On columns in InDesign
Once you have set up your grid in InDesign, there are two choices for setting columns of text using the grid as a guide: manually with text running across multiple text frames (option A) and automatically with the ‘number of columns’ tool (option B). I suppose there’s no right way to do this, but it was interesting to see which options people used when I asked the question on twitter. Of the responses I got, seven people used option A; four, option B; and one person switched between the two depending on the situation. Now I know that’s not very scientific but I’d just like to explain my reasoning for using option A.
I use manual text columns for two reasons. Firstly, it was the way that I was taught at university by highly experienced tutors, and secondly, it gives you as typesetter, greater control over text layout. Sometimes a layout calls for text placing that isn’t simply three columns of text at equal height, as seen in this example:
[Image credit: Monocle Magazine on Australian Edge]
As above, the layout may work best with shorter, ‘leader’ columns, in order to help the viewer’s eye flow through the passage of text. In this case option A is far more helpful, allowing complete control over text column height, without ‘cheating’ and creating white space with line breaks. It quickly enables text to be moved around quite flexibly. It helps variation to be achieved throughout spreads – essential for a pleasant reading experience. Perhaps most importantly it gives the designer the feeling of having complete control over the text. Interestingly, option A gave me slightly neater ragged lines, although was slightly longer.
The case in which I might use the automatic column tool, is when setting small pieces of supplementary text – for example a ‘chef’s tip’ side-note in a cookery book. The particular instance in which it might be useful is the ‘balance columns’ tool, which, as it suggests, makes the columns throughout that text frame a more harmonious height suitable for a small amount of text (F).
Examples C and E show unbalanced text in both manual text frame columns (C) and automatic columns (E). Now making the text column heights harmonious is far easier using automatic columns (as in example F) because example D involves fussy tweaking of column sizes.
Which option do you use, and why?