InDesign Defaults & Preferences (CC 2018 Update)

Quick List of Recommended Changes to Factory Settings

I recommend making the following changes after installing InDesign, before using it. Making these changes with no documents open will make them the new default settings.

Preferences (Mac: InDesign menu: Preferences; Windows: Edit menu: Preferences)

  • General: disable “Show ‘Start’ Workspace When No Documents Are Open.” This Start workspace protects new users from accidentally changing settings, but it prohibits intermediate and advanced users from customizing the application.
  • Interface: disable “Match Pasteboard to Theme Color.” If you want to use your pasteboard, you need to be able to see it properly.
  • Units & Increments: change Ruler Units from Picas to Inches or whatever you want. You can easily change units in any document by right-clicking the rulers; this is just to set the default.
  • Spelling: Enable Dynamic Spelling, if you want to underline misspelled words in red.
  • Display Performance: Set default view to High Quality, Adjust View Settings for High Quality so that Greek Type Below is 0. If you work on a very complex document with lots of high resolution graphics, you can change that document’s display performance settings in the view menu while it’s open.
  • Disable Publish Online, unless you are using it.

Settings found in menus:

  • Type: Show Hidden Characters. You can’t properly format your text if you can’t see these.
  • View: Extras: Show Text Threads. With this enabled clicking on a threaded text frame with the selection tool will show connecting lines to all frames in that story. Very useful.
  • View: Extras: Disable Content Grabber. The Content Grabber makes it too easy to accidentally move content when you’re just trying to move the frame.
  • Mac Only: Window: turn off the Application Frame if you want your panels glued to the screen, rather than put in a box like it would be on Windows.

Other settings:

  • Be sure to configure and save your workspace.
  • You can load swatches, styles, etc. with no documents open, and they will then be available for every document you create.
  • You can customize your keyboard shortcuts in the edit menu.

A Note on Hiding & Showing Non-printing Elements

InDesign has many non-printing elements that, in certain situations, can be very helpful. Some of these are enabled by default, such as ruler guides, margins & columns, and frame edges. More can be enabled via menus, as described above. My preference is to enable everything that is even remotely useful to me. Some might feel that this leads to a cluttered display; however, InDesign also has one single setting that can easily hide all of this stuff all at once: simply change to Preview Mode. When you need to see that stuff again, just switch to Normal View. And if the keyboard shortcut for preview mode (w) gives you grief, make your own custom shortcut for it to stop getting stray w’s in your layout.

Optional Settings

Here are a few more useful settings you might consider changing. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but rather just a few other settings I’ve found useful.


  • General: Use Legacy “New Document” Dialog, if the new one bothers you.
  • General: Object Editing: In some cases the default settings may cause undesired results. For example, “Include Effects” will make things like drop shadows get bigger as you enlarge a graphic — but if you want all the drop shadows to remain consistent regardless of scale, then this should be disabled.
  • Interface: select a Color Theme that is easy on your eyes while remaining legible.
  • Interface: Options: Live Screen Drawing. The “Delayed” option is what gives you that nice live preview of scaling/manipulating graphics and text frames as you resize them. If you want this to just always happen, rather than only happening when you click, hold for a second, and then start dragging, change this to “Immediate.”
  • Type: disable “Smart Text Reflow.” The only time this is useful is when you’re writing text in InDesign, as it will automatically add new frames. However, in many cases it creates undesirable empty frames at the ends of stories, can can make a real mess if matching an exact page count or column layout is a requirement.
  • Appearance of Black: recommend setting On Screen to “Display All Blacks Accurately.” This will show K:100% as a very dark gray, while rich blacks will appear darker. Very useful if you produce CMYK materials that will be printed on a printing press.

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