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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.

Differences Between Object Styles and Text Styles

Beyond their association with objects rather than text, object styles have some other distinct differences in behavior that don’t conform entirely to the conventions of their text style counterparts.

Selective Attribute Inclusion

Like other style dialogs, the Object Style Options dialog contains a left pane with a list of different attribute categories. However, this is the only dialog where an entire category can be disregarded by the style and all of its related attributes ignored. In the top-left pane of the dialog, each category name has a check box next to it. If the check box is not selected (which appears as a small box on Windows and a hyphenated box on the Mac), all attributes in that category are ignored by the style (Figure 5.7). In other words, an object style in which the Fill category is set to “ignore” will never change the fill color, tint, gradient angle, or fill overprint setting of an object to which it’s applied.

Figure 5.7 Selected items are considered “defined” in a style; deselected items are ignored by the style and left “as is” when the style is applied.

This makes object styles less absolute than paragraph styles, where every attribute is included in the style definition. It’s not quite like character styles, where unspecified attributes are inherited from the paragraph. There is no “top level” style for an object that’s akin to a paragraph style. Ignored settings simply honor any attribute already applied to an object on a page. Those attributes are not considered overrides to the style, either, because they’re not defined by it.

Override Removal

When you apply a paragraph style by clicking its name, no overrides are removed. You must either choose Apply YourStyleName, Clear Overrides or Option-click/Alt-click the style name. The Object Style panel, however, is pre-set to remove overrides. By default, the Clear Overrides When Applying Style option is selected in the panel menu (Figure 5.9), meaning that any object formatting that does not match a defined attribute of the object style is removed in favor of the style’s setting for that attribute. However, since not all attributes have to be assigned to a style, that doesn’t mean every unique attribute of the object is cleared—only those specifically activated in the object style.

Figure 5.9 Overrides are cleared by default when object styles are applied.

For paragraph styles, Shift-Option-clicking/Shift-Alt-clicking a style name removes every attribute that doesn’t match the paragraph style’s definition. The same keyboard shortcut works for object styles, but it’s potentially as dangerous as it is convenient. Since an object style need not include settings for every object attribute, reducing an object to only the style’s defined attributes can have unintended results.

Figures 5.10 through 5.14 demonstrate the potential for Shift-Option-clicking/ Shift-Alt-clicking to act as an “attribute killer.” In Figure 5.10, the text frame has some attributes (fill, text inset, paragraph style, etc.) applied to it, but no object style assigned to it. If an object style that only includes text wrap options (see “Flexible Object Styles Every InDesign User Should Have” later in this chapter) is applied to that frame by clicking the style name in the panel, the text wrap setting will be added, but nothing else about the object changes (Figure 5.11). When the frame is selected, the highlighted object style in the panel will not have a plus after it because the unique attributes are not considered overrides.

Figure 5.10 An unstyled text frame with a specific fill and inset, and paragraph style.

Figure 5.11 Text wrap settings added to the frame by an object style.

If the object style is applied by Shift-Option-clicking/Shift-Alt-clicking the style name or choosing Apply Style, Clear Attributes Not Defined By Style from the panel menu (Figure 5.12), the frame’s fill and text inset will be removed (Figure 5.13) because text wrap is the only attribute actually defined by the object style. The text within the frame may appear unchanged, but if the paragraph is selected, the Paragraph Styles panel reveals that the style is no longer applied. Although the text formatting is preserved, it’s reduced to No Paragraph Style with overrides (Figure 5.14).

Figure 5.12 The Apply Style, Clear Attributes Not Defined By Style command can remove more formatting than expected.

Figure 5.13 Fill and inset attributes removed from the frame by the “pure” application of the object style.

Figure 5.14 Text formatting is preserved, but style associations are broken.

The only undefined formatting that is preserved when an object style is applied with the Clear Attributes Not Defined By Style option is character styles.

5. Combining Paragraph Styles and Object Styles | Next Section Previous Section

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