Adobe InDesign is a powerful publishing tool, but it can be daunting to new users. This desktop software can be used to create documents, magazines, posters, presentations, and even books. You can use it as a word processor, like Microsoft Word, but InDesign has more emphasis on design elements. By orienting yourself with its basic functions, you can use it to create any type of document, whether it’s a short story or your own book cover.

Creating and Saving a Document
To create a new document, open the application and click on the “File” tab in the navigation bar. Once you click this, a dropdown menu will appear. Click “New,” and the “Document.” This will open a new window titled “New Document.” Here, you can pick from presets, or blank documents with specific dimensions and options already set. There are also various templates available.
To create a basic document, click on the “letter” size. A box titled “Preset Details” will appear, allowing you to alter the details of the document, such as the orientation or layout of the document, number of pages, and number of columns in the document. Once you’re done selecting details, click the blue “Create” icon in the bottom right of the screen. A blank white document will appear. You can always add pages later by accessing the layout tab at the top of the page. Click “Pages” and then “Add Pages,” and this will add a new page with the same details as the original page.
To save the document, click on the “File” tab in the navigation bar. Scroll down to select “Save as.” A new window will appear, giving you the option to name your document and select the type of format it will be saved in. Once you’ve named your document and selected its format, click the blue “Save” icon at the bottom right of the window.

Basic Tools
You’ve now created a document. Let’s look at some of the basic tools you’ll find in the tools panel, which is the row of icons on the very left of your screen.

The dark arrow is a simple selection tool, and will be used to position or size objects in the document. Click the icon in the tools panel to use the selection tool, and click on any object in the document to move it around within the document or to make it larger or smaller.

Direct Selection
The white arrow is the direct selection tool. This tool is used to alter the shape of an object or frame within the document, but not its relative size.

The gap tool allows you to adjust how much space you want between objects in the document. Once you select it, hover over an existing gap. This will highlight the space between the two objects. Drag in any direction to resize the gap. Any images or frames will resize along with the gap.

The “T” icon is the type tool. Text is added to frames within the document. Every time you click the type tool, you will create a plain text frame for horizontal text. You can drag it to define the width and height of a new text frame. Type inside the frame to begin adding text. You can change the font, size, and spacing of the text in the top navigation bar.

The rectangle frame tool allows you to add a frame in the document. Click the tool and select where you want the frame to start on the page. Then, drag the box to its correct size. A box with two lines through it in an X, similar to the icon above, will show you the size and placement of your frame. You can always alter the size of this later with the selection tool. If you want to insert a picture or graphic, go to “File” and then “Place” in the top navigation bar. A new window will appear, allowing you to select which file you want to insert. Select the file, and then click “Open.” Your image will appear in the frame.
You can also simply add an image by dragging and dropping them into the document. To do this, select an image outside the program, click and hold down on the image, and then drop it onto the page.

The hand tool lets you move around the document without moving any of the objects. You should use this when you want to look around the page, but don’t want to accidentally move anything.

The zoom tool allows you to zoom in and out of the document. This is helpful if you have various elements on a page, but want to focus on one at a time. It can also help you move elements more accurately. When zoomed out, placement snaps to the grid for easy alignment. When zoomed in, you can move pieces in smaller increments. You can also do this by using your arrow keys.

Layers are another essential part of InDesign. These are containers that hold different elements on a page, like text and images. Layers are arranged in a document so that layers at the top appear in front of other layers in descending order on the list. To change the order, click the “Windows” tab at the top and scroll down to the “Layers” button. Once you click this, a small window will appear, showing you the various layers in the document. You can drag these elements into the order you want here, or you can click the eye icon to hide a layer. If you want to view it again, click it again.

Adobe InDesign is a complex program, but can produce professional and polished work. If you learn how to use these basic tools first, it becomes much easier to use. If you want to add some illustrations or unique design elements to your work, InDesign is the perfect tool for you.