December 21, 2006

ASK MORDY: Hanging Indents

Jarrod Galm asks the following question:

In Quark, when creating bulleted lists, there's a way to align the text so that when the text returns, it doesn't align under the bullet. You place the cursor between the bullet and the first letter of the word following the bullet and use the command Cmd + \ (or something like that). Is there a similar command in Illustrator? ... Currently, the only way I know how to accomplish this in Illustrator is to use the spacebar which may or may not give the proper alignment under the first letter of the first line following the bullet point.

Ah yes -- you are correct that the keyboard command is Command-Backslash in both Quark and InDesign for the feature that is called "Indent to Here". It's a quick way to create a hanging indent, used most often in bulleted lists, numbered lists, and the like. In reality, InDesign CS2 sports specific paragraph settings to do automatic bullets and page numbering, but there are still plenty of good uses for the Indent to Here feature.

But enough about InDesign -- how do we create this in Illustrator? Well since Indent to Here is not a feature in Illustrator (it should be though), we have to do things "the good old fashioned way" (back in my day, we designed logos with rubdown transfer letters... and we liked it). In our example, we'll use tabs and indents to Get It Done.

Step 1: It's easiest to use Area text instead of Point text for these kinds of things. Use your Type tool to create an Area text object.

Step 2: Format your text correctly. To use this method, enter your text in the following way: {Bullet character} {tab character} {text}.

Step 3: Choose Window > Type > Tabs and set a left tab at .25 inches*

Step 4: Choose Window > Type > Paragraph and set your Left Indent to .25 in (same as 18 pt), and then set your First Line Indent to -.25 in (same as -18 pt). Yes, that last value is negative.

*I used a measurement of .25" for the text in my example. But you should use the value that works right for your chosen point size and typeface. Avoid using spaces to align text because spaces are relative units and change based on font and point size.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! Great post. :)

I am looking forward to a more automated way to format bulleted lists (AI CS3 perhaps?), but for now, this works very well, thanks!

mordygolding said...

You might have better luck trying InDesign... ;)

Matt Harrington said...


Simon said...

Thanks Mordy. I never even knew the the TAB window existed.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm reaching into the past here, but you just saved me TONS of time and a huge headache. Thank you!!!