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.
But wait! What is Adobe InDesign? Great question. If you're already confused, Adobe InDesign is a professional design program that is best used for page layouts like books, magazines, and PDFs. But REALLY, it is best used for any types of design projects that have a lot of text and/or a lot of images – whether printed or viewed on-screen. InDesign is WAY more than just page layouts.
Okay, back to all that weird lingo...
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)
Want to learn how to use Adobe InDesign, like NOW?
Well good news for you, I recently put together a brand new InDesign training for beginners — it's called the InDesign Cliff Notes.
In this easy-to-follow 1-week email series, you’ll get your feet wet with this mysterious program, learn what InDesign is used for, how it works, and how YOU can learn it fast. (As in, I'm passing you my cliff notes for free here, don't tell the teacher!)
Here’s what I’ll be covering in the series...
- what types of projects InDesign is best used for (what it’s NOT used for)
- we’ll crack the code on some common InDesign lingo to help you get the lay of the land
- a video tour showing you the 4 most important elements of using InDesign (errrr…. it’s 25 minutes 😬)
- my secret sauce to working smarter + faster in InDesign
- the opportunity to dive even deeper with InDesign, if you decide this is a program you need to learn liiiiiike yesterday
Did I mention these cliff notes are F-R-E-E? Yep. I created the InDesign Cliff Notes training with YOU in mind, and I think you'll quickly see how not-scary InDesign really is. 😉