Repeat Performance: InDesign’s Useful if Imperfect Transform Again Individually Command

Full disclaimer, I stole, borrowed, actually learned the following knowledge thanks to a tweet from Friend of dekeOnline and former InDesign PM Michael Ninness. Every once in a while—probably when he’s creating beautiful reports full of useful insights in his high falutin’ position as‘s SVP of Strategic Development—Michael remembers something useful about InDesign that others might not know. Then he tweets it to the world. In this case:

Ninness tweet

I admit, my syntactically inflexible would-be English major’s brain could barely parse this sentence, but I had to know more. And I had to trust Ninness. That capital I in “Individually” was no accident. It’s actually a key part of the command.

And the command is one of the few approximations InDesign has of that handy “Repeat Formatting” command in (of all things) Microsoft Word. As far as object-level formatting goes, it’s as close to “Please do that random thing I just did again to this other thing” as INDD gets.

So thanks to Michael’s tweet and my tendency to seek out all manner of efficiency in InDesign, here’s a fancifully illustrated guide to the “Transform Individually” commands in InDesign that may just make your life easier:

Let’s start with these five objects I placed and aligned in my InDesign document (after spending an inordinate amount of time creating them in Photoshop):

Five graphics in InDesign

Let’s say I duplicated the first one specifically by increasing the Y-value in the options bar and holding down the Option (Alt) key as I pressed the Return key (Enter).

Duplicate below by changing the Y-value and holding the Alt/Option key

If I then select the other four objects, then choose Object > Transform Again > Transform Individually, I get each item duplicated the same relative distance from its original.

The Transform Again command in InDesign repeats the duplication

Cool, but for making duplicates, I’m far more likely to Option-drag (Alt-drag) and rely on Smart Guides for alignment on the fly. It’s just the kind of girl I am. But the Transform Again Individually command really comes in handy for things that are much trickier, like rotating and resizing.

For instance, if I select the first object, and change its size to 1 pixels and its angle of rotation to -45 degrees…

Resize and rotate one of the objects in the options bar

...then choose Object > Transform Again > Transform Sequence Individually, each of the objects resizes and rotates on its own, like this:

Use Transform Sequence Again Individually

The key here is the word Individually. If you tried the command Transform Sequence again, the entire set of objects would resize as a group, making all four remaining tiles actually shrink so that four of them would fit into the 1-pixel area and rotate en masse at -45 degrees. I hesitate to show you, but:

I know, see why I hesitated? Lesson learned. Use the Transform Again Individually and Transform Sequence Again Individually commands when you want to repeat resizing, rotating, or even repositioning actions on individual items in a set. Yes, you have to do it to the first one first, then remember to apply it across the board, but it’s bound to save time in the end. Oh, and listen to Michael.

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