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When smart guides turn blue…

Smart Guides were introduced in InDesign CS4. By now most of us have probably encountered them, those green and pink smarties that pop-up when we are moving objects around the page or resizing or transforming objects. But have you encountered blue ones yet?

Smart Guide preferences

InDesign?s preferences for Guides & Pasteboard, provide us with some indication as to when smart guides might appear:

  • when objects align to centers of other objects (or page) center
  • object edge alignments
  • when dimensions match
  • when spacing settings match

Smart Guide Options

We can also control whether or not we want to see all of these available Smart Guide Options, by selecting or deselecting the option check boxes in the preferences. Alternatively you can disable all smart guides from the View > Grids & Guides menu or the View Options widget drop down menu in the menu bar.


We?ll see pink-guides when (center alignments):

  • the selected object’s bounding box edge aligns with the page center
  • the selected object’s bounding box center aligns with the page center

Pink Smart Guides for Page Alignments


We?ll see green-guides when (edge/center alignments):

  • the selected object’s bounding box edge aligns with another object’s bounding box center or edge
  • the selected object’s bounding box center aligns with another object’s bounding box center or edge

OR (dimensions)

  • When selected object’s rotation angle is identical to that of another object’s rotation angle.
  • When objects have the same width or height as another object.

OR (spacing)

  • When objects are a distributed equal amounts apart

Green Smart Guides examples

A small side note: Smart guides will display only for those items that are visible within your document window. So if you’re encountering a case of smarties overload… use the zoom tool and drag a marquee around the objects for which you want to use the smart guide feature.

If Green is not your colour? You can change the default Green smart guide colour by editing its Colour setting in the Guides & Pasteboard preferences.

Blue* (* or other layer color)

Gap based smart guides were introduced to InDesign with the CS5 release and appear displaying their layer color when we use the newly introduced Gap Tool Gap Tool and work as a smart gap dimension indicator and appear in the color of the layer in which the objects reside.

Whether you are moving a block of gap-attached objects (Alt-drag), or resizing a gap (Ctrl/Cmd-drag), or moving individual gaps (Shift-drag), or are performing a combination of any of the aforementioned, the little blue* smart guides will appear indicating that your current gap-size is identical to another gap-size InDesign spots. This not only applies for gap sizes between objects but also gap sizes to the page edges.

Most of us hate dragging out ruler guides when we’re designing a layout, as it pollutes our view right? So from now on when moving, placing, resizing objects with either selection tool(s) or gap tool, we can let those smarties guide our objects into place. :)

Blue Smart Guides example

In all honesty I must add that the gap based smart guide doesn’t behave entirely as its Pink and Green siblings. Deselecting Smart Guide viewing (View > Grids & Guides), does not disable the appearance of these lovely blue* arrows. However, when you deselect the Smart Spacing check box in the Guides & Pasteboard preferences they will no longer appear.

Note: For the purpose of the screenshots I did disable the Show Transformation Values check box (Preferences > Interface). If you have that option enabled, you can even control the measurement settings. The Gap Tool will always provide W or H settings in the Control panel for you even if you’ve got this option disabled.

Cari Jansen

Cari Jansen

Cari Jansen is based in Perth, Western Australia and works throughout Australia as a technical writer/editor, print, electronic (EPUB, Kindle, Tablets, Adobe DPS) and eLearning publishing consultant, software trainer, course developer, and public speaker. She's an Adobe Certified Instructor (Adobe Acrobat, Digital Publishing Suite, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop), Adobe Certified Expert (Adobe Captivate and Muse) and an Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Training Partner based in Australia. In 2008 she founded the Perth inDesign User Group, which she ran until late 2013. You'll meet Cari at industry events, both as an attendee and speaker, speaking on a range of print and digital publishing technologies and trends. To learn more about Cari, visit her web-site: You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and YouTube
Cari Jansen

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9 Comments on “When smart guides turn blue…

  1. I really like the colour difference when using different “smart guides” gives a good idea what’s going on. But that “Gap” tool is just in the way for me. I’ve been looking for a way to remove it from the Tool Panel for a while. I haven’t found a use for it. I prefer the Live Distribute Spacing, which just works better for me.

  2. @Eugene

    Interesting :) As InDesign is developed I’m sure we’ll see more new features that help us do similar things in a different way, and just like with other applications we’ll all develop our fav. methods of working with the program.

    Maybe a few more people could share what they use it for… you can use it on any frame-type. Also did you know you could use it s a measurement tool? Tim Gouder discovered that… (see Whenever I need to create templates from ‘designed’ documents I discover many designers don’t like using guides, which means I’d have to some how measure what the margin settings are… a click with the Gap Tool provides that info. Esp. for bottom margins that’s super handy :)
    It also helps me ‘fix’ documents where items aren’t really distributed evenly ;-)

  3. @Cari,

    That’s a marvelous discovery: That you can use the Gap tool for measuring! It’s super fast?I love it!

  4. I guess I’m just old fashioned lol – I press M and draw a rectangle – hey presto – measured. You can just drag out a frame – note the measurement and press ESC and not draw the frame.

    I’ve really tried to use the Gap tool, even for measuring, I just don’t have a genuine use for it. Then trying to remember all the modifier keys that go with it – things turn to goo in a matter of seconds. I’m much faster just hitting Shift F7 and using the distribute buttons to distribute the objects. The Smart Guides are handy when evenly spacing out objects, but that even fails at times.

    I’d love to be able to assign Modifier keys to the Align/Distribute buttons to change from Page/Margins/Selection etc. In fact, I did set up a shortcut specifically for aligning things to the left or right margins.

    But that’s another day – I’m not using the Gap tool and I’ve tried to, but things turn to goo in a matter of seconds. I can’t understand why it was positioned where it is in the Tools Panel, along with the Page Tool (which is great!) but a little further down the Tools Panel, perhaps above the Swatches would be a more appropriate position for them both. I’m constantly clicking them (esp the Page Tool) as I go looking for the Black Arrow or the Text Frame.

  5. I tried using smart guides for about 5 minutes and couldn’t stand them. They slowed things down and snapped when I didn’t want to snap. I’m perfectly happy without them and have all the align functions mapped to keyboard shortcuts in the numberpad.

  6. Help, I love Smart Guides, and suddenly they are not working! The options are all checked in the boxes in Preferences.

    What did I do?


  7. The preference setting controls which smart guides are visible when the smart guides feature is active in InDesign. However it does not show/hide the feature. You have to do that from the Guides & Grids menu (View menu).


  8. I have the exact same problem than Judy, my Smart Guides Preferences are all checked and EVERYTHING in my Guides & Grids menu from the View menu are checked ok.

    Still, Smart Guides doesn’t want to be displayed anymore… I need Smart Spacing so much!

    What can I do please?!


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