One tool that is often under used or even ignored in InDesign is the Gap tool, and it’s a shame as it can be very useful. Basically the tool allows you to manipulate the gaps between frames, and has a number of shortcuts that allow you to control exactly how it works.

The Gap tools is found near the top of the InDesign tools panel and is the small icon with two arrows pointing out in opposite directions.

In order to make use of the tool you first need some gaps to adjust, so start by laying out a grid of frames on the page.  To do this just use the rectangle frame tool, drag out a frame, and before you let go of the mouse hit the right and up arrows on the keyboard a couple of times. This will split your single frame into multiple frames giving you some gaps to now work on.

Using InDesign’s gap tool, you can now change the position of the gaps between each set of frames, whilst the frames resize automatically. If you simply hold the tool over the gap and click and drag you will see the gap is repositioned for the entire column or row that you click on.

Whilst the gap tools adjusts the whole column or row by default, you can hold down the SHIFT key while using it at which point it will only adjust the two frames immediately to either side of the gap you click on and ignore the others.

indesign gap tool with shift key

At this point the tool is still moving the gap.

If you now want to make the gap larger or smaller, simply hold down the CTRL key and the tool will now resize the gap. It does this by resizing the frames to compensate for the larger gap. Doing this with the SHIFT key held down at the same time will ensure it only resize the gap between those two specific frames rather than for the entire column or row.

InDesign gap tool with ctrl and shift key

If however you want to resize the gap by moving the frames closer together or further apart, without actually resizing the frames, you could do this by holding down the ALT key. Again this can be done with the SHIFT key to limit the changes to just the immediate frames.

indesign gap tool with alt and shift key

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the gap tool can be used not just on the gaps between two or more frames, but also on the gap between a frame and the edge of the page itself.  This can be very useful for fitting things and is a feature I often show when teaching InDesign on my courses.

One thing that many people don’t realise when it comes to the gaps, is you can actually specify the gap amount to an exact setting when creating a grid of frames. This isn’t an obvious setting, and things like double clicking the frame tool or the gap tool don’t do anything.

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The gap size used when creating a grid of frames is actually taken from the document gutter setting. This is set when you create a new document, but if you go to layout / margins and columns you can also change the gutter setting for an existing document. Allowing you to then create a grid of frames with a specific gap size between the frames.

So to wrap up:

The three main shortcut keys that work with the InDesign gap tool are:

  • SHIFT – Allows you to change the gap between two specific frames
  • Ctrl – Allows you to resize the gap without moving the frames
  • Alt – Allows you to resize the gap moving the frames at either side

Give the gap tool a go, and once you get used to it you’ll find it is a nice handy way to make these small adjustments.

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