Why InDesign Training Courses Must Always Cover Styles

All Computer Training courses should include coverage of the use of styles to improve workflow and maintain consistency within a document and across several documents. Most computer users have some familiarity with what styles are: named formats which can be applied to your text as an alternative to manually applying each formatting attribute individually. Even users new to InDesign will probably have encountered styles in Microsoft Word: Heading 1, Heading2, Normal, etc. However, InDesigns use of styles is much more sophisticated and we always ensure, when we run InDesign training courses in London, that we emphasise their importance.

The obvious benefits of using styles are, firstly, consistency: the same formats are applied each time without variations accidentally creeping in. Secondly, speed: if a heading needs six formatting attributes applied then, if you do not use a style, you will have to apply each attribute manually. If you use a style, you can apply the necessary formats with one click or one keystroke. A third benefit is the ability to update and modify the look of your text simply by modifying the definition of your style(s).

One less obvious benefit of using styles in InDesign is what might be called scalability. Styles play a key role in some of the programs advanced features and documents that do not use styles cannot benefit from these features. For example, a key part of creating XML-based layouts, is the mapping of XML tags to styles within a document.

A second example is the creation of tables of contents. InDesign creates tables of contents based on the use of styles. In designing the table of contents, one specifies which styles are to be included. When the table of contents is generated, InDesign finds each piece of text in that style and places the appropriate page number next to it.

In fact, the table of contents feature is more flexible than the name suggests since it can be used to produce a list of anything within a document where a particular style has been used consistently. For example, if every image in a document has a caption formatted with a particular style, the table of contents facility can be used to produce a list of images.

A third example of the advanced use of styles is when working with books; a features which enables multiple InDesign documents to be treated as one entity for such operations as preflighting, printing and the production of tables of contents. Different users can work on each document within the book and the styles used within all documents can be streamlined by a process called synchronisation.

Because of its importance, we cover styles both on our basic InDesign training courses and on or advanced InDesign training as well. On our advanced courses, we explain the use of such features as nested styles whereby a character style can be included within a paragraph style and automatically applied to certain characters within the paragraph; for example, all characters up to the first occurrence of a colon or an em dash.

The author is a trainer and developer with Macresource Computer Training, an independent computer training company offering InDesign training courses in London and throughout the UK.

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