Previously, I’ve shared the Photoshop Toolbar Glossary. And while I absolutely love Photoshop, it’s not my number one. InDesign is.
So today, I’m sharing the InDesign Toolbar Glossary.
This is how my toolbar is typically set up. So, going from top to bottom, left to right, let’s go through all of the tools and see what they all do.
Note: many of the icons have a small triangle in the bottom right corner. That means there are additional tools in that space if you click and hold, so there will be more tools listed below than you see in the image above.
The InDesign Toolbar
Just like with Photoshop, the Selection Tool is your basic pointer tool. Select an entire object or text box and move it around, delete it, etc.
Direct Selection Tool
Also like Photoshop, the Direct Selection Tool only selects one anchor point on an object. So, if you wanted to move one specific anchor point, you’d use this tool. I typically use this in conjunction with the Add Anchor Point Tool.
The Page Tool allows you to select an entire page and rearrange it or resize it on your work space.
The Gap Tool is used when you want to change the distribution of two objects while keeping the white space between them the same. Click on the gap between two objects and drag. One object will get bigger while the other gets smaller.
Content Collector Tool
The Content Collector Tool allows you to collect multiple pieces of content that you want to place either in the same document or in another InDesign document. Simply click on an object or click and drag to select multiple objects at the same time. Here’s a great video tutorial from Adobe.
Content Placer Tool
Once you’ve collected your objects with the Content Collector Tool, you’ll use the Content Placer Tool to place those objects either in the same document or in a different InDesign document.
This is your basic type tool. Click and drag to create a rectangular text box and type away!
Type on a Path Tool
The Type on a Path Tool, on the other hand, types around an object. You’d use this on an object you’ve already created. For example, use this with an ellipse if you want to create text in an arch.
This tool creates a line. Hold shift while you click and drag to keep it straight horizontal, vertical, or at a 45-degree angle.
The Pen Tool is my favorite, but by far one of the hardest tools to master. You draw by clicking on the point where you want to start, and before unclicking, hold and drag the cursor to make a curve. Then you click on the next point where you’d like to continue your shape, hold and drag the cursor, etc. To see it in action, here’s a great tutorial from Adobe.
Add Anchor Point Tool
The Add Anchor Point Tool is used to add anchor points to an object. I typically use it in conjunction with the Pen Tool, but you could use it with another object created by the Rectangle Tool or the Ellipse Tool, for example. Typically after you create an anchor point, you’ll move it around using the Convert Point Tool or the Direct Selection Tool, which will be discussed soon.
Delete Anchor Point Tool
The Delete Anchor Point Tool is super helpful for perfecting shapes. If you’ve gone a bit too crazy with the Pen Tool, simply click on an anchor point with the Delete Anchor Point Tool, and it’s gone! The object smooths itself out accordingly.
Convert Direction Point Tool
The Convert Direction Point Tool is only used for changing the curve level of a specific anchor point; it can’t move the anchor points around. If you click on it once without dragging anything around, the curves are removed. If you click and hold, the curves of the specific anchor point are changed.
The Pencil Tool is used to create a freehand shape. You simply click and drag it around in whatever shape you want. InDesign will automatically fill in the anchor points, so you can go back and edit them with the Direct Selection Tool, Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool, and / or Convert Direction Point Tool.
The Smooth Tool is used in conjunction with the Pencil Tool to smooth out any bumps that might have occurred in your vector object.
The Erase Tool is used to erase parts of an object or line. If, for example, you erased straight through a circle object, you’d be left with two half-circle objects that can be selected independently.
Rectangle Frame Tool
The Frame Tools function just like regular object tools, but they’re specially formatted to have photos placed in them. They can easily be distiguished from regular object boxes because, in Normal Mode, the objects will have an X going through them. The Frame tools are really only helpful if you’re creating a template and need to distinguish which objects are meant to have photos placed in them and which ones aren’t. Otherwise, regular object tools can also have photos placed in them.
Ellipse Frame Tool
Just like the Rectangle Frame Tool, but it’s in the shape of an ellipse.
Polygon Frame Tool
Just like the Rectangle Frame Tool, but it has however many sides you want.
This tool draws a rectangular box. To create a square, hold the Shift button as you click and drag.
This tool draws an oval box. To create a circle, hold the Shift button as you click and drag.
To create a box with as many sides as you’d like. To create a polygon, simply select the Polygon Tool and click on your artboard. It will ask you the dimensions you’d like your polygon to be, as well as how many sides you’d like it to have. You can also create a star inset if you’d like.
The Scissors Tool cuts a path or an object. To cut a path, simply click once where you’d like to cut. To cut an object, click once on the place you’d like to start the cut, then click again on the spot you’d like to end it. Voila, two objects.
Free Transform Tool
This tool lets you take any object or text box and transform it freely, scaling and rotating. Note, though, that the text inside a text box gets distorted unless you hold shift while using Free Transform.
This tool is used to rotate objects and text boxes.
The Scale Tool allows you to scale an object or text box. Note, again, that the text inside a text box gets distorted unless you hold shift.
The Shear Tool allows you to distort your object by making it a parallelogram. (My grade school geometry teacher would be so proud.)
Gradient Swatch Tool
The Gradient Swatch Tool creates a gradient! Crazy, right? It makes it over the entire object you’ve selected. Simply drag from one spot to another to adjust how intense of a gradient it is. The longer the line, the more gradual the gradient becomes. The spot where you start is the one color, and the spot where you end is the other color. You can also change the colors, intensity, and direction in the Gradient Window on the right-hand side or in the Windows menu.
Gradient Feather Tool
Just like the Gradient Swatch Tool, the Gradient Feather Tool creates a gradient. but rather than ending in the background color, it ends in transparency.
The note tool is super helpful if you’ve got multiple people working on the same file. You simply click with the note tool and a note icon shows up. Type whatever you need to in the note palette and everyone can view it! It’s also helpful if you have to stop a project before you’re done. You can leave yourself a note with what your next plans were.
Color Theme Tool
The Color Theme Tool is super helpful if you’re working on a style guide for your blog or business. To use it, click on an image you’d like to create a color theme with. Then, a window will come up with 5 suggested color themes based on the colors in the image. To save them, click on the Add This Theme To Swatches button and they will be added to your Swatches menu.
The eyedropper tool is super helpful for grabbing whatever color you want from the image and making it the foreground color. But it’s also useful for copying the stroke and text settings from one object or piece of text onto another. Simply highlight an object or piece of text, select the eyedropper tool, and click on the text or object style you want.
The measure tool is used to (surprise!) measure the image.
This tool allows you to click and drag your artboard around.
This tool allows you to zoom in or out of your artboard. You can either click once to zoom in, or you can click and drag to zoom into a specific section.
The Color Palette is where you determine your object or text’s fill and stroke colors. The fill color is automatically highlighted, but the stroke can be highlighted simply by clicking on the bottom box. Double click on whichever box you’d like to change and a color picker will appear. For simplicity, the “no fill, black stroke” setting is included as a button below the color palette to easily reset it.
Interested in learning more about InDesign, other than just the InDesign Toolbar? My ecourse InDesign Adventure Guide is currently on pre-sale! This means you can sign up for a discounted rate and start accessing the lessons as they become available. Sign up here!
Jenn @ OA and BL&D says
I love these posts! I don’t know why I never looked at your design stuff before (actually I do – it’s because I’m arrogant and think I know everything, which is a fallacy, obviously). I’m curious, though, you’ve talked about InDesign and Photoshop – do you ever use Illustrator? (Illustrator is my FAVORITE)
Smooth is one I’ve never tried before that sounds really handy. And scissors, although I typically draw vector stuff in Illustrator, so I’d use the “divide objects below.” One thing that’s way easier in InDesign than Illustrator is the feathered gradient! It took me forever to figure out how to do it in Illustrator and it’s kind of a pain – you have to make an opacity mask. Before I discovered that Google is my friend, I used to copy shapes to InDesign, use the feather gradient, and then copy them back over. Ha!
Haha! I’m totally the same way. I typically just use InDesign and Photoshop because everything I use Illustrator for is available in InDesign. And by “everything I use Illustrator for” I mean “the pen tool.” I’ll use it every once in a while, but typically I just use InDesign. For example, the icons for the tools I created in InDesign, then copied into Illustrator to get the transparent background. I suppose I could have done that in InDesign but for some reason Illustrator made more sense to me.
Jenn @ OA and BL&D says
I used to think you couldn’t “save for web” from InDesign, and I do that a lot with my Illustrator stuff, but now I’ve learned you can, so I can’t really think of any real reason to use Illustrator instead. I just like the format of the giant artboard, I guess. (Typically, any page or image I have on the artboard has at least 2 or 3 times as much stuff sitting off the artboard next to it.)
But I’ll use InDesign for anything that has more than a sentence or two, and that has multiple pages. Photoshop is my last resort, because I try to keep it vector if at all possible! But it’s definitely the best for effects: bevel, drop shadow, etc, etc.
Same! I typically reserve Photoshop for photos and InDesign for designing. As the names imply. 🙂
Jenn @ OA and BL&D says
Ha!!! And Illustrator for vector illustration. The names have had no meaning to me for many years because I say them so much. This is kind of mind-blowing that what they’re for is in the name. It’s like a little while ago when I added a space to the word “bar tender” and my younger sister’s mind exploded. “A tender of the bar!”