Use the tools in the InDesign Toolbox

Toolbox overview

Some tools in the toolbox are for selecting, editing, and creating page elements. Other tools are for choosing type, shapes, lines, and gradients. You can change the overall layout of the toolbox to fit your preferred window and panel layout. By default, the toolbox appears as a single vertical column of tools. You can also set it up as a double vertical column or as one horizontal row. However, you can’t rearrange the positions of individual tools in the toolbox. You can drag the top of the toolbox to move it.

Select a tool from the default toolbox by clicking it. The toolbox also contains several hidden tools related to the visible tools. Hidden tools are indicated by arrows to the right of the tool icons. Select a hidden tool by clicking and holding the current tool in the toolbox and then selecting the tool that you want.

The name of the tool and its keyboard shortcut appear when you hold the pointer over the tool—this text is called the tool tip. You can turn off tool tips by choosing None from the Tool Tips menu in Interface preferences.


Open the Tool Hints panel (choose Window > Utilities > Tool Hints) to see which shortcut and modifier keys work with the selected tool.

List of tools
List of tools in the Toolbox


Content Collector and Content Placer tools are not available in CS5.5 or earlier.

Display the toolbox

  1. Choose Window > Tools.

Display tool options

  1. Double-click a tool in the toolbox.

    This procedure works only for some tools, such as the Eyedropper, Pencil, and Polygon tools.

Display and select hidden tools

  1. In the toolbox, position the pointer over a tool that has hidden tools and hold down the mouse button.

  2. When the hidden tools appear, select a tool.

Hidden tools menu
Hidden tools menu

Select tools temporarily

  1. When one tool is selected, hold down the keyboard shortcut of a different tool.

  2. With the keyboard shortcut still held down, perform an action.

  3. Release the keyboard shortcut to return to the previous tool.

For example, if the Gap tool is selected, hold down the V key to temporarily use the Selection tool. When you release the V key, the Gap tool is selected.

View tool hints

The Tool Hints panel describes how modifier keys work with the selected tool.

  1. Choose Window > Utilities > Tool Hints to display the Tool Hints panel.

  2. Select a tool in the toolbox to view a description of that tool and its modifier keys and shortcuts.

Change the toolbox layout

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Interface (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Interface (Mac OS).

  2. Choose a layout option from the Floating Tools Panel menu and click OK.

You can also click the double arrow icon at the top of the toolbox to change the toolbox layout.

Tools overview

Type tools

Create and format type in standard or customized blocks or paths. (See Create text frames.)

Drawing tools

Draw and style simple and complex objects, including rectangles, ellipses, polygons, freeform shapes. (See Drawing.)

Selection tools

Select (activate) objects, points, or lines. (See Selecting objects.)

Transform tools

Reshape, reorient, and resize objects. (See Transforming objects.)

Navigation tools

Move around in, control the view of, and measure distances in a document. (See Zoom in and out and Rulers and measurement units.)

The Scissors tool

Splits paths and frames. (See Split a path.)

Selection tool lets you select entire objects.

Direct Selection tool lets you select points on a path or contents within a frame.

Page tool lets you create multiple page sizes within a document.

Gap tool lets you adjust the space between objects.

Pen tool lets you draw straight and curved paths.

Add Anchor Point tool lets you add anchor points to a path.

Delete Anchor Point tool lets you remove anchor points from a path.

Convert Direction Point tool lets you convert corner points and smooth points.

Type tool lets you create text frames and select text.

Vertical Type tools lets you create vertical text frames and select text.

Type on a Path tool lets you create and edit type on paths.

Pencil tool lets you draw a freeform path.

Smooth tool lets you remove excess angles from a path.

Erase tool lets you delete points on a path.

Line tool lets you draw a line segment.

Rectangle Frame tool lets you create a square or rectangle placeholder.

Ellipse Frame tool lets you create a circle or oval placeholder.

Polygon Frame tool lets you create a multi-sided shape placeholder.

Rectangle tool lets you create a square or rectangle.

Ellipse tool lets you create a circle or oval.

Polygon tool lets you create multi-sided shape.

Free Transform tool lets you rotate, scale, or shear an object.

Rotate tool lets you rotate objects around a fixed point.

Scale tool lets you resize objects around a fixed point.

Shear tool lets you skew objects around a fixed point.

Eyedropper tool lets you sample color or type attributes from objects and apply them to other objects.

Measure tool measures the distance between two points.

Gradient Swatch tool lets you adjust the beginning and ending points and angle of gradients within objects.

Gradient Feather tool lets you fade an object into the background.

Scissors tool cuts paths at specified points.

Hand tool moves the page view within the document window.

Zoom tool increases and decreases the view magnification in the document window.

Note tool lets you add comments.