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Cool Use for InDesign’s New Graphic Table Cells Feature

One of the great new features of InDesign CC 2015 is a new type of table cell called a “Graphic Cell.” To use this, just select any table cell and choose Table > Convert Cell to Graphic Cell. This command adds a graphic frame to the cell that is “stuck” to all four sides of the table cell. When you make the column or row wider or taller, the size of the graphic frame grows with it.

The typical use case for a graphic cell is to easily place images in table cells. But here’s another use. I was helping a customer create a document that contained dozens of tables like this one:

screenshot01

Note the down-pointing arrows near the bottom of the table. They needed an easy way to create these arrows so that as rows and columns were added and deleted, and as column widths changed, the arrows would still be perfectly aligned. Here’s how we did it.

1. Create a blank row for the “arrowheads”

2. Select a cell, and choose Table > Convert Cell to Graphic Cell

screenshot02

3. Press the Esc key to select the graphic frame inside the table cell

screenshot03

4. Choose Object > Convert Shape > Triangle

screenshot04

5. Choose Object > Transform > Flip Vertical

screenshot05

6. Fill the triangle as desired

screenshot06

7. Select the cell (not the graphic frame), and paste the cell in other locations as needed (pressing the Esc key cycles you between selecting the frame and selecting the cell)

screenshot07

8. You will need to flip each of the copies vertically again

screenshot08

9. Note that if you merge a cell with a cell to the right, the graphic frame occupies the new merged cell

screenshot09

10. As you change collumn widths and row heights, the graphic frames scale

screenshot10

This approach opens up all kinds of creative possibilities for the “ends” of table rows and columns. In the example below, the ends of the shaded rows are graphic cells containing rectangles with 2 rounded corners.

screenshot11

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert is a digital publishing consultant and educator, Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional, conference speaker, lynda.com author, and contributing writer for various publications. His work has taken him throughout North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. During his 30 years as a consultant, his clients have included Adobe, Apple, Target, the United Nations, Best Buy, General Mills, Lands' End, and Medtronic. Follow him on Twitter @gilbertconsult and at blog.gilbertconsulting.com.
Keith Gilbert

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10 Comments on “Cool Use for InDesign’s New Graphic Table Cells Feature

  1. I have CS5 not CC.
    I recently saw a list that filled the remaining space to the right of a line listing with an arrow till it reached the right edge of the Text box.
    Don’t see where I can upload a screen shot, so am trying to set an example below using text. They made the arrow line the same depth as the text – about 10 pts thick and the arrow head about 12 pts. Looked quite nice – gave a ragged line a justified look. Is this graphic table cell feature how they did it? Or is there another way? If there is another way to automatically have the Arrow-line change width without changing the angles of the arrow head, that would be great for CS5 users! They also made the arrow line a light blue colour. Text was black.

    1) 111111111111<———
    2) 1111111<————–
    3) 111111111111<———

    • Apply a character style (underline with a negative baseline adjustment) on a < followed by a right indent tab.

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