Today I want to look at a very simple, yet very powerful, way of making global formatting changes to InDesign documents. Need to change every key-line in a 64 page document to 0.25pt thickness? Easy! Want to change the inset spacing of all text boxes to zero? No problem! Read on to find out how…

When using the ‘Find and Replace’ tool in an application we tend to think in terms of text, but in InDesign we can go far beyond simple word search functionality and find objects based on their attributes.

To begin go to the Edit>Find/Change… or if you’re quick key fan it’s Cmd/Ctrl+F

find and change in indesign

A quick look at the Find/Change panel should tell you that there is more going on here than in a standard Find and Replace tool. Along the top of the panel are 4 tabs for switching focus from Text, GREP, Glyphs through to Objects (Check out our tutorial on GREP functions here!).

With Text selected you’ll see the usual text fields for word-based find/replace functions but below that are the Find/Change Format controls. Click on the magnifying glass icon to bring up the formatting setting to search for.

option in the find change dialog box in indesign

Select the attribute you want to edit from left side of the panel and editable settings appear on the right. In the example below I’ll be searching for text that uses the Black Swatch with the tint value set to 50%. By specifying a tint value we narrow the search down – leaving the field blank will search for Black text with any tint value.The Overprint checkbox has a line through it indicating this will ignore this setting and find text with any Overprint setting. Clicking on a checkbox will cycle through the 3 options, On, Off, Ignore.

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We aren’t restricted to just one set of attributes. If we select another section from the left we can add further settings to our find/change set-up – you may want to limit this search to a particular font or font-size, for example.

After clicking OK you’ll see a summary of your Find Format: settings.

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Now we can call up the Change Format: settings by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the bottom section and specify the settings that will replace the ones we are searching for. With this set up I could change all 50% tinted text to Overprint, or change the tint value from 50% to 60% etc.

change format in indesign

If you’re fortunate enough to work with InDesign files that are properly formatted and use Paragraph and Character Styles you may not need to use the Find/Change function for editing text attributes – in my experience this is often not the case. Having to make global edits to long documents with no proper formatting is pretty common. Knowing how to control formatting via the Find/Change function can save a lot of time.

And we aren’t just limited to text. As well as GREP and Glyph based searches we can find Objects based on their attributes in the much the same way as outlined above.

Click on the Object tab, click the icon in the Find Format: section and away you go – a huge list of attributes to Find and Change.

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This type of editing is great for correcting inconsistent formatting as you can search for non-specific values and replace them with a fixed value – great for standardizing settings across a document.

So, the next time someone says “Can you make sure all the key-lines in this 200 page document are 0.5pt thickness and an 80% tint of Black?” you can stay calm instead of running out of the building screaming!

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