Chapter 13. Stylin' with Paragraph and Character Styles

STYLES HAVE BEEN AROUND since the dawn of desktop publishing. Over the years they have evolved in their ease of use and range of capabilities. A bed-rock feature of any page layout program, styles represent humankind's greatest advance in the field of digital page layout. Styles are to graphic designers what fire was to prehistoric people.

Defining Our Terms

Paragraph Styles and Character Styles are a collection of attributes that can be applied to text with a single click. Paragraph Styles, as their name suggests, are applied to the whole paragraph; Character Styles are applied to a selected range of text within a paragraph. Collectively I will refer to the Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, and Object Styles (see Chapter 14) in a document as a Style Sheet.

When you select text or click an insertion point, the style that has been applied to that text is highlighted in the Paragraph and/or Character Styles palette. If you select a range of text covering multiple styles, no style is highlighted.

By default the [Basic Paragraph] style is applied to text you type. You can't rename or delete this style, but you can edit it: Ctrl/Right Mouse+click on the style name to change its definition. You can also designate a different style to be the default style. To do so simply choose that style when you have no text or text frame selected.

Figure 13.1. Paragraph and Character Styles Palettes (small palette rows chosen)

Figure 13.2. Paragraph Styles, Character Styles.

Using style sheets and not using styles sheets is the difference between you controlling InDesign and InDesign controlling you. Here are some reasons to use styles:

  • Styles ensure consistency in formatting throughout your document, making for a better-designed piece.

  • Styles enable you to change in seconds the entire formatting of your document, no matter how large, by changing your style definitions.

  • And, as I mentioned before, the best reason of all: Styles save you hours and hours of drudgery.

Despite these irrefutable facts, many designers either underutilize or avoid styles altogether. I'm frequently amazed by the number of designersmany of whom should know betterwho don't use styles, or who use them in a half-assed way. What's up with you people? You like the grind of unnecessary repetitive work?

I've had designers tell me: "I don't like to use styles, because I like to experiment with different designs," or "I don't want my pages to all look the same." These are exactly the reasons you should use styles. Far from stifling creativity, styles enhance it by making experimentation quick and easy. And just because your style names may be the same or similar from one document to the next doesn't mean the style definitions can't be completely different.