I get it — Adobe InDesign can be kinda scary. When you open it up, you’re bombarded with buttons and windows and menus and icons, not to mention some weird words that you probably didn’t associate with graphic design . . . slug, anyone? Have no fear, all these crazy terms have meaning and they’re not as scary as they seem. Below are 31 common terms you’ll find in Adobe InDesign and what they mean — and if you’ll really even need to remember what they mean or not. Plus, tons of these terms can be found in other design programs too, like Photoshop and Illustrator. So even if you're sure you'll never be an InDesign user, this list can be helpful for anyone using an Adobe program for design work.
Plus, stick around until the end, because today is a special day . . . launch day! That’s right, spring registration is now open (for only 1 week!) for my online course, The InDesign Field Guide, where you’ll learn how to actually put all of these terms to use so you can feel confident to create killer work in InDesign.
31 Adobe InDesign Terms Defined
workflow — for the purpose of this course, I refer to workflow as the order in which you work in a program as you’re designing a project (a very watered down example: first you setup a new document, then you create a background, then you add text, etc.)
margins — the negative space around the inside of a page, a safe zone for all content / text / images
bleed — used for print only, extra space in addition to your page size that’s cut off when artwork “bleeds” to the edge of the page, so you don’t have any white border
slug — extra space on the outside of your document, different from bleed, used to show markings or notes for the printer (commonly used for printed magazines or newspapers)
grids / guides — the thin colored lines on your IND document that do not appear on your final document, but are just used for aligning objects on your page or showing where the margins are placed
facing pages — two pages shown side-by-side, also known as a spread – used for documents that will be printed and bound
master pages —mini templates you can create and use throughout your document for pages that have repeated content on them, like a page number or footer (they’re not part of your page count)
character / paragraph styles — a pre-set of settings and formatting that can be applied to a word, a line of text, or an entire paragraph in one click
frame — the invisible box that an object, link or text is contained within (also called container)
flow / reflow — how your lines of text continue from one frame / text box to the next, from one page to the next, and around other objects in your layout
overflow — when the amount of text in your text box is more than the size of your frame and overflows into a second text box
widows / orphans — a single word left by itself on a line of text at the end of a paragraph, or a single line of a paragraph left on a page by itself at the beginning or end of the paragraph
page break — when a section of text is cut off and the remainder is bumped (or reflowed) to the next page
line break — when a paragraph is cut off and the remainder is bumped (or reflowed) to the next line
frame break — when any part of a text box is cut off and the remainder is bumped (or reflowed) to the next text box / frame
keep — regulations for where line breaks can occur, so you can avoid widows / orphans and keep a certain number of lines in a paragraph together at all times
endnote — a group of notes shown at the end of an entire document that each refers to a reference number made in the text
footnote —a note shown at the bottom of a page that refers to a reference number made on that same page in the text
drop cap — a decorative feature at the start of the first paragraph of a section or page; usually an enlarged first letter in the paragraph or the first few words in the paragraph
small caps — when you use all caps for a word or phrase, this makes the letters a little smaller than a typical capital letter to make it easier to read and not so “loud” (as sometimes all caps can appear)
glyph — every character in a typeface, (e.g: G, $, ?, 7), is represented by a glyph; this includes all capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
grep — like an IFTT (if-this-than-that) statement using special code; think of it as find / replace tool for actions or occurrences rather than words or characters (It’s SUPER confusing and you’ll probably never use it!)
story — a new window that opens for you to edit copy without seeing all the formatting; mainly for convenience if the style of text is making copyediting difficult for you; it does show symbols for all breaks, indents, and tabs (This is another one that can get confusing, and you probably won't use it much, if at all!)
hyphenation — allowing words in your paragraph to be hyphenated to help with the flow of your lines; you can also set guidelines for these to limit how many words can be hyphenated in a paragraph and where the hyphen is inserted in a word
justification — alignment of either one or both edges of your text to either left, right, center, left justify, right justify, center justify, or full justify
callout — a pull quote or other sidebar-type part of your layout that is separate from your body text
running head — the label at the top or bottom of a page in a book, magazine, or other long-form document that could include things like the name of the publication and/or the chapter or section name, the author's name, a website or copyright line, etc.; usually appears next to the page number
link — an outside file (separate from your IND file) that is placed in your IND document (for example: a JPG of an image, an EPS of a logo, or a even a PSD or AI file); this feature is what really brings the 3 main Adobe programs together to work seamlessly and expand your possibilities for design
table — a chart of data or information organized in cells on a grid; tables can have their own set of styles, similar to character and paragraph styles
rule — any horizontal line used as a divider and printed on the page (not a guide)
lightness vs. opacity — opacity refers to the transparency of a color, while lightness is adding white to a color to make it lighter (does not make it transparent or effect opacity)
The InDesign Field Guide course is now open!
So how about that course? You heard right, The InDesign Field Guide opens TODAY (Wednesday, March 23) for the spring registration period. This course is my baby. I’ve poured hours and hours and hours into making it the most comprehensive + logical way to learn one of the most complex design programs on the market. InDesign is a powerful tool if you know how to use it. It can eliminate your constant need for a designer, and give you the confidence to create your own e-books, PDFs, digital products, promo / marketing materials, proposals, social media graphics, and tons of other design projects you may need for your business or your clients. All these design terms will be like second nature to you after you complete the 5 lessons of the course, practice on your course project, and gain the confidence to design anything you need to in InDesign.
You can join nearly 100 other students in the course who are learning how to use Adobe InDesign like a pro! Click below to read all about the course, what’s included, how it’s set up, how much it costs, what you’ll learn, and what some past students have had to say about it.
The course is only open for this registration period for one full week; it closes back up until the fall on Wednesday, March 30. In the fall, I'll be making lots of additions to the course to make it even more comprehensive and giving you the opportunity to take InDesign to even more advanced levels. Because of this, the price will go up in the fall. But if you join the course now for the spring price, you'll get access to all the updates and changes for the lifetime of the course absolutely free. Can't lose, there ;)
Or if you’re ready to take the plunge, head straight to checkout and you’ll be diving into the first lesson within seconds.
Here’s what a few former students had to say about The InDesign Field Guide:
The InDesign Field Guide is one of the most beneficial courses that I have ever purchased. Packed with incredibly useful and practical information, insider tips and tricks, and best practices for design, you get so much more out of the INDFG than just learning InDesign! I feel totally confident working in InDesign now and I had never used it before. Great for those with Adobe experience and without!
I am working through this course already and it has been so beneficial! I had some basic knowledge on InDesign from design school, but your course was the most thorough I've ever experienced!
This class made me feel like an InDesign master! My favorite part was the thoroughness of all the videos and the companion project — I felt like I was actually learning how to apply what I was hearing. I've used the program for years, but I still learned tons of new tools and tricks that will make every document I produce from now on easier, faster, and better.
This course is one of the best investments I could have ever made for my business. The material is so detailed and so comprehensive, and I love that it instantly gave me the opportunity to utilize my knowledge of the program by creating a business guidebook! I definitely know my way around InDesign now and can't believe how many content design opportunities I have been missing by not having knowledge of this program. You covered everything I am going to need and I'm glad you didn't waste any time on features I probably won't ever use.