Adobe InDesign Selection, Type, Line Drawing Tools

Selection and Direct Selection
Select the Frame or the object in the frame. J. Bear

Let's have a look at the first two tools in the Tools Palette. The black arrow on the left is called the Selection Tool. The white arrow on the right is the Direct Selection Tool.

  • The Selection tool lets you select graphics and text and work with an object using its bounding box.
    If you want to move a picture with the box that contains it, you would select the object with the selection tool and drag your picture around your page.
  • The Direct Selection tool lets you work with the content of a text or graphics frame.
     If you wanted to move the picture inside the box, or frame, that contains it, but you want to leave the box itself where it is, you select the object with the Direct Selection Tool.

It might be of help to try that on your own computer (you may want to try this after reading the tutorial on the Frame and Shape Tools).

  1. Open a new document
  2. Click on the Rectangle Frame Tool (not to be confused with the Rectangle Tool which is just next to it)
  3. Draw a rectangle.
  4. Go to File > Place, find a picture on your hard drive and then click OK.

You should now have a picture in the rectangle you have just drawn. Then do what I said above with the Selection Tool and the Direct Selection Tool and see what happens.

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Selecting Objects in a Group

The Direct Selection Tool also has other uses. If you have grouped objects, the Direct Selection Tool will allow you to choose only one object within that group while the Selection Tool would choose the whole group.

To group objects:

  1. Select all the objects with the Selection Tool
  2. Go to Object > Group.

Now if you click on any of the objects of that group with the Selection Tool, you will see that InDesign will select them all at once and will treat them as one object. So if you had three objects in the group, instead of seeing three bounding boxes, you will see one bounding box around them all.

If you want to move or modify all of the objects in your group together, select them with the Selection Tool, if you want to move or modify only one object within the group select it with the Direct Selection tool.

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Selecting Objects Under Other Objects

Select objects
Select specific objects. Image by E. Bruno; licensed to About.com

Let's say you have two overlapping objects. You want to get the object that is below, but you don't want to move the one that is on top.

  1. You right-click (Windows) or Control + click (Mac OS) on the object you want to select and a contextual menu will appear.
  2. Go to Select and you will see a list of options of things you can select. It should appear as in the illustration below. Choose the option you need. The last two options in the Select sub-menu will appear if an object which was part of a group was selected before you made the contextual menu show up.
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Selecting All or Some Objects

Selection
Drag a selection box around objects. Image by E. Bruno; licensed to About.com

If you want to select all the object on a page, you have a shortcut for this: Control + A (Windows) or Option + A (Mac OS).

If you want to select several objects:

  1. With selection tool, point somewhere next to an object.
  2. Hold down your mouse button and drag your mouse and make a rectangle which goes around the objects you want to select.
  3. When you release the mouse, the rectangle will disappear and the objects that were inside it will be selected.

    In the first part of the illustration shown, two objects are selected. In the second one, the mouse button is released and two objects are now selected.

Another way to select several objects is by pressing Shift and then click on each object you want to select with the Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool. Make sure you keep Shift key pressed as you do that.

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The Pen Tool

Pen Tool
Draw lines, curves, and shapes with the Pen Tool. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

This is a tool which might require some practice to master. If you are already proficient in a drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW then the use of the pen tool may be easier to understand.

For the basics of working with the Pen tool, study each of these three animations and practice drawing lines and making shapes: Use the Pen Tool to Make Straight Lines, Curves, and Shapes.

The Pen Tool works hand in hand with three more tools:

  • Add Anchor Point Tool: Select the tool. Click on a path to add anchor points. Don't click on an existing anchor point. Click on the path itself.
  • Delete Anchor Point Tool: Select the tool. Click on an existing anchor point to delete it.
  • Convert Direction Point Tool: Select the tool. Click on an existing anchor point. Hold the mouse button. The handles of that anchor point will appear. If you drag the mouse now, you will be able to change an already existing curve. If a handle is already visible, if you click on the handle itself and drag it, you will also change an existing curve.
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The Type Tool

Type Tool
Use the Type Tool to put text in a frame, a shape, on a path. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

Use the Type Tool to insert text in your InDesign document. If you look at your Tools palette, you will see that the Type Tool has a flyout window.

The hidden tool in the flyout is called Type on a Path Tool. This tool does exactly what it says. Select Type on a Path and click on a path, et voila! You can type on that path.

Use either one of these procedures with the Type Tool:

  • With the Type Tool selected, draw a frame of the desired size. Now click inside the frame and start typing.
  • You can type inside any shape created with one of the Shape Tools by clicking on it with the Type Tool.
InDesign uses the term text frames, while QuarkXPress users and possibly users of other Desktop Publishing software like calling them text boxes. Same thing.
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The Pencil Tool

Pencil Tool
Draw freehand lines with the Pencil Tool. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

By default, InDesign will show you the Pencil Tool in the Tools Palette, while the Smooth and the Erase tools are hidden in a flyout menu.

You utilize this tool as if you were using a real pencil and paper. If you simply want to draw an open path:

  1. Click on the Pencil Tool
  2. With the left mouse button pressed, drag it around the page.
  3. Release the mouse button when you have drawn your shape.

Quick Tip: Fix a Mistake in InDesign

If you want to draw a closed path,

  1. Press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac Os) while you drag your Pencil Tool around
  2. Release your mouse button and InDesign will close the path you have just drawn.

You can also join two paths.

  1. Select the two paths,
  2. Select the Pencil Tool.
  3. Start dragging your pencil tool with the mouse button pressed from one path to the other. While you do that make sure you hold down Control (Windows) or Command (Mac OS).
  4. Once you have finished joining the two paths release the mouse button and the Control or Command key. Now you have one path.
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The (Hidden) Smooth Tool

Smooth Tool
Use the Smooth Tool to Improve Rough Drawings. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

Click and hold on the Pencil Tool to reveal the flyout with the Smooth tool. The Smooth Tool makes paths smoother as the name itself says. Paths can be too jagged and have too many anchor points especially if you have used the Pencil Tool to create them. The Smooth tool often will take away some of these anchor points and will smooth your paths, while keeping their shape as close to the original as possible.

  1. Select your path with the Direct Selection Tool
  2. Select the Smooth Tool
  3. Drag the Smooth Tool along the part of the path you want to smooth out.
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The (Hidden) Erase Tool

Erase tool
Erasing a portion of a path creates two new paths. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

Click and hold on the Pencil Tool to reveal the flyout with the Erase tool.

The Erase Tool allows you to erase parts of paths which you no longer need. You cannot use this tool with text paths, i.e., paths on you which you typed using the Type on a Path Tool.

Here is how you use it:

  1. Select a path with the Direct Selection Tool
  2. Select the Erase Tool.
  3. Drag your Erase tool, with your mouse button pressed, along the part of the path you want to erase (not across the path).
  4. Release the mouse button and you are done.
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The Line Tool

Line Tool
Draw horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines with the Line Tool. Image by J. Bear; licensed to About.com

This tool is used to draw straight lines.

  1. Select the Line Tool
  2. Click and hold on any point on your page.
  3. Holding down your mouse button, drag your cursor across the page.
  4. Release your mouse button.

To have a line which is perfectly horizontal or vertical hold down Shift while you drag your mouse.