InDesign Drop Caps Trick

I’m going to try and keep this short and disgruntled.

I’ve got Drop Caps that I’m using for ID’ing part of a new adventure. I have asked, and the author complied, that all of the room numbers for a programmed adventure have three digits in them. I used a Paragraph Style and set the first three letters in the style to drop cap by three lines.

That gave me this, which was unacceptably tight. Ignore the crap font for now; I wanted the numbers to stand out, and tried the same font as the title. It doesn’t work; not readable enough. But the different font will be important later. For the record, it’s called “Rebuffed.”

Next, I treid a bunch of other things, including what was most-recommended on the net, setting a linked Character Style to higher Kerning. A LOT higher. That not only spaced out the drop-cap, but it made the character spacing unacceptably wide for the room numbers. So no joy there.

I tried something else, and while I got good spacing, it inexplicably dropped the room number. I still have no idea what caused this. At all.

Finally, I found that if I manually first deleted, and then inserted a single space between the large number and the following text, I could highlight that space and adjust the Kerning of just that space. That works.

Great, I have 193 room numbers. I don’t wish to do this 193 times. Fortunately, with GREP I don’t have to.

  • Go into Find.
  • Use the GREP part of Find (click on it).
  • Find any three digits (\d\d\d) or (/d/d/d) I can’t remember at the moment, and use “find format” to select the Rebuffed font.
  • In Replace, use $0_ ($0 is “found string” and the underscore is a space), and set the Kerning to what you want. In my case, it was 200. If you need more, you can get more, manually.
  • Change all. Oh, look . . . 193 changes made. Wooticus.
  • THEN, go back to GREP. Don’t change the “find” because you still want those same three characters. Delete the space in the Replace box.
  • Then change the Kerning formatting back to zero.
  • Change all. 193 changes made, and now there’s a space after the three-digit Drop Cap with the proper Kerning. And it looks like this.

So all is right with the world for now.

There are a LOT of tricks to do fun things with a single drop-cap letter. Fewer that I could find with a drop-cap string of things. A lot of the “fixes,” which will 100% work, are to take your drop-cap target and cut it out, then paste it back as an anchored object. This is a pain in the rear to do 193 times, but the formatting choices you will have are much larger, as you can use the very robust Text Wrap features to control formatting. In fact, what I’d appreciate in InDesign quite a bit would be if the Drop Cap function did exactly that: it pulled each targeted letter out of its string and pasted it in as an anchored object with the proper settings automatically, creating a Paragraph Style and Character Style called (say) Drop Cap Style 1 and Drop Cap Character Style 1. That way you can independently format the drop-cap and the following text more easily. You can still do it, but one must be careful, or you get the weird behavior in my middle example without changing any of the settings. I mean, I’m sure what’s happening is my fault; the computer is just following instructions. But something changes and it’s not always something I know how to fix.

Anyway, that’s my “struggling mightily with InDesign” layout lesson for today. Hopefully it’s useful to someone.


3 thoughts on “InDesign Drop Caps Trick

  1. It’s `\d\d\d`. Welcome to the world of Regular Expressions, one of the world’s most utterly obtuse and tremendously useful domain-specific languages.

  2. Regular expressions – hyper-specialized, hyper-weird, hyper-useful. Just don’t try to validate email addresses or parse XML with them.

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