There are three main ways to use Drop Caps and Nested Styles feature: to apply a character style to a drop cap, to apply a nested style to text at the beginning of a paragraph, and to apply a nested line style to one or more lines in a paragraph.

Apply a character style to a drop cap

You can apply a character style to the drop-cap character or characters in a paragraph. For example, if you want a drop-cap character to have a different color and font than the rest of the paragraph, you can define a character style that has these attributes. Then you can either apply the character style directly to a paragraph, or you can nest the character style in a paragraph style.

Drop cap formatted automatically
Drop cap formatted automatically by nested character style

  1. Create a character style that has the formatting you want to use for the drop-cap character.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To apply the drop cap to a single paragraph, choose Drop Caps And Nested Styles from the Paragraph panel menu.

    • To nest the character style in a paragraph style, double-click the paragraph style, and then click Drop Caps And Nested Styles.

  3. Specify the number of drop-cap lines and characters, and then choose the character style.
  4. If the drop cap is aligned too far away from the left edge, select Align Left Edge.

    Selecting this option uses the original left side bearing of the drop-cap character rather than the larger value. It’s particularly useful for drop caps formatted in sans serif fonts.

  5. If the drop cap character overlaps the text below it, select Scale For Descenders.
  6. Click OK.

If you want to apply a different nested style to any characters after the drop cap, use the New Nested Style option. (See Create nested styles.)

Create nested styles

You can specify character-level formatting for one or more ranges of text within a paragraph or line. You can also set up two or more nested styles to work together, one taking over where the previous one ends. For paragraphs with repetitive and predictable formatting, you can even loop back to the first style in the sequence.

Nested styles are especially useful for run-in headings. For example, you can apply one character style to the first letter in a paragraph and another character style that takes effect through the first colon (:). For each nested style, you can define a character that ends the style, such as a tab character or the end of a word.

Number character style formats the first word
In this example, the Number character style formats the first word, and the Run-in character style formats text through the first colon.

Michael Murphy provides an article on nested styles at InDesign's Nested Styles Auto-Format Multiple Paragraphs. He also provides a series of video tutorials that starts at Nested Style Sheets.

Create one or more nested styles

  1. Create one or more character styles that you want to use to format text.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To add nested styles to a paragraph style, double-click the paragraph style, and then click Drop Caps And Nested Styles.

    • To add nested styles to a single paragraph, choose Drop Caps And Nested Styles from the Paragraph panel menu.

    Note:

    For best results, apply nested styles as part of paragraph styles. If you apply nested styles as local overrides to a paragraph, subsequent editing or formatting changes in the nested style can produce unexpected character formatting in the styled text.

  3. Click New Nested Style one or more times.
  4. Do any of the following for each style, and then click OK:
    • Click the character style area, and then select a character style to determine the appearance of that section of the paragraph. If you haven’t created a character style, choose New Character Style and specify the formatting you want to use.

    • Specify the item that ends the character style formatting. You can also type the character, such as a colon (:) or a specific letter or number. You cannot type a word.

    • Specify how many instances of the selected item (such as characters, words, or sentences) are required.

    • Choose Through or Up To. Choosing Through includes the character that ends the nested style, while choosing Up To formats only those characters that precede this character.

    • Select a style and click the up button  or down button  to change the order of the styles in the list. The order of the styles determines the sequence in which the formatting is applied. The formatting defined by the second style begins where the formatting of the first style concludes. If you apply a character style to the drop cap, the drop-cap character style acts as the first nested style.

Create nested line styles

You can apply a character style to a specified number of lines in a paragraph. As with nested styles, you can set up two or more nested line styles to work together, and you can create a repeating sequence.

Attributes applied by nested line styles can co-exist with attributes applied by nested styles. For example, a nested line style can apply a color while a nested style can apply italics. If both set conflicting settings of the same attribute, such as red and blue, the nested style takes precedence over the nested line style.

  1. Create one or more character styles that you want to use to format text.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To add nested line styles to a paragraph style, double-click the paragraph style, and then click Drop Caps And Nested Styles.

    • To add nested line styles to a single paragraph, choose Drop Caps And Nested Styles from the Paragraph panel menu.

  3. Click New Nested Line Style one or more times.
  4. Click the character style area, and then select a character style to determine the appearance of that section. If you haven’t created a character style, choose New Character Style and specify the formatting you want to use.
  5. Specify the number of paragraph lines you want the character style to affect.

    Select a style and click the up button  or down button  to change the order of the styles in the list. The order determines the sequence in which the formatting is applied.

  6. Click OK.

Loop through nested styles

You can repeat a series of two or more nested styles throughout a paragraph. A simple example would be to alternate red and green words in a paragraph. Or, in nested line styles you could alternate red and green lines in a paragraph. The repeating pattern remains intact even if you add or remove words in the paragraph.

  1. Create the character styles you want to use.
  2. Edit or create a paragraph style, or place the insertion point in the paragraph you want to format.
  3. In the Drop Caps And Nested Styles section or dialog box, click New Nested Style (or New Nested Line Style) at least twice and choose settings for each style.
  4. Do either of the following:
    • For nested styles, click New Nested Style again, choose [Repeat] in the character style area, and specify how many nested styles will be repeated.

    • For nested line styles, click New Nested Line Style again, choose [Repeat] in the character style area, and specify how many lines will be repeated.

    In some cases, you may want to skip the first style or styles. For example, an events calendar paragraph may include “This Week’s Events” followed by days of the week and their events. In this case, you could create five nested styles: one for “This Week’s Events,” one each for the day, event, and event time, and a final style with a [Repeat] value of 3, thereby excluding the first nested style from the loop.

    The [Repeat] item should be the last in the list. Any nested style below [Repeat] is ignored.

    Looping through nested styles
    Looping through nested styles

  5. Click OK.

Nested style character style options

To determine how a nested character style ends, select any of the following:

Note:

If you don’t want the character to be included in the nested style formatted, choose Up To instead of Through when you define the nested style.

Sentences

Periods, question marks, and exclamation points indicate the end of a sentence. If a quotation mark follows the punctuation, it is included as part of the sentence.

Words

Any space or white space character indicates the end of a word.

Characters

Any character other than zero-width markers (for anchors, index markers, XML tags and so on) is included.

Note:

If you select Characters, you can also type a character, such as a colon or a period, to end the nested style. If you type multiple characters, any of those characters will end the style. For example, if your run-in headings end with a hyphen, colon, or question mark, you can type -:? to end the nested style where any of these characters appears.

Letters

Any character that does not include punctuation, white space, digits, and symbols.

Digits

The Arabic numerals 0–9 are included.

End Nested Style Character

Extends the nested style up to or through the appearance of the End Nested Style character you insert. To insert this character, choose Type > Insert Special Character > Other > End Nested Style Here.

Tab Characters

Extends the nested style up to or through the tab character (not the tab setting).

Forced Line Break

Extends the nested style up to or through the forced line break. (Choose Type > Insert Break Character > Forced Line Break.)

Indent To Here Character

Extends the nested style up to or through the Indent To Here character. (Choose Type > Insert Special Character > Other > Indent To Here.)

Em Spaces, En Spaces, or Non-breaking Spaces

Extends the nested style up to or through the space character. (Choose Type > Insert White Space > [space character].)

Anchored Object Marker

Extends the nested style up to or through an inline graphic marker, which appears where an inline graphic is inserted.

Auto Page Number / Section Marker

Extends the nested style up to or through the page number or section name marker.

End a nested style

In most cases, a nested style ends where the condition of the defined style is met, such as after three words or where a period appears. However, you can also end a nested style before the condition is met using the End Nested Style Here character.

  1. Place the insertion point where you want the nested style to end.
  2. Choose Type > Insert Special Character > Other > End Nested Style Here.

This character ends the nested style at that point, regardless of the nested style definition.

Remove the formatting of a nested style

  • In the Drop Caps And Nested Styles dialog box, or in the Drop Caps And Nested Styles section of the Paragraph Style Options dialog box, select the nested style and click Delete.
  • Apply a different paragraph style.

Create GREP styles

GREP is an advanced, pattern-based search technique. You can use GREP styles to apply a character style to text that conforms to the GREP expression you specify. For example, suppose you want to apply a character style to all the phone numbers in text. When you create a GREP style, you select the character style and specify the GREP expression. All paragraph text that matches the GREP expression is formatted with the character style.

GREP style
Using GREP style to format phone numbers with a character style

A. Character style B. GREP expression 

David Blatner provides real-world examples of GREP styles at 5 Cool Things You Can Do with GREP Styles. Cari Jansen provides a four-part series about GREP styles that begins at Introducing GREP Styles.

  1. Do one of the following:

    • To apply GREP styling to individual paragraphs, select the paragraphs and choose Grep Styles from the Paragraph or Control panel menu.
    • To use GREP styles in a paragraph style, create or edit a paragraph style, and click the GREP Styling tab on the left side of the Paragraph Style Options dialog box.
  2. Click New GREP Style.

  3. Click to the right of Apply Style, and then specify a character style. If you haven’t created a character style to use, choose New Character Style and specify the formatting you want to use.

  4. Click to the right of To Text and do any of the following to construct a GREP expression:

    • Enter the search expression manually. (See Metacharacters for searching.)

    • Click the Special Characters For Search icon to the right of the To Text field. Choose options from the Locations, Repeat, Match, Modifiers, and Posix submenus to help construct the GREP expression.

  5. Click OK.

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