Today I want to look at a simple method for optimising content styling in InDesign. This technique combines Paragraph and Object Styles so I will assume some familiarity – if you’ve used Paragraph Styles before then Object Styles are pretty easy to pick up.

InDesign includes a set of panels aimed at storing the formatting we assign to text, tables and objects so that these can be quickly re-used and/or shared between documents. Take a quick look under the Window>Styles menu and you’ll see options for Cell and Table Styles along with Character, Paragraph and Object Styles.

styles options in indesign

Most people will be familiar with the concept of Paragraph Styles as they’ve been are a fairly common feature of wordprocessing software, such as MS Word, for a long time. Attributes such as font size, leading and the specific font used are stored within a Paragraph style making it easier to configure uniform styling for Headings, subheadings etc. and speeds up the process of formatting large volumes of text. Select the text or text frame, click on the Paragraph Style name and all the attributes from the style are applied.

InDesign also includes a panel for Object Styles – the panel looks and functions in a similar manner to the Paragraph Style Panel allowing styles to be created from selected objects or by starting from scratch with default settings.

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Object Styles can include things like fill and stroke colour, effects, frame fitting options – the list of options is extensive.

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The function I want to focus on today is the option to include Paragraph Styles as part of an Object Style.

Under the list of ‘Basic Attributes’ down the left-hand side you’ll see a tab for “Paragraph Style’. With this selected the drop-down menu can be used to select a Paragraph Style from within the current document – there is also the option to create a new style.

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Below the drop-down is a checkbox to “Apply Next Style” – if your Paragraph Style(s) use the “Next’ function to apply Paragraph Styles sequentially then you will need to check this box.

apply next paragraph styles inside an object style

When Paragraph Styles are selected within an Object Style they are automatically assigned when the Object Style is used giving us a quick and easy way to assign the visual styling of both the text and the text frame.

In the example below I have a text frame with some placeholder copy – the Object Style “Text Info Panel” is already formatted and ready to use. With the text frame selected click on the Object Style name in the panel to assign the style.

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The colour attributes for stroke and fill are assigned along with the drop shadow, bevel and emboss settings from the effects options and the Text Inset for the frame is also set.

changing default object styles in indesign

As well as all these ‘Object’ level settings all the Paragraph styling has also been triggered. Because the “Apply Next Style” option was checked all the styles have been applied in sequence from Heading, Sub-heading through Body down to the setting for the telephone number which includes a Nested Character Style.

All of this is applied through a single click – it’s also possible to assign a keyboard shortcut so Object Styles can be applied without having to navigate to the panels.

For long documents, with repeated styling, this method of binding Paragraph and Object Styles can save hours of hand formatting. And whilst it does involve a little time upfront to configure it is well worth investing the time in familiarizing yourself with this technique.

Paragraph styles are a great features of InDesign but when combined with object styles become even more powerful and are something I always make a point of covering when teaching my courses on InDesign.

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