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Real World Adobe InDesign CS4: Tables

  • Article is provided courtesy of Adobe Press.
  • Date: Aug 21, 2009.

Article Description

InDesign can create and edit tables, or import tables from Word, Excel, or XML. This feature isn’t perfect, but it’s more than good enough to alleviate most of the pain of working with tables in a layout.

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Formatting Tables

Formatting Tables

Earlier, we mentioned that table cells are similar to InDesign text frames—and we now want to point out that that similarity extends to the realm of formatting, as well. Table cells can be filled using any fill you could apply to a frame, and can use all of the strokes in InDesign’s Stroke panel (including custom stroke styles).

To format table cells, however, you don’t (usually) use the same controls you use to format page items. Instead, you use a set of table formatting controls, most of which you’ll find in the Table Options dialog box (press Command-Option-Shift-B/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-B) and Cell Options dialog box (press Command-Option-B/Ctrl-Alt-B).

Table Cell Strokes and Fills

Before we start talking about table formatting, it’s important that you understand that applying a stroke to a column is exactly the same as applying a stroke to the left and right edges of all of the cells in that column. There are not separate stroke properties for rows and columns. If you change the stroke property of a column, the strokes on the corresponding cell borders in the column also change. The same is true for table border strokes—these properties apply to the outside edges of the cells at the top, right, bottom, and left edges of the table.

Applying Strokes to Cells.

InDesign offers a number of different ways to set the fill or stroke of a cell. You can set the stroke weight using the Stroke panel, or the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box, or from the table controls in the Control panel. You can set the fill of a cell using the Swatches panel, the Color panel, or the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box. This is not a complete listing of the different methods you can use to format cells, but we think you get the idea.

When you want to apply a stroke to all of the borders of a cell or cells, follow these steps (see Figure 6-29).

Figure 6.29 Applying a Stroke to All Cell Borders

  1. Select a range of cells.
  2. Display the Stroke panel or display the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box (choose Strokes and Fills from the Cell Options submenu of the Context menu), or display the Control panel.
  3. Enter a stroke weight in the Weight field and press Return/Enter (or otherwise apply the new value).
  4. Apply a stroke color. If you’re applying the stroke using the Stroke panel or the Control panel, you can use the Swatches panel, the Color panel, the Gradient panel, or any of the other color controls. If you’re using the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box, you can use the Color pop-up menu.

Each border of a cell in an InDesign table can have a different stroke. Note, however, that cells share borders with adjacent cells. Applying a stroke to the right border of a cell affects the left border of the next cell in the row.

The Cell Proxy (in the Strokes panel of the Cell Options dialog box, or in the Control panel or Stroke panel) is the way that you tell InDesign which border you want to work with (see Figure 6-30). Just as the Proxy in the Transform panel “stands in” for the current selection, the Cell Proxy represents the selected cell or cell range.

Figure 6.30 Cell Proxy

When the borders in the Cell Proxy are highlighted (in light blue), changes you make to the stroke color or stroke weight will affect the corresponding cell borders. To prevent formatting from affecting a cell border, click the corresponding active border in the Cell Proxy. To make an inactive border active again, click it again.

If you want to apply a stroke to some, but not all, of the borders of a cell, follow these steps (see Figure 6-31).

Figure 6.31 Applying a Stroke to Selected Cell Borders

  1. Select the cell or range of cells you want to format.
  2. Display the Stroke panel or display the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box (choose Strokes and Fills from the Cell Options submenu of the Context menu).
  3. Use the Cell Proxy to select the cell borders you want to format.
  4. Apply stroke formatting using the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box, or the Stroke or Swatches panels.

Applying Fills to Cells.

To apply a fill to a cell, follow these steps (see Figure 6-32).

Figure 6.32 Applying a Fill to a Cell (Dialog Box Method)

  1. Select a cell or a range of cells.
  2. Display the Strokes and Fills panel of the Cell Options dialog box (to display this panel, choose Strokes and Fills from the Cell Options submenu of the Context or Table menu).
  3. Choose a color swatch from the Color pop-up menu, and enter a tint value in the Tint field, if necessary. Note that you can also set the fill to overprint using the Overprint option.
  4. Click the OK button to close the dialog box and apply the fill.

Alternatively, you can apply a fill to a cell using the Swatches panel or Color panel (see Figure 6-33).

Figure 6.33 Applying a Fill to a Cell (Panel Method)

  1. Select a cell or range of cells.
  2. Click the Fill selector at the top of the Swatches panel or Color panel to make it active (if it’s not already active).
  3. Click the swatch (if you’re using the Swatches panel) or color (if you’re using the Color panel) to apply it to the cell.

Applying Gradients to Table Cells.

You can apply a gradient to the fill and stroke of a cell, but the results might not be what you’d expect (see Figure 6-34).

Figure 6.34 Applying a Gradient to a Cell

  1. Select the cells.
  2. Display the Gradient panel, if it’s not already visible.
  3. Click in the Gradient Ramp to apply a gradient to the selected cells. Adjust the gradient settings to define the type, color, and angle of the gradient (as discussed in Chapter 5, “Drawing”).

Note that the gradient is based on the width and height of the table, rather than on the selected cell or cells. This may or may not give you the effect you’re looking for. To gain more control over the start/end points of the gradient, create and fill a rectangle, then paste the rectangle into the cell.

Applying Diagonal Lines.

To apply diagonal lines to a cell, use the options in the Diagonal Lines panel of the Cell Options dialog box (see Figure 6-35).

Figure 6.35 Applying Diagonal Lines to a Cell

  1. Select a cell, row, column, or table (table border strokes apply to the entire table, so you need only select part of the table).
  2. Display the Diagonal Lines panel of the Cell Options dialog box (choose Diagonal Lines from the Cell Options submenu of the Context menu).
  3. Turn on one of the diagonal lines options. Choose a stroke weight, stroke type, color, and tint. If you want the diagonal lines to overprint, turn on the Overprint option. If you want the diagonal lines to appear in front of the table, turn on the Draw in Front option.
  4. Click the OK button to apply the diagonal lines.

Formatting Table Borders.

To apply a stroke to the edges of a table, use the options in the Table Border section of the Table Setup panel of the Table Options dialog box (see Figure 6-36). Note that applying a border to a table is the same as applying borders to the outside edges of each of cells on each side of the table—but it’s a lot faster.

Figure 6.36 Applying Strokes to Table Borders

  1. Select a cell, row, column, or table (table border strokes apply to the entire table, so you need only select part of the table).
  2. Display the Table Setup panel of the Table Options dialog box (press Command-Option-Shift-B/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-B).
  3. Choose a stroke weight, stroke type, color, and tint. If you want the stroke to overprint, turn on the Overprint option.
  4. If you want to prevent the table border formatting from overriding formatting you’ve applied to the cells in the table (i.e., any formatting other than the default table formatting), turn on the Preserve Local Formatting option.

Applying Alternating Fills and Strokes.

The options in the Row Strokes, Column Strokes, and Fills panels of the Table Options dialog box provide a way for you to vary the formatting of rows and columns in a table according to a predefined pattern. Shading table rows or columns is often a more visually pleasing way to format a table than using strokes (this depends on the design of the piece in which the table appears).

All of these panels work the same way—you select a pattern from the Alternating Pattern pop-up menu, and then you specify the formatting applied by that pattern. If the pattern you chosee is None, InDesign doesn’t alternate the corresponding fill or stroke properties in the table. Otherwise, InDesign applies one of two formats to the rows and columns in the table. Formatting you apply using alternating fills or strokes overrides any cell formatting you’ve already applied to the cells in the table (it has no effect on text formatting).

To apply an alternating fill or stroke pattern to a table, follow these steps (see Figure 6-37).

Figure 6.37 Applying Alternating Fills

  1. Select a cell, row, column, or table (this formatting applies to the entire table, so do whatever is easiest for you).
  2. Display the panel of the Table Options dialog box that corresponds to the attribute you want to work with (i.e., Row Strokes, Column Strokes, or Fills). Turn on the Preview option—it can help you understand the effect of the formatting options.
  3. Choose an option from the Alternating Pattern pop-up menu.
  4. Choose a color for the alternating pattern (until you do this, you probably won’t see any changes to the table, even if you have turned on the Preview option).
  5. If you want the alternating pattern to ignore rows at the beginning or end of the table (for alternating row strokes) or at the left or right edges of the column (if you’re working with alternating column strokes), enter the number of cells in the Skip First and Skip Last fields.

It should be clear you can create quite complex alternating formatting using these options. The only real way to learn how the different alternating formatting features work is to experiment with the settings. Create an example table, open the Table Options dialog box, turn on the Preview option, and play!

6. Table and Cell Styles | Next Section Previous Section

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