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Object Styles in Adobe InDesign CS4

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Adobe Press.
  • Date: May 11, 2009.

Chapter Description

Text isn’t the only element that makes up an InDesign layout, nor is it the only asset in a project to which you can assign multiple attributes. Frames, shapes, and strokes—collectively known as objects—potentially have at least as many attributes as text.

So far you’ve looked exclusively at text and the time-saving benefits of building multiple text attributes and behaviors into a style. But text isn’t the only element that makes up an InDesign layout, nor is it the only asset in a project to which you can assign multiple attributes. Frames, shapes, and strokes—collectively known as objects—potentially have at least as many attributes as text.

InDesign CS2 introduced Object Styles to extend the style concept (a reusable set of stored attributes) beyond text. Nearly any object attribute—fill, stroke, corner options, text wrap, transparency, and more—can be saved to an object style, making complex object formatting a one-click process.

One-stop Shopping for Attributes

Nearly 100 distinct object attributes can be specified in an object style, not counting the independent object-, fill-, stroke-, and text-level transparency options. A complete exploration of these attributes would require a detailed account of how anchored options work, the ins and outs of text wrap, frame fitting, and many other tangential subjects that would require many more pages than this chapter—perhaps even this entire book—contains.

The Object Style Options dialog (Figure 5.1) is the Walmart of object attributes. You can find just about everything you want there. This one dialog includes six separate panels and as many dialogs in their entirety. Represented here is every option you would find in the following panels and dialogs:

  • Swatches panel and Swatch Options dialog (except modifying existing swatches or creating gradient swatches)
  • Stroke panel
  • Corner Options dialog
  • Text Frame Options dialog
  • Story panel
  • Text Wrap panel
  • Attributes panel (or rather all options from the Attributes panel distributed across the Fill, Stroke, and Text Wrap & Other areas of the Object Style Options dialog)
  • Anchored Object Options dialog
  • Frame Fitting Options dialog
  • Effects panel and each Effects dialog (shadows, glows, feathering, etc.)

Figure 5.1 The Object Style Options dialog.

What Object Styles Can Do

An itemized breakdown of the different settings in the Object Style Options can’t possibly convey just how much an object style can do in a single click once it’s style is defined. Instead, let’s look at a representative example.

The first spread in Figure 5.2 includes a sidebar text frame placed over the image on the left page. The second spread has an unformatted frame containing unformatted text over the image on the right page that needs the same formatting. That finished frame on the first spread includes a significant amount of formatting (Figure 5.3), including a sequence of paragraph styles and transparency effects applied independently to the fill and stroke. Every one of those attributes is part of a single object style. With one click, the unformatted frame in the second spread can be assigned all of those attributes (Figure 5.4).

Figure 5.2 A text frame with complex styling (top spread, left) and an unformatted frame that must match it (bottom spread, right).

Figure 5.3 Attribute-by-attribute breakdown of this frame’s formatting.

All attributes from Figure 5.3 applied in one click with an object style.

This, in a nutshell, is what an object style can do for you—apply multiple attributes and effects with a single click to any stroke, shape, graphic frame, or text frame (including the text in that frame). There are very few features in InDesign that offer more possibilities.

What Object Styles Can’t Do

For all of their formatting power, there are a few key tasks object styles can’t do. An object style cannot define anything about an object’s geometry—that is, its size, proportion, dimensions, scale, or shape (ellipse, rectangle, polygon), nor can it define an object’s physical location (with the exception of an object style applied to an anchored object).

Object styles can’t fundamentally change an object, either. For example, assigning either of the “basic” object styles (see the next section, “Default Object Styles”) will not convert a frame to that content type. You can apply Basic Graphic Frame to a text frame, Basic Text Frame to a graphic frame, and either can be applied to an unassigned frame. The appropriate attributes will be applied, but the frame’s content type will not change.

2. Default Object Styles | Next Section

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