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Free Guide to InDesign Special Characters

Yesterday morning I started on a medium-length post to the blog about some interesting hidden characters I’ve had to identify in a recent InDesign project. But it just grew and grew until I realized, this makes more sense as downloadable PDF.

So here’s my early holiday present to you: The InDesignSecrets Guide to Special Characters in Adobe InDesign. The five-page PDF, about 450K, includes magnified screen images of every hidden character and marker to be found in InDesign, up to an including the new ones in CS4 (such as Hidden Conditional Text). (Note: the PDF is current as of 2012, and we now have a German version, too. –AM).

There are other cheat sheets around, I know, and the online help has a few of these pictured as well. But I haven’t found any guides that (1) Show the hidden characters in context, that is, next to actual text (I used the lowercase “d” and “b” for all my examples because of their straight edges); and (2) Show them really big, as though you had zoomed in to about 800% onscreen — as I often need to do when trying to identify a flea speck like a column break hidden character in 12 pt. type.

You know what I’m talking about — here’s that column break, about the size of the serif on the d:

Also, many of InDesign’s special characters and markers take on different guises depending on their position in the text flow (inline or at the end of a line) or if you’re viewing it in the Story Editor as opposed to the layout. So when appropriate, I show their permutations side-by-side.

For example, a discretionary hyphen looks like this when it’s breaking a line:

But when it’s not breaking a line, the discretionary hyphen is still there in the text flow, and looks like this:

Similarly, an index marker looks like this in the layout:

But the marker looks quite different in the Story Editor (Edit > Edit in Story Editor):

It wasn’t until about midway through that I realized the letters I was using for my screenshots, “db,” were also David’s initials. ;-) I’m jealous! I wish my initials were mirrored opposites, think of all the cool personal logo designs I could come up with.

Anyway, have fun with the guide, and let me know if I missed any!

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Comments

22 Comments on “Free Guide to InDesign Special Characters

  1. This is great! I often stare at some of those custom white spaces and forget which one I used. And I learned a few things I didn’t “odd page break”!? Very useful stuff.

    Thanks!

  2. This is fantastic!
    It would be great if it also included keyboard shortcuts for the characters that have them. I’m going to fill them in by hand on my copy.

  3. Shmuel … I considered doing that (adding the keyboard shortcuts). But it was already getting a bit complex.

    I mainly meant this as a way to quickly scan through the reference to find the squiggle that matches the mystery squiggle or whozits on screen.

    Still I might decide to add kbsc’s later… dunno. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. If only I had this last week…
    I eventually figured out that some weird glitch when converting an InDesign CS2 doc to pdf was due to hyperlinks!
    But can you find the symbol easily in the help file?
    Noooooooooooo!
    You’re a saint, Anne-Marie!
    :)

  5. Thank you Anne-Marie! This goes great with the shortcut posters I gott from you guys!

    The one space that I found I “had” to make a shortcut for was the flush space. Just couldn’t live without it. My typesetting experience dates back to an EditWriter 7500 from CompuGraphics…that should explain my love of the flush space!

    I appreciate all of the time and effort that everyone puts into this site!!! Thanks a million!!!

  6. Trish, thanks! In answer to your question, because em dashes and en dashes are actual characters that print. The “special characters” in the chart are the ones that disappear when you choose Type > Hide Hidden Characters.

  7. I understand about hidden characters. I left my document open over night and when I came back the hidden characters looked different, for example, the space icon was now an “indent here” icon. Is there a key command that I might have done to change them? How do I change back?

    Thanks!
    Amina

  8. Dear am (a nice, playful letter-pair of your own;), Thank you! The yen note mark that positions an anchored object was bedeviling me as I reworked a textbook layout. I discovered your site a few days ago, and I too was disappointed that you didn’t include the keystrokes needed for each secret. But then I found the key strokes, on this site I think, but can’t find them now. Are they here somewhere, or elsewhere?

  9. Hey maybe someone can help — I have a document in Sinhala (language of Sri Lanka) that has a non-joiner coupled with a discretionay line break that is making the “joined” characters not correct on my Indesign document. They were original typed in Word and appear correctly in the Word document. How can I remove them? I have enlarged my Indesign document up to 1000% or more and can’t “grab” them to delete it? Thanks for any insight

  10. Carolyn, try the Story Editor. Click inside the story, then choose Edit > Edit in Story Editor. Often these embedded things are easier to grab and manipulate there. You can change the size of the type and the linespacing for the Story Editor in Preferences > Story Editor Display.

  11. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d
    like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

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