Setting Margins, Columns, and Guides in Adobe InDesign CC

InDesign with discretionary ruler guides

As a frame-based design tool, Adobe InDesign relies on a series of margins, columns, and column guides to help you place your frames — and hence, your content — into perfect alignment.

This information governs all currently supported versions of Adobe InDesign.

Adjusting Document Properties in an InDesign Document

InDesign properties panel

Open the Properties panel along the right edge of the InDesign application.

If you can't find the Properties panel, it may be hidden. To show it, click Window > Properties. If it's present, but collapsed, click the tiny double-arrow icon at the top of the menu bar to open the panel.

The Properties panel governs four sections that support frame-based layout.

The Properties panel dynamically changes based on what you've selected. To see document properties, click somewhere off the document canvas.

Adjusting Page Size and Document Margins

The Document section of the Properties panel controls the physical dimensions of the page. From here, you can set a custom page setting, set portrait or landscape orientation, set the page height and width (if you don't use a preset), and set whether the spread uses facing pages.

Adjust margins by tweaking the top, left, right, and bottom margins. The unit of measure defaults to whatever you've set for InDesign as a whole or the page. In the absence of a default, you'll set margins and page sizes rendered in picas and points.

In the typesetting world, there are 72 points to an inch. Every 12 points equals 1 pica, thus rendering a pica as 1/6th of an inch. A document with a margin of 0.5 inches converts to margins of 36 points or 3 picas. Unusual measures are generally related in a picas-and-points method instead of in inches or in points. For example, a margin of 0.556 inches is the same as 40 points, but it's usually rendered as 3p4, or 4 points more than 3 picas.

Toggle the oval icon between the four margin boxes to require that all the margins use the same measurement.

Adjusting Pages

The Page section lets you adjust a single page, including master pages. Select a page from the drop-down and click Edit Page to set custom dimensions, margins, and columns for the selected page only.

Setting Rulers and Grids

The Rulers & Grids section offers three toggle buttons:

  • Show ruler: Toggles the rulers that appear along the top and left side of the document window. You must show the rulers to drag custom guides.
  • Show baseline grid: Overlays horizontal lines across the document to support text alignment.
  • Show document grid: Overlays a tight two-dimensional grid over the document to support frame alignment.

Controlling Page Guides

The Guides section offers three toggle buttons:

  • Show guides: Shows manually placed (teal) guides.
  • Lock guides: Prohibits the movement or editing of manual guides.
  • Show smart guides: Shows on-the-fly guides to promote frame alignment without an explicit manual guide.

How to Add Page Guides

InDesign with discretionary ruler guides

To add a discretionary (or manual) page guide, simply click on either the horizontal or vertical rule then drag toward the document. A line, colored teal by default, appears and will lay wherever you release the mouse button.

These guides will never display on your document; they're overlays in InDesign to support placement. To add lines that show up in your printed document, use the Line tool.

To aid in placement, an overlay appears near the cursor as you're placing the guide, offering absolute horizontal and vertical measurements as based from the top right of the physical document. (Not the margins!)

To move a guide, hover your mouse over it. When a square appears next to the mouse, you've got it — just click and drag to a new location. Alternatively, click the guide and then press Delete to remove it.

There's no limit on how many ruler guides you can add.