Hello everyone. I'm rather excited that I'm starting my first ever Typophile thread. I'm interested in my fellow Typohpiles' thoughts on an idea I had for an InDesign feature that might solve a number of related typesetting problems.
A recent Typohpile thread asked if there's an automated way to create a diagonal strikethrough through a piece of text. Let's imagine there is. Of course, for this to be possible, you would have to be able to tell InDesign where to start and stop this formatting and to treat everything in between these points as a solid clump of text. Otherwise, if this were a character-level option, you might get this:
instead of this:
But even if InDesign knew to make the diagonal span the entire selected phrase, what would happen if two adjacent strings of text had this effect applied? Would the strikethrough span the whole thing? How would the program know that two separate diagonals are wanted? The same problems apply to the idea of automating horizontal brace brackets, etc. used to show a grouping of text, in grammar textbooks, for example, as well as centering metrical diacritics above specific syllables (clusters of letters) in studies of poetry. I have needed to do all of these things at various points and found that there's no way to do them "automatically" — i.e., without drawing or dragging characters on another layer over the text frame and positioning them by hand.
Here's another example: I may be designing a children's book that occasionally has phrases printed upside-down or mirror-image. It would be wonderful to be able to apply these options to text, just as they can be applied to an object (in this case, a text frame), but this creates some of the same problems as above. If I want to invert just a word within a paragraph, InDesign would have to know to think of that cluster of letters as one entity and thus flip the entire chunk, not just the individual characters. (Not to mention contend with line breaks and reflowing text, etc.)
A last example: When designing literary journals, I sometimes want to center poetry on its longest line: in other words, let the whole block remain flush left, but center it as a whole relative the the page margins. I currently do this by centering the longest line, then selecting the rest of the lines and indenting them to match. But what if you could select the whole poem, tell InDesign, "treat this text as one 'chunk,'" and center that "chunk"?
In the first two examples, what I am talking about is really a type of formatting that is higher than character-level but lower than paragraph-level; the last example could easily be a higher-than-paragraph-level setting.
So I would like to propose the addition of two new special characters: "begin adjustment cluster" and "end adjustment cluster." They would be invisible characters that would instruct the program to treat some text as a single entity in regards to a certain operation. I'm very interested in hearing others' thoughts on this idea, as well as any other uses that such a feature might have. Of course, many of the examples here would require additional features for manipulating text that don't yet exist within the program, but allowing the user to specify a sort of custom level on which to apply text formatting could open the door to a variety of such features.