InDesign for Noobs: Drop Caps Trick Redux

A while back I was grousing about using Drop Caps. I “solved” the problems I was having by using a GREP search to insert and then adjust the kerning of the spaces after my room numbers.

After a quick chat with Nikki Vrtis, layout artist for Steve Jackson Games, she took me the last, final step of this process that didn’t think of at the time. It’s the Smart Hulk solution: stop thinking of the space as part of the problem; think of it as part of the solution.

What I did at her prompting:
  • First, I’d tried a bunch of nested character stuff, so I had to undo that. I created a new character style called Drop Caps New Style and then find/replace all of my “Kerning Space Initial” and “Kerning Space Final” styles with that.
  • Instead of using wildcards, I used GREP, mostly so that I could do a global find/replace of (\d\d\d) with $0[space].
  • Then I modified my Drop Cap paragraph style to four characters to include the space, and it works perfectly; I did have to do a find/replace [space][space] with [space], but that’s on me. I do that anyway to remove editing orphans.

What this does is create, instead of a three-character room key, a four-character one…but that last character is a space, and considered part of the drop cap. That gives me the spacing I need, automatically, and if I need to adjust it for looks (I don’t), I can do so by tweaking the properties of that space. Want a bigger lead? replace that space with (say) an EM SPACE. Again, GREP comes to the rescue here.

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