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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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Table and Cell Styles

Table and Cell Styles

The problem with formatting tables is that it just takes far too long, especially when you have a bunch of tables in a document. That’s where table styles come in handy! Table styles—like their cousins paragraph styles and object styles—are a way to collect a bunch of formatting together and give it a single name. InDesign offers both table styles (for table-wide formatting) and cell styles (for formatting that affects a single cell).

The Basic Table Style.

Every new document comes with one table style called Basic. The problem is that if you redefine Basic and use it in your document, and then later copy one of these ables and paste it into a different document, your table will change in appearance. Because of that, we recommend you create your own styles instead of using Basic.

Defining Cell Styles

While it’s tempting to jump in and discuss table styles, it’s typically better to define your cell styles first because you’ll use them in your table style definition. To define a new cell style, follow these steps (see Figure 6-38):

  1. Choose New Cell Style from the Cell Style panel menu or Option/Alt-click on the New Cell Style button in the panel.
  2. In the General pane of the New Cell Style dialog box, give the style a name and—if you want—a keyboard shortcut. (Shortcuts have to be based on the keys on a numeric keypad.) If you’ve already created a cell style, you can base your new one on it so that it takes on all the same formatting.
  3. The coolest feature in the General pane is the Paragraph Style pop-up menu. If you choose a paragraph style here, it will automatically apply to any text inside the cell.

  4. The next three panes—Text, Strokes and Fills, and Diagonal Lines—are virtually identical to same-named panes in the Cell Options dialog box, so there’s no reason to repeat ourselves. For more information, see those sections earlier in this chapter.
  5. The important thing to note about these panes, however, is that—like character styles—all the controls are blank until you set them. A blank field or pop-up menu (or a dash in a checkbox) means “ignore this formatting” so it won’t be applied when the cell is styled. For example, if you leave the Cell Fill Color pop-up menu blank, then your cell style will not override the cell fill color already applied to the cell in the table.

    Figure 6.38 Defining Cell Styles

If your cursor is currently inside a formatted cell when you create a new cell style, the current formatting appears in the New Cell Style dialog box automatically. That’s often the fastest way to define a cell style. However, InDesign won’t apply the cell style for you after you click OK—you still have to do that with a click in the Cell Styles panel.

Defining Table Styles

Once you’ve defined the cell styles you need, it’s time to build your table style. To define a table style, follow these steps (see Figure 6-39):

  1. Choose New Table Style from the Table Style panel menu or Option/Alt-click on the New Cell Style button in the panel.
  2. In the General pane of the New Table Style dialog box, give the style a name and—if you want—a keyboard shortcut based on the numeric keypad keys. If you want to base the table style on another table style, choose it from the Based On dialog box. We recommend not basing new styles on the Basic Table style, as it makes it too easy for tables to get messed up when copying them to a new document.
  3. You can have InDesign automatically apply cell styles to areas of your table by choosing from the Cell Styles pop-up menus. For example, if you have created a cell style to describe the look of all the cells in your table (not including a header row), choose that style from the Body Rows pop-up menu. You can specify different cell styles for Body Rows, Header Rows, Footer Rows, and the cells in the Left Column and Right Column.

    Remember that each of these cell styles can apply its own paragraph style to the text inside those cells, too. That’s how you apply paragraph styles throughout a table by using a table style.

  4. The next four panes of the New Table Style dialog box—Table Setup, Row Strokes, Column Strokes, and Fills—are nearly identical to the similarly-named panes in the Table Options dialog box, so go read about those earlier in the chapter.
  5. However, some features are conspiculously absent in the table style definition, notably anything that has to do with the structure of the table: Table Dimensions, Headers, and Footers. Table styles cannot control these aspects of a table. That can be quite frustrating at times. For example, if you import an Excel or Word table and apply a table style to it, there’s no way for the style to tell the table that the first row should be a header row. Instead, you have to manually use Convert Rows to Header. That can get tiresome with a lot of tables.

  6. When you’re done specifying the look at feel of the table, click OK. InDesign won’t apply the style to a currently selected table; you have to click on the style name in the panel.

Figure 6.39 Defining a Table Style

Applying Table and Cell Styles.

As mentioned above, you can apply a table or cell style by—gasp!—placing the cursor in the table or cell (or selecting more than one cell) and clicking on the style name in the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel. Unfortunately, we don’t see any way to apply a table style when placing a Word or Excel document.

You can also apply a table style to a table when you first create it with the Insert Table or Convert Text to Table features (both dialogs sport a Table style pop-up menu from which to choose a style).

Redefining Styles.

You can change the definition of your table or cell styles at any time by selecting the style in the panel and choosing Style Options from the panel menu (or, better, from the Context menu). You can also change the formatting on your document page, then select the table or cell and choose Redefine Style from the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel menu. When you change a table or cell style definition, the new formatting is immediately reflected throughout your document.

Clearing Overrides.

Just because you’ve applied a table or cell style doesn’t mean you can’t override that with further local formatting. When you do apply local formatting on top of a cell or table, you’ll see the familiar plus (+) sign next to the style name, indicating there’s additional formatting here. You can see what that formatting is by hovering the cursor over the style name.

To remove the local formatting, you can Option/Alt click on the style name in the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel. If you want to remove both local formatting applied to a table as well as any cell styles that were applied, Option-Shift/Alt-Shift-click on a table style.

Another way to remove styles is to choose Clear Overrides from the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel menu (or click the Clear Overrides button at the bottom of the panel)—this is the same as Option/Alt-clicking. When it comes to cell styles, you have a final option in the panel menu (and panel button): Clear Attributes Not Defined by Style. The difference is subtle: Clear Overrides only removes the local formatting that overrides the cell style definition. Clear Attributes Not Defined by Style will clear all local formatting, even if it had nothing to do with the cell style’s definition.

If you want to remove the cell style entirely, select the cell (or cells) and click [None] in the Cell Styles panel.

Sorting Styles.

If you don’t like the order in which styles appear in the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel, you can rearrange them in two ways: You can choose Sort by Name from the panel menu or you can drag each style up or down to the position you want it.

Loading Styles.

You can copy the cell styles or table styles from another InDesign document by choosing Load Table Styles or Load Table and Cell Styles from the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel menu. When you do this, InDesign asks which styles you want, and—if some of the incoming styles have the same names as styles in your current document, what you want to do about it (see Figure 6-40).

Figure 6.40 Loading Table Styles

Style Groups.

You can group your table and cell styles together into groups (or folders, or sets, or whatever you want to call them) using the same techniques as grouping in the Paragraph Styles panel or elsewhere. First, make a style group by clicking the New Style Group button at the bottom of the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel, then drag your styles into the group. Alternately, you can select one or more styles and choose New Group from Styles from the panel menu.

If you want the same-named style in more than one group, select that style and choose Copy to Group from the panel menu.

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