Tab Leaders in InDesign

Tab lead­ers are the lines of filler char­ac­ters in print­ed lists and tables of con­tents that con­nect the aligned con­tent on one side to the aligned con­tent on the oth­er, both lead­ing the eye and fill­ing in what would oth­er­wise be an awk­ward trapped space.

To cre­ate tab lead­ers in InDesign, once the list is cre­at­ed, open the Tabs palette (Mac: CMD-SHIFT-T, Win: CTRL-SHIFT-T, or Menu: Window>Type & Tables>Tabs), and once your con­tent is aligned, select the tab on the Tabs palette and place the desired tab leader char­ac­ter (or characters-up to 8 are allowed) in the “Leader:” box.

If the tab lead­ers get too dense, add a space (or two, as appro­pri­ate) after the tab leader char­ac­ter.

Pariah Burke

Author, consultant, trainer, guru: Digital Publishing, ePub, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark. Empowering, Informing, Connecting Creative Professionals™

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2 Responses

  1. Anitra says:

    So, does any­one know a way to change the size of the lead­ers in the tab ruler with­out effect­ing the size of the type? Say you want to use peri­ods, but make them small­er than the text, and you want to do this to mul­ti­ple lines rather than select­ing each line of peri­ods sep­a­rate­ly?

  2. An exper­i­ment I’m try­ing right now (inspired by your query) sug­gests that nest­ed styles may hold a pos­si­ble answer.

    Using a quick, three-line (with forced line breaks) TOC, I styled the tab leader char­ac­ters (after cre­at­ing the tab leader-you of course can­not style the tab leader in the cre­ation dia­log), adjust­ing point size and lead­ing as appro­pri­ate (just for fun, I blew up the full-stops and had to adjust the lead­ing way down).

    By styling the tab lead­ers and cre­at­ing a para­graph style from that, I was able to incor­po­rate that into a para­graph style. Of course, you’ll prob­a­bly want to cre­ate and style each line of your list as a sep­a­rate para­graph because I don’t know how to tell Indy to go back and loop through the nest­ed style until you’re out of lines (if you use forced-line breaks as I did).