Style Sheets: What is Normal?

Continued from previous post, “Tales from the road”

During this same conversion, I witnessed another strange occurrence that happens when people blindly migrate to InDesign without first taking a look at the way both products perform.

The problem started when the layout artist opened the template that had been converted from InDesign to QuarkXPress using Markzware’s Q2ID. They would place a Microsoft word story in their document, and proceed to apply styles as needed. First they would select all of the text that appeared in the frame and apply the style “Body” from the Paragraph Style palette. And nothing would happen. The text still appeared bold and in a different font. They would hold Alt/Option and click on the style and again nothing would happen. This quickly frustrated the eight to ten layout artists.

To talk about the solution, we must first take a look at how paragraph styles work in Quark and InDesign. Every time you import a Microsoft Word document into Quark it automatically comes in styled just the way it was in Microsoft Word: same font, same size, etc… That is, unless you already set up a template in Word for your writers to create stories in, with styles that have the same names as the ones you have in your QuarkXPress document.

This is really the smartest and most cost-efficient way to go. First of all your publication doesn’t need to buy copies of QuarkXPress for your editorial staff. Secondly, if they actually apply the correct style, regardless of what the style looks like in Word, it takes on the appearance of the style of the same name after it is imported into Quark. And lastly, it saves the paginators the headache of re-styling text.

InDesign provides similar style import options. But the default in InDesign is to bring in the text styled the same way it looked in Word, and also add all of Word’s styles. This can really make a mess of your style sheet list because it will add Heading 1, Heading 2, and all the other style sheets applied in Word to your style sheet list in InDesign.

Because of this, my client changed InDesign’s default on every machine to remove all styles from text. This meant that the text would come in with the Basic Paragraph style.

Style SheetsWhat is the Basic paragraph style? InDesign’s Basic paragraph style is equivalent to Quark’s Normal style. The Normal Style is used every time you make a text box in Quark and begin to type. You have no idea how many people I surprise when I tell them this little piece of information. It simply means that every time I make a text box, if I want to type in Adobe Caslon Pro at 12 points with 14 point leading, I would simply edit the paragraph style named Normal. The trick to remember is that Word behaves the same way: even if you didn’t set up a template in Word for your writers, by default they’re typing in the Normal style. This means that if you import that document into Quark, and you had set up Quark’s Normal style to appear the way you want your body copy to appear, then all of the text would automatically come in styled correctly.

Back to the original problem. This problem is actually a lot like the tool preference problem I mentioned in my previous post. (Which was: in InDesign, if you have the text tool selected but no text frame active, and you click on a paragraph or character style, that style becomes the default for every text frame you subsequently create. But in Quark, you can’t accidentally change the style — you can only change the style by editing it in the Style Sheets palette.)

What had happened, and I have seen this numerous times before, is that the person who created the template in InDesign was checking out some of the other styles before they closed it, and mistakenly set a different style as a default. This meant that all the attributes of a random Character style were being applied when the text was placed into InDesign. And the reason why they couldn’t clear the character style by Alt/Option clicking (like they could in QuarkXPress) was because InDesign’s styles don’t work like that. You have to manually apply the character style of None to clear the character styles.

So the solution was to select the type tool, and select the character style of None to reset the default before a text import. However, I believe the real solution was for this company to upgrade to QuarkXPress 7. They needed to compare the features they wanted in InDesign to the features they would get in Quark. Because in Quark, Normal is always normal!