All Your Base Are Belong To Our Style

This topic was going to just be another bit in the next episode of Ohs and Wows, but I think it demands a few paragraphs, and those suckers are long enough as it is.

When you’re creating text styles in InDesign, the Based On feature can be a dream or a nightmare. Use it wisely and you can neatly tie elements of your design together so that when the boss/client/cat changes his/her/its mind at the last second, you might be able edit one style to make everything fall into place. Use Based On blindly and the next person to edit those styles will be saying “Somebody set up us the bomb.”

First, an ounce of prevention. With no docs open, peek at your Control panel. What’s in the Paragraph and Character Styles pop-ups? Unless you have a house style that you always want to start from, these should read [No Paragraph Style] or maybe [Basic Paragraph] and [None]. Let’s see what mine says.

Hmmm, that’s a little scary. Let’s check the Paragraph Styles panel.

Heavens to Murgatroid, what the hell have I been doing? If your panel looked like this, all of these styles would worm their way into any new document you created. Fortunately, they would not penetrate any existing docs you open. But there is potentially one more bit of bad news. And that is the “Paragraph Style 3” way up under the Paragraph Styles panel tab. See it up there? ID remembers the last style you clicked on. It shows up at the top of the Styles list, in the Control panel pop-up, and…wait for it…the Based On pop-up. So now if I create a new style it will by default be based on Paragraph Style 3.

This may or may not be a big deal, depending on what kind of mystery meat Paragraph Style 3 is, and whether you edit it down the road, thus altering every style based on it. Better to clean out the panel and start fresh. Or, if you really must keep all those kooky styles, just go to the Control panel and select [No Paragraph Style] from the pop-up menu. You’ll know you won’t have any based on problems when you see (No Styles) at the top of the panel.

On the other hand, if you are carefully planning out your Based On strategy, and you muck up a child style, click Reset to Base to make the child exactly match its parent style.

So now, “you know what you doing.”

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