Friday, 21 January 2011

Footnotes in InDesign: automatic & creative

Part of the reason why I want to make a new book is that it's a reason to get to grips with what InDesign can do for large projects. I made a nice and easy start today by brushing up  on footnotes but, more specifically, how you can change the way a footnote looks.

The following notes show what I did to get the footnotes pictured at the end, so you'll get a good idea of what can be done – under completely automatic controls.

1. Set up a text box and, as it's an example, click inside the box and go to type> fill with placeholder text.

2. Drag the bottom of the text box down to make space for the footnote to appear.

3. Click somewhere in the text and go to type> insert footnote. Then two things appear – a number in the text, and the footnote itself, at the bottom of the text box.

4. Now that we have the footnote, we want to control the way it looks. Go to type> Document Footnote Options. The dialogue box that appears is one of many in InDesign and really isn't complex if you take the time to go through each feature.

5. Of the two tabs at the top, you'll be on 'Numbering and Formatting'. Under 'numbering', most of it is self-explanatory but you can type things into the prefix/suffix boxes of your own choice (I left them empty). In the two formatting panels, you'll find we can apply styles to the footnote and number – hit 'new style' for each and name them 'footnote number' and 'footnote' respectively. Don't bother setting up the rest of the settings for the  styles just yet though.

6. Underneath the paragraph style button, it says 'separator'. Delete the content of the box and use the arrow to the right to select 'tab'. This will mean that our footnote will start with the number, then jump a tab space and then begin the text.

7. In the other tab at the top, called 'layout', there are further options for formatting. You'll notice there's a Rule Above feature – ignore it! The style settings will offer the same visual options.

8. Hit OK on the footnote settings. Now before we look at the styles we've set up, we need to specify our tabs. Highlight the footnote itself, in the text box, and go to type> tabs. Type a measurement into the 'X:' bar and, if you want to, put something into the leader. You can experiment with this – I put two spaces and an em dash into it for mine.

9. Close the tabs panel. Now, making sure nothing is selected, double-click on your character style 'footnote number'. This will change the appearance of the reference inside the text. Make sure 'preview' is selected in the bottom left so you can see the effect of your settings. The more creative features come in the next step.

10. Double-click on the paragraph style that you named 'footnote'. In 'basic character formats' set up a type size of about 10, with around double the leading – 17/18pt. Then go to 'paragraph rules' and use a 'rule above' of about 10pt. This will be a bar the footnote text sits inside. You can play around with the stroke type, size, colour etc. 'Width' allows you to control how far the bar extends. You can put a '–1mm' left and right indent in, so the bar doesn't stop too close to the text.

11. Go to 'character colour' and choose a good contrasting tone. Then, for another little addition, you can go to 'underline options' and use an offset stroke as an underline. Remember 'underlines' can become more like panels if you make them fat enough.

12. Now click OK and you'll be all set to write hundreds of footnotes without ever having to manually format them. Playing with the style settings will affect them all simultaneously and you can really use the style features inventively to work more 'economically'.

I found this little video series by Michael Murphy on making books with InDesign. It covers 'book files', automation, tables of contents, indexing and more. See his personal website here:

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