The Road To Hell Is Paved With Double-Clicks

A Lament

Before you read this post, know o faithful reader, that it is but an shadow of a longer, greater, wittier post that was lost in a horrible instant when a flaky trackpad conspired with WordPress autosave to destroy five hours of writing and editing. Would you believe me if I told you it was the best, funniest thing I’d ever written for this blog? Only the good die young. But why, why did it have to be that post?

In concrete terms, my sticky trackpad jump scrolled to select the entire post instead of one line I wanted, and in that exact moment, as I was pressing the delete key, WordPress autosaved the draft, obliterating everything I’d written. No undo. No back-up. Breathtaking. Horror. Finality. Despair. Gone. All gone. Deep breath. Rueful laugh. Writers keep writing. And now we rise from the ashes to give you…

Confessions From the Double Clique

I have a confession to make. It’s not easy to admit this, but here goes. I… am a double-click snob. There, I said it. I can’t stand watching someone double-click their mouse when a single-click would do. For example, to select an item from the Mac OS Dock, you single-click on it. It’s been that way since the Dock was invented, and even before then, with the Dock’s granddaddy, the Launcher in Mac OS 8. Yet I’ve seen several people who use Macs every day double-click on the Dock. I don’t know why, but it’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me. Yes, this is truly petty. And incredibly geeky. I have a feeling I’m coming across like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Hopefully not.

Usually I have plenty of patience when I see someone doing something not quite right on a computer. I used to be a software trainer, and I’d like to think I was a good one. I enjoy watching the wobbly waltz that we humans do with our computer partners. And when I’m doing a demo or a training, my default assumption is tabula rasa, nobody knows nothin’. And really, why would they know all the click-this-don’t-click-that digital trivia. Most folks have have better things to do with their neurons.

Besides, we all have programs we struggle with but still have to use. Mine is Excel. I just hate it. And thus, I suck at it. To me, editing a spreadsheet is like going to the dentist. In Mordor. I know I could RTFM and be fine, but somehow it’s been 13 years and I still haven’t gotten around to it.

But there is just something about that second, unnecessary, redundant, gratuitous, uncalled for click. It’s like driving for miles with your turn signal on. It is a waste of a neural impulse and one millionth of a calorie. An aesthetic sin. Glad I got that off my chest.

And yet as I smugly sat in my ivory tower of nerddom, self-doubt began to gnaw at me. Something didn’t fit. I was a psych major and I know that behavior which is not rewarded is extinguished. Doesn’t matter if you’re a rat pressing a lever in search of a rat treat, or a person double-clicking on a panel in InDesign. An intermittent or even random reward will do. But is has to come sometime. Furthermore, if you vary the amount of the reward the frequency of the behavior goes through the roof. Think Aunt Mabel sitting at the slot machine all night long. So the double-clickers have to be getting something good for their tiny efforts. Perhaps in my No Click Left Behind policy, I’ve missed out on even greater goodies and efficiency. Perhaps these double-clickers are out-geeking me. This cannot stand.

So I brewed a double-espresso and kicked the cats out of the room, and set out to systematically double-click on every conceivable target in an application in search of whatever I might find. InDesign CS3 was on my screen at the time, so my journey into click hell begins there. Ladies and gentlemen, do not attempt this at home. I am a trained professional.

Luckily I ran out of targets before the tendon in my thumb gave out. Mmmm, feel the burn.

Herewith I give you the fruits of my clicky labor.

The Top Ten InDesign DCs (Double-Clicks)

10. With the Selection tool, DC on a text frame to switch to the Text tool. This isn’t news to anyone, but it rates a mention because of its sheer brilliance. This one trick is the essence of InDesign.

9. DC the Polygon Tool to show its Options. This is how you make a star or starburst. Face it, stars are fun. You know you love it. Go ahead make one right now, I’ll wait here.

8. Command-shift-option-DC a swatch or style to edit it without applying it. You always have something selected. And unless you’re willing to invest all those fingers, you’re going to apply a swatch or style by mistake when you just want to edit it.

7. DC Hand tool = Fit Page In Window. Sure command-0 is faster, but tapping that pudgy little hand is like giving InDesign a high five. Sweet.

6 Option-DC frames with the Selection tool. Do it to a placed image = Edit Original, do it to a text frame and you get Text Frame Options. Super sweet.

5. DC a spot on the ruler to set a guide at that point. So easy it makes you feel like a chump for ever dragging out a guide.

4. DC a placed image to toggle the Selection and Direct Selection tools. Edit Frame, Edit Content. Edit Frame, Edit Content. Hee hee, now I feel like Homer Simpson.

3. Double Double-clicking in the Pages panel. Your 1st DC jumps you to the page, your second DC second fits that page in the window. Your 3rd DC should enable InDesign to read your mind and select the exact object you want on the page. Maybe in CS4.

2. DC Overset/Underset text frame. This one has some ’splaining to do. If you DC an overset text frame it will expand to show all the text (as long as there’s not too much text to fit on the page). But the twist is, you control the direction in which the frame will expand by which handle you click on. Basically, the frame expands towards the handle you DC on. This works with free-standing frames as well as the last frame in a linked series. Here’s some visual evidence.

Conversely, if you DC an “underset” text frame (my term) you shrink the frame so it fits the frame contents. As before, clicking different handles gives you different results. But this time, you may end up moving the text frame. Whoa, who asked to move the frame? Again, the visual evidence:

1. Link-o-rama. DC a link name = Show Link Info. Option-DC = Go To Link, and Command-DC = select all links for handy relinking, updating, etc.

At the end of all this, the anti-double-clicker inside me is still not satisfied. So I leave you with a bonus: the #1 thing you should NOT double-click on. Namely, any text field in a panel with a corresponding icon.

It is way easier to single-click on the icon, which highlights all the text in the field so you can immediately type a new value. Or if you aspire to the David Blatner/Anne-Marie Concepcion 9th Degree InDesign Black Belt, hit Command-6 to highlight the first Control panel field, then tab through to the one you want. Or better yet, read this from Anne-Marie on InDesign Secrets.

If you use InDesign all day, knowing when and where to double-click (and when NOT to) will definitely save you enough time to take an extra coffee break. If you’re buyin’ I take mine black.


7 Responses

  1. #5 – I always drag out the ruler guide and then select it so I can place it numerically. I don’t think I could DC on the ruler precisely enough to get the guide at, say, 3.56″ (or the next one at 3.56″ + 3.72″, where you would want your fold line guides for a tri-fold brochure.)

    Thanks for the tip on the panel icons, though! I had no idea you could do that and you’re right — it’s way easier!

  2. Point well taken. The info panel should track the x,y coordinates of your cursor even when it’s over the ruler, allowing you to place a guide precisely, but it doesn’t. It just stops when you mouse over the ruler. There’s a feature request!

  3. This is a great run-down. Of course, there is always more. DC on a script in the Scripts panel to find all kinds of scripty goodies. Double-click on the Pencil tool to get Pencil Tolerance settings (which no one I know uses, ever). Double-clck on the Eyedropper to set its settings (what it will and won’t pick up). DC on the fill or swatch icons at the bottom of the Tool panel to open the evil Color Picker (sigh). And, of course, if you DC on any checkbox, you get the supreme satisfaction of turning it on and then off. Or off, then on. Either way, it’s a pleasant pastime.

  4. Okay, this is probably the best post I’ve read this year. So funny! I had already sent the URL to a bunch of people BEFORE I even got to the end where I saw my and David’s name mentioned/linked.

    Re the Word Press thing … I hate the autosaving! Right now ID Secrets is running on an older version of WP that doesn’t do that. But IC Secrets *does* have that and I hate it. (I have a couple personal sites on like this one that has the latest WP, takes getting used to.) I turn off Autosave in almost every program I use because I’ve been burned just like you. Too bad WP can’t undo a save, like ID.

    Re Excel … ha! I’m the same exact way. You’re right, like going to the dentist … I just don’t get it. It’s frustrating to work on. Why won’t the cells grow? How do I get rid of the shimmering selection after I’ve copied stuff? It drives me batty. I know if I just cracked open a book or a vid I’d be okay but I’ve never gotten around to it. Friends and family who are business owner like me are aghast to hear I don’t use Excel. “how can you run a business without excel???” I don’t know. It just happened. For twenty years now.

    Re the ID DC’s, great list! I agree it’s weird how you have to bend your mind in order to figure out what’s going to happen when you DC a handle of an overset/underset frame.

    For the underset ones, I always remind myself, “DC the handle OPPOSITE of the one you want to lock down”. So if I want the top left corner to stay where it is, I DC the lower right handle. (I think it should work the other way around, personally. DCing on a handle should mean “everybody move this way!”)

    But I get different results than you regarding DCing the *middle* handle of an underset frame. Maybe I have a magical copy of ID.

    When I DC the middle handle, ID will change only one dimension (height or width) of the frame. But when I DC a corner handle, it changes both dimensions of the frame. (Since only one out of the four “DC middle” examples you show violates this rule, I think maybe it’s a mistake? The one showing the results of a DC on a middle right handle of an underset frame. I don’t think the frame changes height, just width.)

    Anyway, I find that with underset frames, I most often want to eliminate the empty space at the bottom, but I don’t want to change the width. So I DC the bottom middle handle, which does exactly that … brings the bottom frame edge up.

  5. I agree with this, I need you help however:

    How come lately things that I should double click on don’t work right?
    Like in Finder, I go to double click on a folder but its more like a quadruple click before anything happens. I can’t stand it, is there a setting or something I can change.

    I’m usually decently tech savvy, but I’m fairly new to mac.

  6. […] podcast, or enter the code SWATCHES for 25% off entire order) Free ID Keyboard Shortcuts plug-in Top Ten Double-Clicks in ID post on […]

  7. […] Options blog posts, I decided we had to "reprint" this article, which originally appeared on Mike Rankin's old, mothballed Publicious blog several years ago, with even more extensive and funnier commentary. Although there is some overlap, […]

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