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Tip of the Week: Numbering Above a List, Part 2

This tip was sent to Tip of the Week email subscribers on March 24, 2016.

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Last week, I shared a tip for how to make a numbered list where each number appears above the rest of the line. The trick involved using a character style to track and baseline shift the list number above the other text. It was a pretty good trick, but it has a major limitation in that it only works with lists that have fewer than 10 items.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as Editor of InDesignSecrets, it’s that if a better solution exists, someone knows it and will share it. And that’s what happened. Shane Smith replied to the Tip of the Week email to share his favorite method of putting numbering above list paragraphs by using tabs in a very simple but clever way.

Just make sure there is a tab between the number and the rest of the paragraph text.


Then in the paragraph style, set that tab so it sits to the right of the paragraph area.


When InDesign sees that it can’t fit the text on the line after the tab, it will simply move the text down to the next line.


The only limitation is that the numbering has to be live text, not from the Bulleted & Numbered Lists feature. So if you have a “real” list, convert the numbering to text first, then change the paragraph style to put a tab outside the paragraph area.


That’s it. And it works if your list goes to 10, or 10,000.

Thanks, Shane!

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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