(Legacy) InDesign CS3: Advanced Character Formatting

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This article is based on legacy software.

Tracking, kerning, and spacing allow you to control the space between characters. Tracking is useful for adjusting the spacing in larger blocks of text, whereas kerning is helpful for fine-tuning the space between individual characters. By adjusting the tracking first, you may have to do less kerning. Spacing allows you to adjust the space between individual characters and words.

Working with Tracking

Tracking adjusts the relative space between letters and words so they are spaced more closely together at a tight track setting or farther apart at a loose track setting. Tracking can be helpful for darkening or lightening a page (type with tight tracking darkens the page while type with loose tracking lightens a page) or for changing the spacing of selected lines of very large or very small type, such as headlines and captions. Track settings can also be used to make text fit in a defined space on a page.

You can adjust the track for an entire paragraph, a single line, or a few characters. For tight tracking, assign negative tracking values; for loose tracking, assign positive tracking values. tracking

Applying Tracking

  1. Select the text to track.

  2. If the Character palette is not already displayed, from the Type menu, select Character.
    OR
    From the Dock, click Character.character
    The Character palette appears.
    character palette

  3. In the Tracking pull-down listtracking pulldown, select or type the desired tracking value.
    HINT: Positive values produce loose tracking, negative values produce tight tracking.

Returning to the Default Track Setting

  1. Select the text to track.

  2. In the Character palette, from the Tracking pull-down list, select 0.

Working with Kerning

Kerning refers to the spacing between pairs of characters. By default, most characters have already been kerned through automatic pair kerning. For example, a typeface may have built-in pair kerning for the characters T and o, so that the is tucked under the top of the T. However, every character pair combination may not be covered, so manual kerning could be necessary. InDesign CS3 allows you to kern text automatically or manually between two characters or, if necessary, over a range of text.

In the example below, in the text without kerning, the ACT appear to be farther apart than the IVE. This can be adjusted by bringing the A and T closer (negative kerning) to the C or by adding space (positive kerning) to the IVE until all characters look evenly spaced.

kerning

Setting Automatic Kerning

There are two types of automatic kerning: metrics and optical. Metrics kerning applies the kerning pairs built into the font (tucking the o under the top of the T in the word To). Optical kerning evaluates the shapes of the letters and applies kerning to balance spacing differences between characters.

  1. Select the text you want to kern.
    NOTE: Kerning affects the space after a character. If you want to change only the kerning of a word, but not the width of space after the word, select all but the last character of the word.

  2. If the Character palette is not already displayed, from the Type menu, select Character.
    OR
    From the Dock, click Character.character
    The Character palette appears.
    character palette

  3. In the Character palette, from the Kerning pull-down listmetrics, select Metrics or Optical.
    The selected kerning method is applied to the text.

Manual Kerning

When adjusting the kerning of your font manually, keep in mind that negative values reduce the space between characters; positive values increase the space between characters.

  1. Place your insertion point between the two characters you want to kern.

  2. If the Character palette is not already displayed, from the Type menu, select Character.
    OR
    From the Dock, click Character.character
    The Character palette appears.
    character palette

  3. In the Character palette, from the Kerning pull-down listmetrics, select the desired value.
    OR
    In the Kerning text box, type the desired value.

Working with Spacing

Although typefaces are designed with the optimal amount of spacing, you may find some fonts looking either too cramped or too loose. Adjusting the spacing between characters and words can improve legibility. In InDesign CS3, you can customize three types of spacing settings: letter, word, and glyph.

Letter spacing 
Designed to include both the width of the character and the amount of space surrounding it. Letter spacing values range from -100% to 500%.

Word spacing 
Adjusts the amount of space between words. Each font is designed with its own spaceband, which is the space between words created by pressing the spacebar. By default, word spacing in InDesign CS3 uses 100% of the spaceband. You can adjust the percentage of spacing between words from 0% to 1000%.

Glyph spacing
Refers to the width of characters.


Adjusting Spacing

  1. Select the text that you would like to adjust.

  2. If the Paragraph palette is not already displayed, from the Type menu, select Paragraph.
    OR
    From the Dock, click Paragraph. paragraph
    The Paragraph palette appears.
    paragraph palette

  3. Click Menu menuยป select Justification... 
    OR
    Press [Alt] + [Shift] + [Ctrl] + [J].
    The Justification dialog box appears.
    justification

  4. To adjust the amount of space between words, in the Word Spacing text boxes, type the values.
    NOTES: 
    If you are working with only justified type, adjust the word space using only the Minimum and Maximum values. 
    To specify word space for both justified and unjustified text, indicate that by using the Desired column. 
    The Minimum value should be less than or equal to the percentage set for Desired; the Maximum value should be greater than or equal to the percentage set for Desired.

  5. To adjust the width of the character and the space surrounding it, in the Letter Spacing text boxes, type the value(s) in the appropriate text boxes.
    NOTES:
    If you are working with only justified type, adjust the word space with the Minimum and Maximum values.
    To specify word space for both justified and unjustified test, use Desired.

  6. To adjust the width of the characters, in the Glyph Scaling text boxes, type the values.
    HINT: Specify a small value (1-2%), otherwise there may be obvious differences in the shape of characters.

  7. Click OK.