After several years of working interior book design, I still wonder why Adobe makes their InDesign software so complex. I know that the idea may be to provide a rich palette of tools and options, but it’s still a bit intimidating. I’ve worked with Photoshop before, so I know how much Adobe loves “tools” and “layers.” I think part of the difficulty is that we get so used to the flatter, simpler systems in Microsoft’s document management software. It’s really like going from amateur to pro with Adobe.
Microsoft Word and Book Layout
Word, though, is not a great document layout program. Because you write first and often add styles to paragraphs later (do you know how to use MS Word Styles?), it’s easy to add inconsistencies. And if you don’t use the primitive layout tools in Word at all, your chapter titles could all look different, etc.
What I’m getting used to in InDesign is the concept of design first, content later. With Word, I can write in whatever font and with whatever default layout exists, and then add styles later. With InDesign, I have to make sure I set up the look and feel of my book first. Then I can “Place,” as Adobe calls it, the content in after by pulling in the entire manuscript Word file.
Adobe’s Help System
Lightbulb moments come from my search for tutorials on questions I’ve had. Adobe has an excellent Help system on their site. I like following instructions (that’s always how I built LEGO sets—not into freestyle), so a checklist of steps appeals to me. Sometimes I go find a video lesson, but I do like the self-paced method of going through steps in text.
I discovered Master pages! This is where a lot of your formatting power is in InDesign. Your template is your Master page (or pages—you can have more than one type). Set that up the way you want, add pages, then fill them with imported or typed-in text. I just had to get over doing the bookmaking process “backward.” Do you know how hard it is to wait to design the Master pages and then put the content into see what it looks like?
By following the proper design process, I get to set up automatic things, like the size frame I want to put the content in on the page, page numbers, and running headers and/or footers. These elements are now set, and if I apply that Master to a page or pages in my book, all those things are taken care of. I can also have additional Master pages with different configurations for, say, the first page of a chapter (maybe the page number needs to go at the bottom and no running header).
They are good things, these Master pages. I can now get the basic text of my client’s book flowing properly through the text frames (yes, there are frames for different document parts such as text or image; it’s not already set up as a default text page like in Word).
It has been a long learning curve with InDesign, but the richness of the tools and the ultimate efficiency of the method are definitely worth it to create a professional book design.