Make Grids script is a real timesaver in InDesign

by Kevin Slimp, March 2011


Make Grids script is a real timesaver in InDesign
When a newspaper or group contacts me to ask about training, they usually have something specific in mind. The client might be a publication moving to the InCopy/InDesign workflow. Quite often, there’s a problem with print quality. No matter what the reason for my visit, it’s almost a certainty that I will be asked to give some advanced InDesign training while on site. When I first started using InDesign, then known as “K2,” over 11 years ago, one of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to learn the ins and outs of the application. It became apparent pretty quickly that there’s not a lot of “advanced” to InDesign. There are just tools that users haven’t had the time to learn.

To this day, I get a kick out of seeing longtime InDesign users smile when they learn how to create text in various shapes or to fill a letter of the alphabet with small text instead of a color. With that in mind, let me share an InDesign process that will save ad designers serious minutes when they’re laying out realty or auto ads.

This task is accomplished using an InDesign script. Scripts are little programs that allow users to accomplish tasks that would otherwise take much longer. Photoshop veterans are used to using actions to get similar results.

There are scripts to automate the creation of calendars in InDesign. One of my favorite scripts from the early days of InDesign was called “Pie Graph.” It allowed the user to create a circle, enter a series of values, then sit back and have a snack while InDesign created a beautiful pie chart. The whole process took no more than a few seconds.

During a recent session of the Institute of Newspaper Technology, I asked a class of advanced InDesign students if anyone had a time-saving tip to share with the rest of the group. Emily, from Salem, Indiana, was quick to respond with a lesson on the “Make Grid” script in InDesign. Let me tell you how it works.

The goal of Make Grid is to create an area filled with frames to be filled with items. In our business, the best example might be the realty add that contains 15 to 30 house photos. Without Make Grid, most designers would probably create one frame, then duplicate it throughout the page using guidelines or the “step and repeat” tool in InDesign. Make Grid speeds the process up significantly and guarantees that your spacing is accurate throughout the area. Here’s how it works:

1. Create a frame (a rectangle) that fills the area where you want your photos to appear on the page. If you’re designing an auto ad with 15 cars, draw a frame (using your rectangle tool) where you want the 15 cars located on the page.

2. Select the frame with your selection tool (black arrow) and go to Object>Fitting>Frame Fitting Options. Set Fitting to “Fill Frame Proportionately” and select the middle dot in the “Align From” option in the Frame Fitting Options window. Click OK to exit that window.

3. Next, go to the Scripts panel. In the most recent version of InDesign, it is found by selecting Window>Utilities>Scripts. In some earlier versions, you found this script by selecting Windows>Scripting>Scripts. You may have to look through the options under the Windows menu to find “Scripts,” but it will be there.

4. Beginning with InDesign CS3, users will find scripts already built into the Scripts menu. To find them, look under Applications>Sample>Javascript in the Scripts panel. Prior to CS3, InDesign didn’t supply any scripts to go in the panel. Users can download scripts at no cost from Adobe.com>Downloads>Exchanges. Click on the InDesign option to select from hundreds of scripts and plug-ins.

5. Double-click on the script “Make Grid.”

6. A window will appear on the screen, prompting the user to input the desired number of rows and columns, along with the space between them. After entering the number of columns, rows and gutters, click OK. 7. You should see the area filled with frames, ready to be filled with pictures of houses, cars or whatever. Go to File>Place and select the photos that you want to use. Click on each frame individually to fill it with one of the corresponding photos. That’s it. You’ve now accomplished a task in a matter of seconds that would have taken several minutes without the use of the Make Grid script. If you’re not already using scripts in InDesign, you are about to find out just how valuable they can be. A few other good ones to try in InDesign include “Split Story,” which allows the user to break jumps into separate stories, no longer linked together; “Image Catalog,” which creates a visual catalog of all the images in a designated folder; and “Sort Paragraph,” which alphabetizes a list of items.

So what are you waiting for?