I'm trying to make an old-school cipher disk using InDesign:

Classic Caesar Cipher

At first glance, this seems like you would just place text on two circular paths. The problem with this is that it's impossible to keep the kerning in sync. The workaround I've come up with is to create a single box and then step-and-repeat each character in the wheel. However, adjusting this design is a huge PITA and basically requires recreating the entire thing.

Any suggestions?

  • This is not an ideal solution, but if you select a mono-space font, the problem should resolve itself. Have you tried that?
    – mrchaarlie
    Aug 29, 2017 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


This is a complete guess on my part, because I don't have enough time to test it this morning. But try using a flush space between each of the characters on the path. A flush space is designed to adjust so that the space between each character is equal even if you add or subtract characters (or change the width of the text box. I think if you set your text to full justification, and used flush spaces between the letters you might be able to achieve this effect. Here's a link to the article where I first heard about flush spaces.

However, I don't know if full justification OR flush spaces will work with text on a path, so it will take experimentation on your part.

You add a flush space by going to the Type menu, and choosing Insert White Space.

EDITED TO ADD: Well there seems to be differing opinions about whether or not this works, so I decided to try it out for myself.

First I drew a circle, and then placed text on it using the text on a path tool. I typed the letter A, then inserted a flush space, then the letter B, inserted a flush space, etc. Once I had all of the letters typed in, I set the text for full justification. And this is what I got:

enter image description here

Obviously, there is not enough space between the A and the Z in this version, so I dragged the text boundary lines (those vertical lines with the boxes that you see between the A and Z) apart a bit. I didn't worry about making this distance approximate the space between each letter, but it would be easy enough to do just by adjusting the spacing until things looked correctly. Here's how it looks after I separated the text boundary guides:

enter image description here

You can see that the spacing between each letter has been slightly reduced so that the letters are still fully justified.

Then I used the bounding box corner and reduced the size of the circle. The original circle was approximately 30 pixels x 30 pixels; the new circle is about 25p x 25p. Resizing the circle in this way doesn't impact the font size, which is 30 points in all three images. Here is the smaller circle:

enter image description here

You can see that the letters are closer together, and the text boundaries are further apart--you would have to readjust these boundaries to make the spacing seem more even all the way around, but again that can be done by eye, and should be fairly simple.

This will not work if you try and use tabs, or if your text is in tables. But I inserted a vertical line glyph on either side of the first few letters on my smaller circle and you can start seeing how this can be made to resemble text in separate boxes--experiment with hairspaces and thin spaces between the lines and their accompanying letters to see what you can accomplish.

enter image description here

It may not look exactly like what you originally showed in your picture, but I think it has the potential to come pretty close to what you were trying to accomplish, with a minimum of manual copying and adjusting.

  • This works! Thanks for reminding me of flush spaces. But it can still be a pain to adjust the design because of the "text-on-a-curve"-handles. They can't be in the exact same spot, so it's not possible to achieve a full circle. Also, they move when you scale the circle up.
    – Wolff
    Aug 23, 2017 at 18:39
  • Nope, this won't work. If you look at the last image, they specifically mention that it doesn't help with tabular material. We are essentially dealing with a circular table....
    – Indolering
    Aug 23, 2017 at 20:54
  • No tabs are used in my answer. Take a look at the edits I made to my answer. Although I understand that this would be ideal if you could create this using something like a circular table, except InDesign doesn't have anything like a circular table, so that is out. But I think you can approximate what you want to accomplish using the flush space function.
    – magerber
    Aug 24, 2017 at 0:02
  • @Wolff, you should be able to get the handles pretty darn close--look at my first image. Plus you wouldn't want them right on top of each other, because they need some space to create the space between A and Z. Your point about the kerning not remaining aligned between the outer and inner circle is a valid one--but perhaps if you used a longer line as an anchored image on either side of your outer circle letters and then play with your baseline adjustments, you could create lines on the outer circle that would extend beyond the bottom of the letters on the inner circle.
    – magerber
    Aug 24, 2017 at 0:07
  • 1
    This is true. Your original example had only a single letter per square, which I think would still work if you used a mono spaced font. But if some of your squares might have multiple characters, you are right, this won't work.
    – magerber
    Aug 25, 2017 at 9:07

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