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Ruler guides

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Create ruler guides

Ruler guides are different from grids in that they can be positioned freely on a page or on a pasteboard. You can create two kinds of ruler guides: page guides, which appear only on the page on which you create them, or spread guides, which span all pages and the pasteboard of a multiple-page spread. You can drag any ruler guide to the pasteboard. A ruler guide is displayed or hidden with the layer on which it was created.

New ruler guides always appear on the target spread. For example, if several spreads are visible in the document window and you drag a new guide into the window, the new guide becomes visible only on the target spread.

Guides in the document window

A. Spread guide B. Page guide 

Create a ruler guide

  1. Make sure that both rulers and guides are visible, make sure the correct spread is targeted, and view the document in Normal View mode, not Preview mode.
  2. If the document contains multiple layers, click a layer name in the Layers panel to target the layer.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To create a page guide, position the pointer inside a horizontal or vertical ruler and then drag to the desired location on the target spread. If you drop the guide onto the pasteboard, it spans the pasteboard and spread; it will act as a page guide if you later drag it onto a page.

    • To create a spread guide, drag from the horizontal or vertical ruler, keeping the pointer in the pasteboard but positioning the guide at the desired location on the target spread.

    • To toggle between horizontal and vertical guides, select the guide and hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS).

    • To create a spread guide when the pasteboard is not visible (for example, when you’ve zoomed in), press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you drag from the horizontal or vertical ruler to the target spread.

    • To create a spread guide without dragging, double-click a specific position on the horizontal or vertical ruler. If you want to snap the guide to the nearest tick mark, hold down the Shift key when you double-click the ruler.

    • To create vertical and horizontal guides simultaneously, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you drag from the target spread’s ruler intersection to the desired location.

A vertical and horizontal guide created concurrently


To reposition a ruler guide numerically, select the guide and enter values for X and Y in the Control panel.

Create a set of evenly spaced page guides

  1. If the document contains multiple layers, click a layer name in the Layers panel to target the layer.
  2. Choose Layout > Create Guides.
  3. For Number, type a value to specify the number of rows or columns you want to create.
  4. For Gutter, type a value to specify the spacing between rows or columns. Start with a low value, such as 1 pica; large gutters leave little space for columns.

    Columns created with the Create Guides command are not the same as those created with the Layout > Margins And Columns command. For example, columns created using Create Guides cannot control text flow when a text file is placed. Use the Margins And Columns command to create major column divisions appropriate for autoflow text, and use the Create Guides command to create column grids and other layout aids.

  5. For Fit Guides To, click Margins to create the guides within the page margins, or click Page to create the guides within the page edges.
    Ruler guides evenly spaced within page margins (left) and page edges (right)

  6. To delete any existing guides (including guides on locked or hidden layers), select Remove Existing Ruler Guides.
  7. If you like, select Preview to see the effect of your settings on the page, and then click OK.

The Create Guides command can create page guides only; it cannot create spread guides.


To space existing guides a uniform distance apart, select the guides (by dragging or pressing Shift as you click with the mouse). Then, select Use Spacing from the Control panel, type the space value in the text box, and press Enter or Return to confirm. Click either Distribute Horizontal Centers  or Distribute Vertical Centers  to the left of the Use Spacing option.

Show or hide guides

  • To show or hide all margin, column, and ruler guides, choose View > Grids & Guides > Show/Hide Guides.
  • To show or hide ruler guides on one layer only without changing the visibility of the layer’s objects, double-click the layer name in the Layers panel, select or deselect Show Guides, and then click OK.
  • To show or hide guides and all other non-printing elements, click the Preview Mode icon  at the bottom of the Toolbox.

Work with ruler guides

You can change the attributes of individual ruler guides, and you can move, cut, copy, paste, or delete multiple ruler guides simultaneously. Cut or copied ruler guides can be pasted to other pages or documents, but not to other programs. To change attributes of specific guides, you must select the guides you want to change. When no guides are selected, the Ruler Guides command sets the defaults for new guides only.

Select ruler guides

Unselected ruler guides appear light blue by default. Selected ruler guides are highlighted in their layer color. When a guide is selected, the Reference Point icon in the Control panel changes to  or , representing the selected guide.

  • To select a single ruler guide, use the Selection tool  or the Direct Selection tool  and click the guide to highlight it in its layer color.

If you can’t select a ruler guide and the View > Grids & Guides > Lock Guides command is already deselected, the guide might be on that page’s parent, or on a layer where guides are locked.

  • To select multiple ruler guides, hold down Shift as you click guides using the Selection or Direct Selection tool. You can also drag over multiple guides, as long as the selection marquee doesn’t touch or enclose any other object.
  • To select all ruler guides on the target spread, press Ctrl+Alt+G (Windows) or Command+Option+G (Mac OS).

Move ruler guides

  1. Using Selection tool  or the Direct Selection tool  , do any of the following:
    • To move a ruler guide, drag it.

    • To move multiple ruler guides, shift-select the guides you want to move, and then drag them.

      Move selected guides just as you would any other selected object, including nudging with the arrow keys and using the Control or Transform panels.

    • To make a guide snap to a ruler tick mark, press Shift as you drag it. Or select the guide, press and hold down the Shift key, and then click the mouse button.

    • To move a spread guide, drag the part of the guide that’s on the pasteboard, or press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you drag the guide from within the page.

    • To move guides to another page or document, select one or more guides, choose Edit > Copy or Edit > Cut, go to another page, and then choose Edit > Paste. If you’re pasting onto a page of the same size and orientation as the guides’ original page, the guides appear in the same position.


The Paste Remembers Layers option affects the layer on which pasted guides appear.

Delete ruler guides

  • To delete individual guides, select one or more ruler guides and then press Delete. (You can also drag ruler guides and drop them on a ruler to delete them.)
  • To delete all ruler guides on the target spread, right-click (Windows) or Ctrl-click (Mac OS) a selected guide or ruler, and choose Delete All Guides On Spread.

If you cannot delete a guide, it may be locked, it may be on a parent page, or it may be on a locked layer.

Customize ruler guides

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To change options for one or more existing ruler guides, select those ruler guides.

    • To set default options for new ruler guides, deselect all guides by clicking in an empty area.

  2. Choose Layout > Ruler Guides.
  3. For View Threshold, specify the magnification below which ruler guides do not appear. This prevents ruler guides from appearing too close together at lower magnifications.
  4. For Color, choose a color or choose Custom to specify a custom color in the system color picker. Then click OK.

You can set the current magnification as the view threshold for new ruler guides by pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you drag the ruler guides you’ve selected.

Lock or unlock ruler guides

  • To lock or unlock all ruler guides, choose View > Grids & Guides > Lock Guides to select or deselect the menu command.
  • To lock or unlock ruler guides on one layer only, without changing the visibility of the layer’s objects, double-click the layer name in the Layers panel, select or deselect Lock Guides, and then click OK.

Change ruler guide stacking order

By default, ruler guides appear in front of all other guides and objects. However, some ruler guides may block your view of such objects as lines with narrow stroke widths. You can change the Guides in Back preference to display ruler guides in front of or behind all other objects. However, regardless of the Guides in Back setting, objects and ruler guides are always in front of margin and column guides. Also, although putting guides on different layers organizes them structurally, it does not affect their visual stacking order—the Guides in Back preference stacks all ruler guides as a single set in relation to all page objects.

Default stacking order

A. Ruler guides B. Page objects C. Margin and column guides D. Page 

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard (Mac OS).
  2. Select Guides in Back, and click OK.

Snap objects to guides and grids

To precisely align objects to guides, use the Snap To Guides and Snap To Document Grid commands. Object edges will snap to (be pulled toward) the nearest grid intersection or guide when you draw, move, or resize the objects.

The exact range within which an object snaps to guides is called the snap-to zone, which you can adjust. When you select both the Snap To Guides and the Snap To Document Grid commands, the grid takes precedence.

Keep the following guidelines in mind as you align objects to guides and grids:

  • To snap an object to a guide, drag an object toward a guide until one or more of the object’s edges is within the guide’s snap-to zone.

  • Guides must be visible for objects to snap to them. However, objects can snap to the document and baseline grids whether the grids are visible or not.

  • Objects on one layer snap to ruler guides visible on any other layer. If you don’t want objects to snap to guides on a certain layer, hide that layer’s guides.

  • To snap the text baseline to the baseline grid, choose Grid Alignment > Roman Baseline from the Control panel menu or Paragraph panel menu. Alternatively, set Grid Alignment to Roman Baseline from the column style Grid Settings.

  • For the baselines of text to snap to the baseline grid, press the Align to Baseline Grid button  for individual paragraphs or paragraph styles.

  1. Choose View > Grids & Guides and make sure that Snaps To Guides is selected (checked).

    The Snap To Guides command controls both snapping to guides and snapping to the baseline grid.

  2. To specify the snap-to zone, choose Edit > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard (Mac OS), type a value for Snap To Zone, and click OK. The Snap To Zone value is always in pixels.

Use smart guides

The Smart Guides feature makes it easy to snap objects to items in your layout. As you drag or create an object, temporary guides appear, indicating that the object is aligned with an edge or center of the page or with another page item.

By default, the Smart Guides feature is selected. You can turn off smart guides, or you can turn off any of the smart guide categories:

Smart Object Alignment

Smart object alignment allows for easy snapping to page item centers or edges. In addition to snapping, smart guides dynamically draw to indicate which object is being snapped to.

Smart Dimensions

Smart dimension feedback appears when you’re resizing, creating, or rotating page items. For example, if you rotate one object on your page 24 degrees, a rotation icon appears as you rotate another object close to 24 degrees. This hint lets you snap the object to the same rotation angle of the adjacent object. Similarly, as you resize an object next to another object, a line segment with arrows at each end lets you snap the object to the same width or height as the adjacent object.

Smart Spacing

Smart spacing lets you quickly arrange page items with the help of temporary guides that indicate when the spacing between objects is even.

Smart Cursors

Smart cursor feedback appears in a gray box as X and Y values when you’re moving or resizing object or as a measurement when you’re rotating values. The Show Transformation Values option in Interface preferences lets you turn smart cursors on and off.

For a video tutorial on using smart guides, see

Turn smart guides on or off

  1. Choose View > Grids & Guides > Smart Guides.

Turn smart guide categories on or off

  1. Open the Guides & Pasteboard preferences.
  2. Indicate whether you want Align To Object Center, Align To Object Edge, Smart Dimensions, and Smart Spacing turned on or off, and click OK.

To turn off smart cursors, which displays the X and Y values of objects you mouse over, deselect Show Transformation Values in Interface preferences.

Change the appearance of smart guides

  1. Open the Guides & Pasteboard section of the Preferences dialog box.
  2. Choose a different color from the Smart Guides menu, and click OK.

Tips for using Smart Guides

  1. Smart Guides take effect only on page items and intersections that are in the current page view. If you have many objects on a page and are trying to align an object to another object or objects in particular, zoom in on that area specifically.If you don’t want Smart Guides to snap to column guides, turn off Snap To Guides temporarily by choosing View > Grids & Guides > Snap To Guides.The Smart Guides feature is accurate regardless of zoom percentage, so it isn’t necessary to zoom in to see if two objects are really aligned at their left edges, for example.


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