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Suggestion: Complete overhaul to tables in InDesign

Community Beginner ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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Sorry to be curt, but why are tables so terrible? How is it that the market leading software package in layout design has such awful table functionality?

It's so haphazardly put together - you have to click very carefully to navigate around the table, depending on whether you wanted to type in a cell or just select it, the tools for adjusting the appearance of cells, columns etc. are so difficult and unintuitive to use, and the greatest insult is that if you happen to be inside the table window, but not in a cell, and you type a letter (like, I don't know, if you were planning on using the keyboard shortcut to select another tool), you actually type a letter into a line above the table, shifting it down a bit. Who on earth thought this was acceptable? Are tables just elaborate text boxes? Is that how this happened?

Why is it not possible to simply click one or two buttons to make all your rows or columns have a uniform width/height? Why, when I adjust the width of a column, is there not an option for this to affect multiple columns? Why is it that the total width/height of a table cannot be constrained to the size of the bounding box it's in? Why, when the table exceeds these limits, does a column or row just disappear? Why am I left just eyeballing it to make sure my table is neat and evenly spaced out? Why isn't there an option to disallow columns/rows to disappear when they exceed the limits - instead of just adjusting their own width/height to allow room? It's 2019. Tables have been like this for years. Adobe is a huge corporation with millions in revenue - why can't they just assign someone to write a new table system?

Suggested fix:

Better, more intuitive table panel. Yes, we have the context sensitive tools on the top panel, but let's be honest, they're fiddly, and yes, we already have a tables panel, but that's also far too ineffective. We need tools that you can actually use to make changes to the table using your cursor, rather than having to eyeball it or the in numbers. We also need a full colour picker for the cell styles (we need a PROPER RGB/CMYK/HSB colour picker for InDesign in general anyway, but lets pick our battles here, and save that for another thread). Because at the moment we can only select colours from the swatches panel to go into a cell style.

It's frankly a farce that Adobe has been taking this much money off of us for so long, without actually making much of an effort to improve their software. Yes, other things have improved and a lot of stuff is happening with After Effects and other, new software packages, but do not forget about InDesign, please. You might be the biggest software package on the market, but if you get complacent, you won't be for long.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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I agree that tables can use some TLC. My requests are for being able to highlight several rows and instead of being able to merge all the cells only, give me the option to merge only the columns or only the rows in that selection.

That said, because this is generally a user-to-user forum (Adobe staff do come in and read the comments, but largely the community of InDesign users field the majority of questions) may I suggest you make the same suggestion over on the InDesign Feedback page? Adobe InDesign Feedback

That page is read by the InDesign team directly, and they provide status reports on what features/bugs they are looking at. It's also your opportunity to add any suggestions or file any bug reports.

I'm not trying to make light of your suggestion - I agree with everything you said - I just feel it will be heard by the right people if it is submitted to the feedback page.

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Community Beginner ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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Thank you, I was trying to find a feedback section, so thanks for giving me that link.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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Hi Joe,

I agree with nearly all you say about tables.

In the meanwhile see into some scripts that can do something for you regarding control of column width, merging cells etc.pp.:

Marc Autret | SmartCellMerge

http://www.indiscripts.com/post/2012/04/improve-the-way-you-merge-cells-in-indesign

Gerald Singelmann | Autocolumn II

Set table-columns numerically II | InDesign FAQ

Just to name two handy scripts.

Regards,
Uwe

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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To build on Uwe's suggested scripts, I have produced a video that shows off some other table scripts that may be of assistance: Must Have! Episode 5: Table Scripts Part One - Changing Contents - YouTube (headphone warning at the start)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Joe+Jacob  wrote

Sorry to be curt, but why are tables so terrible? How is it that the market leading software package in layout design has such awful table functionality?

It's 2019. Tables have been like this for years. Adobe is a huge corporation with millions in revenue - why can't they just assign someone to write a new table system?

Hi Joe,

We are users, as you are, and Colin has given you the link for feature requests. You might want to post that link back here so we can vote.

To put InDesign’s tables in perspective, InDesign was created at Aldus, known for Aldus PageMaker. To create a table there, you went into a table editor and took a picture, then put the picture of the table into PageMaker. It was pretty horrendous, especially if there were edits.

When QuarkXPress first came out, it did not have tables. Eventually it had what they called tables, but it was kind of picture boxes and text boxes grouped together and could not extend onto a second page.

Ventura Publisher had an amazing table feature, but it failed at its attempt on Mac, and eventually lost it’s base after Xerox and later Corel bought it.

So having worked with tables in VP, Quark, PageMaker, DOS WordPerfect 4.2, Windows WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Excel, I don’t have too many problems working with tables in InDesign. If you don’t like InDesign’s tables, you would have hated what passed for a table in PageMaker and QuarkXPress!

That said, there are a few improvements I would love to see, and you mentioned some.

To address a couple of your points:

  • Have you selected mutiple rows or columns and used Distribute to make them the same size?
  • And when resizing columns manually, have you tried it with and without the Shift key?
  • And have you looked in the Story Editor at your table to collapse and expand it?
  • InDesign wants you to use named swatches. You can apply the swatch as a fill to a cell from the Control panel or the Swatches panel as well as the Cell Options dialog. IMHO, access to unnamed colors here would not be a good idea for consistency.

I highly recommend this title on creating tables from Diane Burns, plus there are individual chapters in other titles. Note that lynda.com is now linkedinlearning.com.

InDesign: Tables

Thanks for starting this thread on tables!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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Thanks, Jane, for providing some excellent commentary and context about InDesign tables, compared to other applications, and good sources of information about how to become a table expert.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 29, 2019 Jan 29, 2019

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https://forums.adobe.com/people/Steve+Werner  wrote

Thanks, Jane, for providing some excellent commentary and context about InDesign tables, compared to other applications, and good sources of information about how to become a table expert.

Thanks, Steve, for your kind thoughts. I do love tables.

~ Jane

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