InDesign Secrets: Understanding Optical Margin Alignment

Published by | Thursday, January 10th, 2013

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets video, David Blatner explains the mysteries and transformations provided by the Optical Margin Alignment feature. Hidden in the Story panel, the feature allows you to align characters in a paragraph so they appear visually uniform rather than technically aligned.

For example, without Optical Margin Alignment, the punctuation on both the left and right edges prevents the actual letter characters from aligning:

How text looks when Optical Character Alignment is turned off

With the Optical Margin Alignment turned on (see the check box in the lower-right corner below), the quotation marks, hyphens, and even parts of certain letters extend beyond the frame to increase the appearance of graceful uniformity.

How text looks when Optical Character Alignment is turned off

In the video, you’ll also learn David’s tricks for fine-tuning the position of various characters. For example, I may want the D in “Down” in the title to align with the A in “Alice” in the first line. David’s secret solution involves an extra space and some negative kerning to push the quotation mark next to “Down” completely out of the frame, so the first full-fledged letter of each line starts in the same vertical position.

Alternately, you could decide you don’t want the quotation mark halfway down on the left of the paragraph to extend at all. In this case, David’s got a solution involving a mysterious invisible character that hangs out and pushes the other visible text back into the frame.

Meanwhile, David’s partner in InDesign secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepción, has a member-exclusive video called Changing the shape of any frame with the pen tool.

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

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

Suggested courses to watch next:
InDesign FX weekly series
InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• InDesign CS6 New Features

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