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Essential InDesign CS3 Keyboard Shortcuts

Updated on June 30, 2011

Hey all you fellow creatives :)

If you are not aware as yet, allow me to enlighten you at this point. It is an absolute essential to learn up as many short cuts and tricks using keyboard shortcuts in InDesign CS3, CS4 and CS5 as possible in order to speed up your work and boost productivity. For those of you who have been using keyboard shortcuts, good on you! And for you lot who do not know what it is and how it will help make you more efficient, read on....

What is a keyboard shortcut?

A keyboard shortcut allows you to work, when pressing a combination of keystrokes, invokes a command in InDesign to perform some task without having to take your hands off the keyboard to use the mouse! The whole concept behind it is to facilitate you to work faster and increase your efficiency level. This becomes especially handy during those times when you have your boss breathing down your neck and checking his watch on a constant basis because you have a deadline to meet!

Skill Level: Beginner

InDesign Resource

Adobe InDesign CS5 Training DVD - Tutorial Video (Win & Mac)
Adobe InDesign CS5 Training DVD - Tutorial Video (Win & Mac)

An indispensable resource for anyone wanting to learn this powerful, often intimidating page layout and design program.

Type Tool Keyboard Shortcut
Type Tool Keyboard Shortcut

Memorising Keyboard Shortcuts

If you think you have trouble memorising keyboard shortcuts keystrokes, can I encourage you to at least start with learning up 5 keystroke combination. It is not possible to memorise the shortcuts for every tool, just do it for the ones you use most often. For starters,every tool in the tool panel has its own keyboard shortcut. All you have to do is hover your mouse over the tool panel, wait for a split second and you will see the keyboard shortcut as defaulted by InDesign.

Type tool - just press the letter 'T' on the keyboard and the mouse will jump straight to the Type tool.
Rotate tool - just press the letter 'R' on the keyboard
Scale tool - just press the letter 'S' on the keyboard
Selection tool - 'V'
Direct Selection tool
- 'A'
Pen tool
- 'P'
Eyedropper tool - 'I'
Free transorm tool - 'E'
Zoom - 'Z'
Guides - 'Ctrl + ;'
Actual Size - 'Ctrl + 1'
Fit Page in Window - 'Ctrl + 1'

etc. etc.

Give your keyboard shortcut set a new name in the dialogue box.
Give your keyboard shortcut set a new name in the dialogue box.
Click on Show Set
Click on Show Set

Assigning Keyboard Shortcuts Instructions

Go to the Menu. Notice that if there is a keyboard shortcut assigned, it will appear in the menu. However, not every menu item has a keyboard shortcut assigned to it. InDesign has the option for you to apply a keyboard shortcut to a feature that you use often. This is extremely handy.

To do that, go to the Edit Menu > Keyboard Shortcut. A dialogue box appears. As you cannot edit the Default set, you will have to create a new set, based on the default set. Look for the feature that you are wanting to edit and give it a new shortcut.

But if you do not know where the feature sits but do know what it is, we can do a search for it. For instance, I know that there is a feature that do not have a keyboard shortcut assigned to it and would like to assign one to it now. That feature is 'basic feather'. What you now need to do is click on 'Show Set'. A file appears.

A file appears.
A file appears.

Do a search for the feature by going to File>Find/Change (or the keyboard shortcut for this is Ctrl+F for PC or Cmd+F for Mac). Another dialogue box appears, type in 'basic feather', click Next and your file will zoom in to where 'basic feather' is.

Find your feature
Find your feature

Close the Find dialogue box. Scroll up to find out what Product Area this feature live in. It apparently is placed under the Product Area 'Object Menu'.

Find Product Area
Find Product Area

Close the Find dialogue box. Go back to the Keyboard Shortcut dialogue box, at the Product Area scroll bar, go to Object Menu. In the Commands list, select Effects: Basic Feather.

Select Basic Feather
Select Basic Feather

In the New Shortcut field, enter a combination of keystrokes that you will be able to remember and use regularly. I have decided on 'Ctrl+Alt+B' (note below the field, it says 'Currently assigned to [unassigned]', which is what you want. (If your combination of strokes is used for another feature, for instance 'Save as', it will then say 'Currently assigned to [Save as]'. Therefore those combination of strokes will not work.) Do not forget to click onto the 'Assign' button before clicking 'OK', otherwise it will not work.

Decide on combination of keystrokes. Click on Assign before you click OK.
Decide on combination of keystrokes. Click on Assign before you click OK.

That is all there is to it. You are now ready to use this new keyboard shortcut for Basic Feather. Try it out!

An essential keyboard shortcut

A useful and absolute essential Menu keyboard shortcut to know is that when you press the letter 'W', it toggles you in and out of Preview mode. I use this shortcut a lot. Everyday in fact. It assists me to view my document as it is, without the distracting margins and guides. Please view below.

Left: Out of Preview Mode and right: In Preview Mode
Left: Out of Preview Mode and right: In Preview Mode

Well, there you have it. A quick lesson in keyboard shortcuts in InDesign to help you quickly work in documents without using the mouse.

Adobe InDesign is a software application produced by Adobe Systems that is used by professional Graphic Designers and Production Artists. It is often used for creating and laying out artwork for projects such as catalogue, books, posters, magazines, newpaper, flyers and brochures.

This step-by-step Adobe InDesign tutorial is intended for beginners.

For more tutorials to little known secrets to InDesign or Illustrator, please go to
Little Known Secrets to Adobe InDesign
Little Known Secrets to Adobe Illustrator

You are welcome to print, share or link to this tutorial; however, please refrain from publishing by copying and pasting onto your site, forums, etc. If you have found this article helpful, please leave a comment or suggestions to other topics you might like to see written.

I welcome any ideas or suggestions that can be included into this hub with regards to Essential InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts. I personally have found using Keyboard Shortcuts to generally speed up my workflow, enabling me to complete my work in a shorter space of time. That comes in handy when speed is of the essence, does not quite work if you are paid by the hour!

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Meanwhile, take care. Keep smiling :)

-May PL

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    • May PL profile image

      May PL 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Thanks James, and I appreciate the link too.

    • profile image

      James Stroud 7 years ago

      Thanks for explaining. Nicely done. Putting a link to this page.