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Disclaimer: I'm fairly new at this, I haven't gone to school for it or anything, I'm just trying to teach myself this stuff as I go along, one piece at a time, so please, to the greatest extent possible, explain everything like I'm 5.

So I'm using Adobe InDesign CS5.5 to try to put together a PDF… it's a book I'm wanting to self-publish basically (a tabletop RPG, to be specific)… and being that I have the OCD (and lack of funds!) that I do, I want to try to do all the graphic design myself. So, in InDesign, I am learning it slowly but still can't figure out how to do one or two certain things. For example:

Is there any way where you can just make a text box, expand it to whatever size you want it, and then choose your font and have it automatically adjust your text for you to the absolute largest size that will fit in that box? Or do you always have to fiddle around with it manually?

Is there a way you can just put like “rulers” on the screen that you can see while working, but that don't go into the final PDF, so that you can zoom in or out and still have your points of reference where they intersect?

Is there any way to move boxes and stuff around with the directional buttons? Or to tell a box to just center itself on this X coordinate and that Y coordinate without having to manually move it there yourself?

I'm having a lot of trouble getting things to line up exactly. It has that handy lock-on feature, which is great, but when you zoom in to get a more detailed look, it's hard to know what you're selecting. Am I moving the background, or the box I think I've clicked on? Who knows.

Any answers would be most welcome and very appreciated.

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  1. Fit Text To Frame: not that I know of. There are hotkeys to increase/decrease font size, and you can also click in the Point Size edit control and use the arrow keys to increase and decrease.

  2. You can drag horizontal and vertical guides out of the rulers at the top and left (if you don't have these, check the View window).

  3. Use the arrow keys to move by small steps (the increment can be set in Preferences), or use the proxy in the Control bar. You can set the nine-point proxy to 'move' by any corner or center point. The x and y fields indicate the page position for that point; typing a new coordinate and pressing Enter or Tab will move the item.

  4. You are using Smart Guides here. To see what you have selected, look in the Layers panel.

  • Okay, thank you. Some of this information is extremely helpful, and consists of exactly what I was looking for… although, like I said, I'm very much a beginner, so some of this reads as incomprehensible jargon to me. 1. I understand this, thanks. 2. Very helpful! 3. I went into Units & Increments under Preferences, I don't understand what most of these mean, nor what to set them to. What is Pica? What is Kerning? What is the proxy? Where is the Control bar? What on Earth is the “nine-point proxy”? Please explain this jargon in more dumbed-down terms. – Josh Zmijewski Nov 2 '14 at 8:13
  • 4. I looked under the Layers, it just showed one layer and the types of objects I had on it. I couldn't find anything labelled as “Smart Guides.” – Josh Zmijewski Nov 2 '14 at 8:18
  • Hey, good to see you here, @jongware! – Alan Gilbertson Nov 2 '14 at 8:46
  • @Josh: I refer to the names of the tools and functions as they are used by Adobe, so you can look them up in the Online Help. See also helpx.adobe.com/indesign/archive.html, there are some PDFs to get you started. – usr2564301 Nov 2 '14 at 23:47
  • Okay, thank you @Jongware , I appreciate you pointing me towards those things. I guess there's no substitute for reading the instructions, is there? ;) – Josh Zmijewski Nov 3 '14 at 19:29
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From your question and comments, I would strongly recommend signing up for a free trial week on Lynda.com and going through David Blatner's "InDesign Essentials" title and a couple of more advanced ones. He did two titles, at least, for CS5.5.

Apply your OCDness to defining terminology. If you don't know what a pica is, or any other term you come across, stop right there and look it up. You won't learn much, if anything, past that point unless you get the definition clear in your mind.

Any answers at this point, like jongware's, will leave you with lots more questions, but only because you don't have the fundamentals under your belt. Do David's Essentials course on Lynda. Then come back. We'll still be here. Promise!

  • Alan, I see your point. Sigh… unfortunately for me, I have ADHD in addition to OCD, (not a very fun combination for me!) so I was hoping to be able to just “learn by doing” InDesign, figuring out just the basics that I needed to do my PDF, and never getting into all the overly-technical professional-level stuff like the Styles and all these seemingly extraneous functions, but I guess it's unavoidable, I'm going to have to put my nose to the grindstone and just go through one or two of these titles as you mention. Sigh… – Josh Zmijewski Nov 3 '14 at 19:26
  • Define the terminology. 99% of so-called "ADHD" is "went past misunderstood words." No fooling. – Alan Gilbertson Nov 3 '14 at 21:18
  • Yeah, I get what you mean. I shall indeed endeavor to do so. At least 1% of it is “can't focus for more than a few minutes on non-interactive information input,” though. This is why I tend to talk more than I listen and write more than I read. An obnoxious habit of my age demographic/generation, no doubt. ;) – Josh Zmijewski Nov 4 '14 at 3:23
  • And not exactly the best way to become better-educated or expand one's horizons, either. I blame this interactive, digital age in which I grew up. – Josh Zmijewski Nov 4 '14 at 3:30
  • Nah. Don't ever blame anything (or anyone, for that matter) for your own situation, no matter how blameworthy it is. Blame says it's bigger than you are. It's an excuse. When you make excuses, you stop trying, and that is the one thing that guarantees you won't win. – Alan Gilbertson Nov 4 '14 at 6:11

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