InDesign – Working with Libraries

Libraries are a great way to streamline often-occuring elements of your publications. Libraries store an Instance of an object or group of objects, which can then be dragged and dropped back into your document as a unique item. You can then edit that new item as you see fit, and it will not affect the library version, or any other drops of that library item.There are benefits to this system, because you can store things like ad dummy sizes, photo frames/cuts, headers and other elements that you may need, but still have the flexibility to edit them uniquely. If you add an item to a library that has been properly styled with Character, Paragraph and Object styles, it will retain the link to those styles – so if you later decide that a particular drop shadow, for example, needs to be lightened, you simply adjust the Object style, and the library item, as well as the dropped items, will update.

  1. Create a new Library.File > New > LibraryChoose a file name and location for your new library. You will be able to access the contents of the library in any InDesign document by opening the library.
  2. You will notice a new window appeared, this is your library, for now it is empty.
  3. Adding a new item: First, let’s create a very simple box, with centred text, with our favourite font: Myriad. Colour the box red, and colour the text white. To Vertically center your text, use Text Frame Options.Create a new Object style to inherit the styles of this box.Create a new Paragraph style to inherit the styles of the text. Make sure both styles are applied to our new object.
  4. Drag the item into the Library window, the cursor will change to a + to indicate you can add this item to a library, and release.
  5. 5 Double click the new entry, which defaults to “Untitled”, to edit the metadata for it. A title is necessary, however as far as i know, the object type has no discernible effect when changed, except for perhaps organization, and at your discretion can be left as is.
  6. We now have a new library item. Let’s drag and drop a few into our workspace just to test them out. Play around with them, change their sizes, fonts, strokes, etc to get a feel for it. Change the fill of one to green, and continue on. Now, lets change the styles. Try changing the colour of the Object style to Blue. You will notice all library elements styled with that object style are now blue – except for the one we manually changed! Drag another item from your library, you will notice it now follows the updated object style, like you would expect. While all this is really no great surprise, the utility of properly styling your library items should be easy to see.

    The object to the left has had its Fill changed through its Object Style, while the custom fill on the left box has overridden the updated style.

  7. 7 When you are done with your library it is often good practice to change it to Read Only, so that multiple people can have it open at the same time, but also, to lock it against unwanted changes, especially in a large office workplace. Remember that you will have to change it to Read / Write to make further changes.
  8. I also find that when making library entries it is safest to embed linked objects, then place them into your library, so that in the even that your links move, or you have to send your library to another workstation (taking it home with you), you will always have a complete and working library.
  9. Making changes to your libraries contents is simple – but somewhat unintuitive. As of CS4, you cannot replace a Library item – you will have to delete the old item, and add the updated item in its place. Unfortunately there is no other way around this, except for proper planning and styling from the start!