional colour, a non-printing layer, or specific spot. However the dielines are setup, one more use for the slug can be: including a guide for the printer to make it clear what each marking means in relation to cuts, folds and even gluing.

The Slug Area in Adobe InDesign

How to setup the Slug using Adobe InDesign

When you first create a new document, the settings for the slug can be found in the ‘Bleed and Slug’ section of the New Document dialog box. The slug settings can also be later accessed from File > Document Setup, again in the ‘Bleed and Slug’ section of that dialog box.

By default, the slug is not enabled. Its values are set to zero and the document edges it is applied to aren’t synced (the little chain icon isn’t selected). You enable the slug by simply adding a value to any, or all, of the boxes, and it will add that much extra space to the edge selected. How much area depends on what you need to put into it.

Image of New Document settings

For the sake of example, we’re going to just add 16mm and sync the amount for all edges — this is based on using 5mm of bleed in the document. The slug amount is added to the trimmed size of the page, not the bleed size. The document bleed is part of the slug area and it encroaches on whatever amount of slug you add. By creating a 16mm slug area, there is 5mm taken up by the bleed, and 11mm remains for the slug content. In the case of this example we’re just going to add a fold mark to our document, so the 11mm provides room for a 10mm-long fold line, with a 1mm offset so it doesn’t overlap the bleed area.

How to output the slug using Adobe InDesign

If you’ve setup the slug in your document, and it contains information that actually needs to go to your printer, then the final step is to output the slug as part of your PDF.

Image of Export PDF dialog box, showing Include Slug Are option

As with document setup, the slug is left ‘off’ by default. In order to export it, you enable it in the ‘Marks and Bleeds’ section of the ‘Export Adobe PDF’ dialog box, by simply checking the ‘Include Slug Area’ checkbox.

Non-standard uses for the slug area in Adobe InDesign

One of InDesign’s more useful features is the ‘Package’ function. Although originally intended for collecting your document and all of the linked files and fonts used within it for sending to a printer, this function is arguably much more useful these days for archiving finished projects and exchanging files with other designers.

In these instances, it can be beneficial to retain linked files which may not have necessarily been placed in the finished layout. These may be images that have been incorporated into a composite in another program (usually Photoshop or Illustrator), or perhaps a layered version of a file that has been placed in the final publication as a flattened object to improve output speed. For whatever reason you may have these intermediate ‘working files’ from a project that you need to keep along with the rest of that project’s files that aren’t actually used in the document itself.

Image of InDesign document with images overlapping the Slug Area
Linked images placed inside the Slug Area will be included when using the InDesign ‘Package’ command

One simple way of ensuring all the files you need to keep are archived together is to make use of the slug area. Because the slug is a printable part of the document, any files placed in this area will be included as part of the package process by InDesign, where any placed objects just left on the pasteboard aren’t normally packaged. So if you place any working file you need to keep onto the pasteboard in your document, overlapping even slightly with the slug, they will be packaged along with all the files placed into the actual layout when you use the File > Package command. This way you can let the program do the work of archiving and keeping track of files you may later need, and eliminate the risk that they may be overlooked for backup, and subsequently lost.

How to fix a drop cap with an opening quote mark in Adobe InDesign

December 18 2020

How to format a drop cap in Adobe InDesign, when the first character is a quote mark, is a typesetting problem that can be solved using the program’s Nested Styles feature.

How do you fix a quote mark that occurs before a drop cap?

  1. As with all typesetting, it’s best to work with styles. If you haven’t already, create a paragraph style for your opening paragraph (preferably based on whatever paragraph style you are using for the rest of your copy). Call this style ‘Drop Cap’.
  2. Go to the Drop Caps and Nested Styles section of your ‘Drop Cap’ paragraph styles’ options. In the Drop Caps section, change the Lines value to be however many lines you want your drop cap to cover (it needs to be at least 2), and then click OK to save the settings.
  3. Now, create a duplicate of the existing ‘Drop Cap’ paragraph style. Call it ‘Drop Cap QUOTE’. Doing this means that the new stylesheet will be based on the existing Drop Cap style, so it will inherit all of its settings, and this also means that any future changes made to the existing Drop Cap style — for example changing the font — will automatically filter down to the ‘Drop Cap QUOTE’ style.
  4. In the ‘Drop Cap QUOTE’ paragraph style, go to the Drop Caps and Nested Styles settings, and in the Drop Caps section change the number in the Characters box to ‘2’. This will make both the opening quote mark and the first letter appear as drop caps.
  5. Now go down to the Nested Styles section — located in the middle of the styles dialogue — and click on the New Nested Style button. This will create a new ‘blank’ nested style in the list box above.
  6. The first column in the box allows you to select the Character Style you want to apply. Currently it should say ‘[None]’. Click on ‘[None]’ to open a drop down list of all the existing Character Styles in your document (if any). At the bottom of this list is the option to create a new character style. Click on ‘New Character Style…’ at the bottom of the list.
  7. In the New Character Style dialogue box, give the character style a name of ‘DC Quote’, and then go to the Basic Character Formats section. From here, change the Position option to ‘Superscript’. Click OK to go back to the paragraph style settings.
  8. The next column in the Nested Styles box controls how far the nested character style is applied from the beginning of the paragraph onwards. If it’s set to ‘through’ then the style will be applied inclusive of the properties which are specified in the next two columns. If it’s set to ‘up to’ it will be applied excluding those properties (so, up to, but not including…). The default of ‘through’ is the more generally useful option in most circumstances, including these, so leave it set to ‘through’.
  9. The next column is a number. By default this is set to ‘1’. The number determines how many instances of the settings specified in the next column to the right that the style should be applied to before stopping. Leave this on ‘1’.
  10. And finally, the last column specifies the condition that the style should be applied to. By default this is set to ‘Words’, but clicking on it reveals a list of preset options to choose from (less obvious is the ability to enter any character, or set of characters, into the field instead; it’s not limited to only the listed options). Because the quote mark that needs fixing is a single character, change this option by selecting ‘Characters’ from the drop down list.
  11. The settings for the nested style should now show the newly-created character style that is being applied (‘DC Quote’), and that it is being applied ‘through’ ‘1’ ‘character’. In other words, the very first character of the paragraph that the ‘Drop Cap QUOTE’ paragraph style is being applied to is now targeted with a character style that will set it to a superscript position. Click OK to save the paragraph style settings and return to the document.
  12. The opening quote mark should now be a less prominent size, but it may still be forcing the drop cap after it too far into the text frame. The simplest way to fix this is to open the Story panel (Window > Type & Tables > Story) and, with the text frame selected, check the box for ‘Optical Margin Alignment’. While this should push the opening quote mark back outside the text frame, be aware that this change will affect all threaded frames for the currently selected Story, so if that is not ideal there may be further adjustment of size and position needed in the ‘DC Quote’ character style to fine-tune the position (rather than simply using the Superscript setting) to avoid changing the optical margin alignment.

Dialog box behavior and the proxy icon – macOS tips for designers

March 31 2020

The Mac has historically been viewed as the computer that designers always prefer. This is mostly due to the Mac originating a graphical user interface for personal computers. This made it viable as a design tool earlier than Windows. But, does the Mac provide anything for designers today that they can’t find on a cheaper, Windows-based, computer? We’re going to have a look at a couple of very small, but quite significant features in macOS that can offer a significant productivity boost, depending on the type of design work you are doing. Even long-time users are often surprised by these.

Dialog box behavior

On Windows, there is an understandable UI paradigm that ‘anything that looks like a file window, acts like a file window.’ This is a reasonable way to design an approachable interface. Whether you are looking at a folder in the Windows Explorer, or looking at a folder in a file save dialog box from within an application, if you drag a file in or out of that window/dialog box to another, it will move or copy that file to the new location.
macOS handles that kind of action somewhat differently. Dragging a file or folder around in the Mac Finder will move or copy it in exactly the same way as on a Windows system, but dragging a file or folder into an open application dialog box won’t copy or move anything. Instead, it will cause the dialog box to change its focus.

Composition of images of file being dragged into dialog box on macOS

So rather than displaying the folder or file it was pointed at when it was opened, it will instead point to the folder or file that was dropped on it. Nothing is moved or copied, but the dialog box can now proceed with it’s intended purpose, focused on a new target, without any need to navigate through the folder structure first. While this may seem ‘at odds’ with the claimed ‘better usability’ of the Mac—giving identical-looking interface elements different behaviors based on context—it’s actually a logical alternative solution to an interface problem: if you are in a file save or file open dialog box, your intended action is to save or open a file, and so the system functions toward that goal. While Windows maintains consistency for better usability, macOS defers to user intent for better usability. Neither is the ‘right’ solution, they’re both just solutions.

Composition of screenshots showing a folder being dragged into a dialog box on macOS

But in the case of design work, particularly if you find yourself doing a lot of editorial design, this can make a big difference to productivity. Think about how often you need to bring one file into another. If you have a project folder open already, then the time you can save every time you have to open, save, or most significantly place a file adds up quickly when you can simply grab the file you need from an open folder and drop it into the relevant dialog box, or grab the relevant folder you need to save to and target it with a simple drag-and-drop action. Shaving several seconds off tasks that you may repeat dozens of times a day adds up to real time savings. There is also less cognitive disruption if you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to navigate the folder structure looking for a particular file or folder, but can just grab it from an open window and drop it into the dialog box.

The Proxy Icon

Another oft-overlooked feature, that actually goes quite comfortably hand-in-hand with the dialog box behavior, is the Proxy Icon. It’s odd that most Mac users are oblivious to the existence of this functionality, given that it was even demonstrated as a system feature way back when Mac OS X was still in early development. Basically the Proxy Icon is one realization of another UI convention within macOS: every icon displayed in the operating system should always act as though it is an icon.

Composition on screenshots showing proxy icon being dragged

If you look at the little icon displayed next to the name in most window title bars—the very top center of the window to the right of the red, yellow and green ‘traffic light’ buttons—you could be forgiven for thinking “it’s just decorative”. But in fact if you click directly on this icon—not the text—and hold for just an instant, you can drag that icon from the title bar and it will behave as if you were dragging the document you have open, itself. So you can move or copy files that you currently have open from one location to another (another Mac staple: the system will follow the file around to it’s new location, even if you move it while it’s open), or even from one program to another. This is an enormous time-saver if you need to edit or switch-out placed graphics in an InDesign or Illustrator document.

While you probably already knew that in InDesign you could simply Option+Double-Click on a placed graphic to open it in the associated Application (no need to visit the links panel), modify, re-save your graphic, and when you return to InDesign it will update to the new version automatically, you might not have realized that you can also drag and drop the proxy icon from Photoshop or Illustrator—provided you have the application frame turned-off in those programs—onto the original linked graphic in InDesign and it will also update that way. So if you edit a placed graphic and need to re-save it as a different file (for example, it was placed as jpeg but your edits now mean it needs to be psd) you can just save the new file, drag the proxy icon back into InDesign, and it will update with the new file exactly in place with no need to navigate through menus or folders. And if you do happen to need to navigate through a file open/close/place/etc dialog, you can also drag the proxy icon there and have the dialog box switch to the file’s location. It functions the same way as dragging an icon around in the Finder normally would.

macOS today

When the modern Mac operating system, OS X, was being developed some 20+ years ago, Apple was still floundering and Designers and Artists were still one of their largest audiences. As a result there was a lot of care put into building an operating system that would cater specifically to our needs. Even though Apple has gone mainstream in an, ahem, fairly big way since then, and the now rechristened macOS has shifted focus somewhat (leading to some features, such as the Proxy Icon, becoming less ubiquitous than they once were) many of these features do still remain, often completely unknown to modern users.

How to setup page numbers in Adobe InDesign

February 8 2020

It’s an InDesign basic — how to insert automatic page numbering into your document. This is accomplished by using one of InDesign’s built-in character placeholders, which you can insert into any flow of text you like. Typically you would insert this character into a text frame on your master page, which is what we’re demonstrating here.

Even though it’s quite simple, the first time you go to add a page number to your InDesign document, you may come away a little frustrated. It may seem weird, but there actually isn’t any menu option or button to press that will just enable page numbers for you. You need to know the process.

Page numbers are just one type of Special Character you can use in InDesign to automatically markup your document. Special characters are a collection of different type elements that will automatically adjust themselves based on context—where or how they are used within your document.

Screenshot of InDesign UI showing Current Page Number menu option

 There are actually a number of different types of page number markers that you can use, but the one most commonly needed is the Current Page Number marker. This is what you’ll need in order to add those helpful little digits to the corners of your pages. This Special Character will display the page number of whatever page the marker is placed on. To use it, you need to put your cursor into a text frame where you want the marker to display, and then select Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.

Although you would traditionally just use a separate text frame for your numbering, due to the fact that any Special Characters in InDesign are just simply characters you can include them alongside any other text, if you want to.

Usually you would apply your page number marker characters to your documents’ Master Page(s). By doing this you will automatically have the number applied to every page in your document. Without adding the marker to a master page, you would actually need to insert the marker manually into every page you want a number on, which defeats half the point of using it at all. When inserted into a master page, the page number character will just display a placeholder, since it doesn’t actually have a page number to display, but this will display as the current page number when viewed on a normal page onto which the master has been applied.

Again, because InDesign’s Special Characters are just characters, they behave like any other. You can apply fonts, colours, styles and other formatting to them, and they will also continue to function alongside any other characters. So, for example, you could add ‘Page number’ to the text frame(s) on your master page(s), before the Current Page Number marker character, and then this will be shown on each page, followed by that page’s number.

Adobe Fonts come to iOS

Adobe recently added the ability to access and use their Adobe Fonts (formerly TypeKit) service through the system font library in iOS 13. This video provides a very quick overview of this new feature.

Using the ‘Next Style’ setting in Adobe InDesign

Learn how to use the next style option within a paragraph style in Adobe InDesign. This is a useful function that can greatly improve your efficiency and speed up your work if you are doing design or typesetting work using Adobe InDesign.