There are a lot of InDesign tips that can save you time, make you more performant and improve the quality of the content you produce. It's hard to pick out just five, but I think these are probably a good starting point for most people:
Tip 1: Set default colour swatches and paragraph styles in InDesign
Most people have to comply with their organisations brand guidelines, and along with other things these typically specify what colours you have to use, which font family should be used, and even which font sizes can be used. Unfortunately far too many people also spend the first 15 minutes of each new document setting this all up, creating the colour swatches, and setting up paragraph styles etc.. for the document.
Here is a nice little trick, open InDesign with no document open. Now open the swatches panel, delete the default colours, and then create all your colour swatches as per the brand guidelines. Now order them in the order you want them by dragging them up and down in the swatches panel. Every new document you now create will automatically have these colour swatches in them ready to use right from the start.
Now lets take this a step further.
Lets open a blank document and create a text frame. Now format your text in accordance with your brand guidelines, and save the various paragraph styles that you create, for example header style, sub header style, body text style etc..
Now save the document to your desktop and close it, leaving you in InDesign without any documents open. Now open the Paragraph Styles panel, and from the panel menu select Load Paragraph styles, and select the InDesign document that you saved to the desktop a few minutes ago. Select the paragraph styles you created earlier and load them into InDesign.
These Paragraph styles will now be defaults in every new document you create, and you never need to create them again.
As for the InDesign document sitting on the desktop you can delete that. In fact you could actually do this without ever opening a document in the first place and just go into the Paragraph Styles panel and create the styles. I just think it avoids mistakes if you see what you are creating on the page as you are doing it. It's all too easy to create a paragraph style and accidentally set the font size too high, or pick the wrong colour, and never know until you come to use it the first time.
Extra Tip: Remember if you click on a paragraph style with nothing selected, it will set it as the default for new text frames
Tip 2: Use InDesign Snippets
Many of the people I teach find themselves recreating the same content again and again on a fairly regular basis. This might be a couple of paragraphs of text in a disclaimer, a bio for key members of staff, an about the organisation block or various other bits of content which get regularly reused.
Rather than wasting time recreating this again and again, wouldn't it be great if you could just create a reuseable piece of content, that can then be simply placed into the document like you do with an image. The good news is you can and it's called a snippet. To create a snippet simply select the objects on the page that you want to reuse, and from the file menu select export and make sure you select InDesign Snippet as the file type. You have now created your first InDesign snippet. You can also do this by simply dragging those objects onto the desktop, but the File / Export approach gives a bit more control over the name and location of the snippet.
Your snippets can be previewed in Adobe Bridge (or Mini Bridge) where you can see previews of what they are. They can be reused in documents either through File / Place or by simply by dragging them onto the page, and they can be shared with colleagues who can also reuse the same snippets. Why not even create a shared drive called snippets and let the whole team use them.
Of course you can also use Libraries to reuse content, and if you have a library file already created with a whole load of content in it then great. Personally though I prefer snippets which can be not only previewed in Bridge, but also accessed by multiple users at the same time (as opposed to a library file which can only be opened by one user at a time).
Extra tip: When you are placing snippets if you want it positioned in the same location on the page as the original document, just hold down the Alt or Option key to do that.
Tip 3: Custom Workspaces in InDesign
If you ever noticed a small drop down box at the top right of InDesign then you have found the Workspaces option (which can also be found under the window menu).
Workspaces allow you to record any customisation of your InDesign interface, meaning you can easily reset the interface to suite your needs when things get messy. You can create multiple workspaces and they can record both panel locations and any menu customisations. This means for example you could have a workspace for general print production and a separate workspace for interactive docs. The Print Workspace might contain panels and menu customisations suitable for print design, while the Interactive Workspace would contain customisation suitable for Interactive work, things like hyperlink panels, buttons and forms, etc...
Once you have setup the workspaces you can reset them whenever you need, and with the CC version of InDesign these can be synchronised between the two machines you run InDesign on (yep the licence covers you for two different machines), meaning you can go home and have the same workspace as the office without having to recreate it again.
Tip 4: Make Autocorrect work for you
I admit this one is slightly more of a cheat, and not everybody will find it useful, but those who do will love it. InDesign has an autocorrect feature which can be found in the preferences settings. If you work for an organisation that has a long name, or regularly work with long phrases / words for product names, part names etc.. then this can be really useful.
First enable Autocorrect then click Add. Now in the misspelled word field type in an abbreviation for the phrase in question, and in the Correction field type in the full phrase. For example the full phrase might be "Department of Psychology at the University of North London" and the abbreviation might be "dpul". Now everytime you type dpul into a document it will automatically be replaced with the full name, saving you a fair bit of typing.
Tip 5: Copy Effects in InDesign
Choosing a fifth tip is hard as there are so many that are all useful, but copying effects can be quite handy.
Imagine you have applied a series of effect to an object, for example a specific drop shadow, and maybe a slight glow to give it a very specific look. You would now like to reuse the exact same effects on another object without recreating the whole thing. You could of course create an Object Style which would achieve this but it's a bit overkill just for one object. Instead why not just select the first object with the selection tool, then in the Effect Panel, drag the small fx icon on the right and drop it onto the frame you want to copy the effects to. Job done.
Other InDesign tips
There are hundreds of other time savers in InDesign, many of which we cover in our InDesign training courses, but hopefully the five above will already help you save a bit of time in your day to day work.