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InDesign CS5′s new Bounding Box

InDesign CS5 features a new “transformation bounding box” that appears around selected objects. If you’re an Illustrator user, you may already be comfortable with this idea, as Illustrator has had such a bounding box for a number of years.

My first reaction to this new addition was that it was just more visual clutter on the screen. But alas, it turns out that those crazy Adobe engineers knew what they were doing! The bounding box is incredibly useful for many things. I want to show you my favorite: resizing multiple objects at once.

Say you have 3 text frames like this:

In the past, if you wanted to make each frame longer, you would need to pull the bottom of each frame down individually. Now, you can just grab the white square at the bottom of the bounding box, pull and each frame will grow longer simultaneously.

Or, if you have an image and a caption,

…and you want to make the frames for the image and the caption both wider, just pull on the white square on the right side of the bounding box, and both frames will grow wider simultaneously.

This is indeed one of those “little things” but it can save you a lot of work!

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20 Comments on “InDesign CS5′s new Bounding Box

  1. Keith, I never realized this. After all this time of using CS5! Crazy … thank you!

    What I wish is that you could hold a modifer key to make it “Transform Each” … like, Rotate Each … that would be nice. I keep trying different key combos but I don’t think it exists. ;-)

  2. AM, there are sadly no modifier keys for this behavior :( After a first ecstasy I found out, that the behavior in previous versions was better for transforming objects: With the transform-tool, Shortcut E you could transform multiple objects at once, but with the selection-tool you could “Transform each” also when multiple objects are selected. That´s not possible anymore.

  3. @Kai Perhaps I’m biased, but I have to disagree that the CS4 and earlier behavior is better than CS5. There are a variety of reasons I feel this way, but here is the most significant… For CS5, we went back to the drawing board and looked at how often users had to change tools to perform a variety of basic, every day functions. When we tallied up that number, it was surprising how often a tool switch was required when really, none should be required. Let’s review…

    Before CS5, if you wanted to transform (resize, rotate, etc.) more than one object at the same time, you had to group them first. Sorry, but that’s crazy! Especially if those multiple objects were spread across multiple layers!! The second you grouped the objects, they all ended up on the same layer. Even worse, when you ungrouped them, they did not return to their previous layer assignments. IMHO, from a document structure/organization perspective, that is a fairly destructive action to accept (a.k.a “hack”) just because you wanted to transform them together.

    Furthermore, you went to the trouble of selecting more than one item — why should you have to switch to a different tool to act on the selected items? Again, that is crazy! Especially since Illustrator has had the ability to transform multiple selected items (without having to group or switch tools) for at least a decade.

    With CS5, you have the best of both worlds. If you want to transform each object separately, then do that — one at a time. There’s no need to select multiple items first to accomplish that. If you want to transform multiple objects, then select them and go for it. There’s no need to switch to a different tool. So much better…

    But wait, there’s more!

    Not only did we fix some “core issues”, we added some awesomeness that makes Illustrator very jealous.

    1. Hold down the Spacebar as you drag a transform handle to transform the space between multiple selected items. (a.k.a. Live Distribute).

    2. If you still want to utilize the Group command to associate multiple items together, great. Do that. When you select the group, you can transform all the items in the group at the same time. Want to transform just one item in the group? No need to switch to some other (annoying) tool (yes, I’m calling you out, Mr. Direct Selection Tool). Just double-click on the item in the group you want to transform, and eh-voila, that one item is selected. No tool switching or ungrouping necessary. Plus, if you want to act on some other item in the group, just click on it with the Selection Tool and hey, look at that, it selects! What a concept. In CS4 and earlier, you would be taken back to the group selection. Arg! In CS5, InDesign knows that you are “inside a group”, and if you click on another item in the group, you probably meant to select it. If you do want to “go back up to the group level”, press the either double-click on the selected item again, or simply press the Escape key.

    3. Lastly, if for some reason you still feel the need to switch to a different tool to accomplish something, remember, you can now switch to any tool from any tool temporarily by utilizing “Spring Loaded Tool Shortcuts”. For example, if you just can’t resist the urge to switch to the Direct Selection Tool, just hold down the A key and do what you need to do. When you let go of the A key, you’ll be right back in the Selection Tool.

    Cheers,

    Michael Ninness
    Former InDesign Product Manager
    a.k.a. Someone who accepts he cares way too much about these things… ;)

  4. Oh, I don’t know, Michael. I think the old ways are sometimes better, such as printing it out, taking it to a stat camera to change the size, using x-acto blade and hot wax to piece it together again… I mean, really, think of the people who work by the hour! They’re suffering because you made InDesign too efficient.

    (Sorry… couldn’t help myself. Last day of school for the kids and we’re all giddy.)

  5. Michael, nice to read you again. Surely, the new features are absolutely great. It´s a big advantage and timesafer not to switch between different tools, to use Live Distribute or the new grouping features.

    I´ve no idea why people want select first multiple objects and then want to transform them individual. But obviously they want to do this in some cases. You can read this in a few forum posts.

    With the old behavior it was possible with a switch to the tranform-tool to resize, rotate etc. across multiple layers without grouping the objects first and then with another switch to the selection-tool to resize objects individual. The new selection-tool is now similar to the transform-tool and this possiblilty is not longer available.

    Again: My comment is about the old behavior of tranforming and resizing, not the new features ;-)

  6. Michael, nice to read you again. Surely, the new features are absolutely great. It´s a big advantage and timesafer not to switch between different tools, to use Live Distribute or the new grouping features. I´ve no idea why people want select first multiple objects and then want to transform them individual. But obviously they want to do this in some cases. You can read this in a few forum posts. With the old behavior it was possible with a switch to the tranform-tool to resize, rotate etc. across multiple layers without grouping the objects first and then with another switch to the selection-tool to resize objects individual. The new selection-tool is now similar to the transform-tool and this possiblilty is not longer available. Again: My comment is about the old behavior of tranforming and resizing, not the new features ;-)

  7. @Michael: The thing I tell the upgrade-shy is that the time-savers built into each new version make a suite upgrade pay for itself in less than a month. I’ve been saying that repeatedly, in fact, since at least CS3. Hey, just because what used to take an hour can now be done in 5 minutes, doesn’t mean you have to tell the client that, now does it? ;-)
    Spring loaded tools are a big help in Photoshop and InDesign, although I use them far less often than I could (old habits, and all that).
    The new bounding box is a GREAT addition to the program, and highly intelligent when working on one axis at a time. On two axes (corner handle), text frames and their contents still don’t quite stay in synch, but at least it’s quicker to fix random oversets when you didn’t have to group the objects first. CS5 also doesn’t seem to add mysterious style overrides (kenten and ruby changes, anyone?) while scaling, the way CS4 did.
    The content selector (which I notice you didn’t mention) seemed like a terrific idea until it met real world deadlines. The rationale was right on, but in practice — especially when working fast — it gets in the way far more than it helps. Like everyone else I know who’s on CS5, I turned it off.

  8. @Alan — can’t say that I disagree with you about the Content Grabber. For the seasoned InDesigner, it’s not as useful as I thought it would be across the board. That said, I’m finding that new users really do appreciate it, as it helps orient them to the fact that the frame and the frame contents are indeed two separate things. It is especially useful for those users who are working from templates.

    I’m happy that we enabled the feature to be turned off for those who don’t like it. User choice for these things is always best. My one CS5 regret, wish-I-could-do-it-again, is that we didn’t provide the option to turn off frame edge highlighting on hover. While I LOVE that feature, it is the loudest complaint I’ve seen online.

    Would be a good idea to make that a pref in a future release. Also think it would be relatively easy for the team to implement some logic for the Content Grabber so that a click (press) and drag resulted in the frame being moved instead of the frame contents being selected. That would eliminate most of the objections.

  9. @Ninness: I fixed most of the typos for you. I’m sorry: We used to have a way for people to edit their own entries but it broke. It’s definitely part of our next redesign/reworking of the site.

  10. @Michael: The thing I tell the upgrade-shy is that the time-savers built into each new version make a suite upgrade pay for itself in less than a month. I’ve been saying that repeatedly, in fact, since at least CS3. Hey, just because what used to take an hour can now be done in 5 minutes, doesn’t mean you have to tell the client that, now does it? ;-) Spring loaded tools are a big help in Photoshop and InDesign, although I use them far less often than I could (old habits, and all that). The new bounding box is a GREAT addition to the program, and highly intelligent when working on one axis at a time. On two axes (corner handle), text frames and their contents still don’t quite stay in synch, but at least it’s quicker to fix random oversets when you didn’t have to group the objects first. CS5 also doesn’t seem to add mysterious style overrides (kenten and ruby changes, anyone?) while scaling, the way CS4 did. The content selector (which I notice you didn’t mention) seemed like a terrific idea until it met real world deadlines. The rationale was right on, but in practice — especially when working fast — it gets in the way far more than it helps. Like everyone else I know who’s on CS5, I turned it off.

  11. WTF? You could do such simple batch-transformations since CS3.

    a) Drag up a selection box around the six bottom anchors (sample with columns; on the right for the sample with image+legend) using the white arrow tool. And then drag them while holding shift pressed accordingly.

    b) Select multiple frame-objects, group them, scale them and finally ungroup them again.

  12. @ Peter: Yes, you could resize multiple frames in previous versions by grabbing multiple handles at once with the Direct Selection (white arrow) tool. But those pesky handles can be very difficult to select if you have lots of stacked objects on the page and can’t do a “band select” by dragging a selection box around the handles.

    This new bounding box feature just makes it a lot easier and faster.

  13. I was having a strange issue with InDesign CS5 in re-sizing files. I had set it up with columns & rows so that my gridded layout fell within guidelines, the purpose being that when I did his, and resized the page horizontally, the image boxes & text boxes within the guide areas would automatically resize with the document, without changing alignment. This works just fine as long as none of the image boxes have images in them. When I place an image into a box, it seems to insist on scaling the frame proportionally for some reason. This ONLY happens when an image is in the box. I have tested all the settings I could find and so has my colleague, all we can seem to figure is some sort of bug or glitch in the Layout Adjustment palate (we are guessing the ?Snap? setting panel) has anyone come across this? More importantly, does anyone have a FIX for this? PLEASE???

  14. @ Michael OK, it’s been more than a year since you posted it, but I only just upgraded to CS 5 and I find that one of your statements of Dec. 17, 2010 is untrue. If I have multiple items selected and I want to switch to just one item in the group, double clicking on the item does not do the trick. Doing this simply causes the tool to switch to the text tool (if I’m trying to select a text frame) or the frame contents tool (if I’m trying to select a frame with an image in it). I also find that the visible bounding box that we now see when multiple items are selected is confusing. It overlaps items that are not actually selected (but just happen to fall into the vicinity of the items that are selected). Before long, it isn’t clear just what you’ve selected and what you haven’t. And if I have 3 columns of text selected beacause I want to move them up (or down) an inch or two, but then I see that the last column has some text overrun, so I try to open it up a bit more, I end up distorting all 3 columns when all I wanted to do was open up the one frame a bit to fit in the last line of text. So, now I have to click off the group and then reclick onto the one frame I want to open up a bit and then select the group again if I want to move all three columns up (or down) some more. Seems like more work (and time and clicking), not less. Am I missing something?

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