InDesign Secrets: How to properly format fractions

Published by | Thursday, June 21st, 2012

In this week’s InDesign Secrets episode, David Blatner unravels the mysteries (and hassles) of making fractions in InDesign text.

And we’re talking real fractions—not those regular-size numbers, both sitting on the baseline, separated by a common slash fake fractions like the one seen below left. David’s talking about properly scaled, baseline-shifted numerator, divided by a properly tilted fraction bar real fractions like the one seen below right:

Two styles of fractions made in InDesign.

There are two ways to make fractions in InDesign—the optimal, or "real" way seen above right, and the less-than-perfect "fake" way with regular-sized numbers sitting on the baseline, separated by a common slash, seen above left.

As David points out in the video tutorial, if you’re using an Open Type font, creating a properly scaled fraction is simply a matter of selecting the type and choosing Open Type > Fractions from the Control Panel menu. Of course, if your document is rife with fractions you’ll want a more efficient way to change all of your fractions at once, and for that, you’ll need to fearlessly tread into the world of GREP styles.

GREP styles search for a particular pattern in text—in this case “digit-slash-digit” (or, translated into  GREP, that’s “\d+/\d+”)—to apply a specific style denoted by you (in this case Open Type > Fractions). You can see in the video how to use this handy GREP feature to change all your fractions at the same time. David also shows you how to use another GREP style-replacement maneuver to remove unwanted spaces between your whole number and your fraction after you’ve properly scaled your fractions (these spaces will be there for fractions that have whole numbers associated with the fraction. For example, with a number like 18 3/4, the previously disproportioned “fake” fractions needed a space between the whole number, 18, and the fraction, 3/4).

Of course, this GREP automation relies on the use of an Open Type font. For cases where you don’t have the luxury, or desire, to use an Open Type font, David shows you how to manually create your own non-Open Type font proper fraction using Horizontal Scaling, Vertical Scaling, and offsets. By the time you’re through watching David’s less-than-nine-minute movie, you’ll never need to rely on an inelegant fake fraction again.

Meanwhile, for members of lynda.com, David’s partner in InDesign Secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepcion, has another member-exclusive video called Fixing unwanted hyperlinks in an imported Word file that offers a handy way to deal with what can be a maddening InDesign situation.

David and Anne-Marie will be back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets!

 

Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion on lynda.com
• All lynda.com InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS6 New Features
 InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• InDesign Styles in Depth

 

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7 Responses to “InDesign Secrets: How to properly format fractions”

  1. Dan Rodney says:

    This is a good look at formatting fractions. As always, there are multiple ways to do things. I know David wanted to focus on InDesign’s native tools for handling fractions, but if you deal with a lot of fractions and want to save time (and have the ability to set custom kerning amounts for specific numbers before or after the slash) be sure to check out my Proper Fraction Pro at danrodney.com. It can handle OpenType fonts as well as non-OpenType fonts. It can automatically add strokes to numbers if horizontally scaling, and more. Sorry for the shameless plug, but for those that need it, having options is always a good thing.

  2. Alex Miller says:

    Great article. Really useful to me, thanks!

  3. Zenia Zen says:

    Hello,
    I would like to ask you if it is possible to format mathematical fractions with a vertical line instead of a slash.

  4. Terry says:

    Hello, This was a great video, thanks very much for sharing. I’d like to know if I can use this, but also leave some numbers in the ‘fake’ format. eg: 50/60 Hz, 0/12 VDC

    I tried to say “If the ‘numerator’ is a zero, don’t format it”, by adding this rule AFTER the one you demonstrated above:

    Apply Style: [None]
    To Text: [0]/\d+

    This didn’t work as I hoped. (I don’t mind creating multiple rules, if you can show me how to do one, there are only a few instances that I would have to look out for)

    Thanks very much for any help you can offer.

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