How do I Turn on Smart Guides in InDesign? Here’s How!

Laying out a document in InDesign can sometimes be a little tedious. Getting everything to line up and look ok to the eye. But we have a fantastic tool called Smart Guides to help with this.

Turning on Smart Guides is done through your Window dropdown to Grids and Guides and out to Smart Guides. It is generally always defaulted on but can be turned on or off at any time.

Let’s run through how we use Smart Guides and How very useful they are.

How Do We Turn Them On?

Smart Guides are part of your document setup. They generally automatically appear in a new document but just in case they don’t you can locate them as part of the Windows Dropdown, scroll down to Grids and Guides, and then out to Smart Guides. Click on it to toggle on and off.
You will know that they are activated because when you move an object or place an object pink lines will appear.

Or green lines in some cases.

Why do we need Smart Guides?

The benefits of Smart Guides are that we no longer have to measure everything or use X, Y coordinates. By placing objects, text boxes etc beside each other, with Smart Guides turned on Pink Lines will appear to show you that they are aligned top or bottom so they are perfect.

This saves you from having to go and check your X, Y (even though to be honest, I sometimes still do, but it’s just out of habit). It enables you to quickly layout a page, knowing that all objects are aligned.

Not only will your objects align top and bottom but you can also snap to 45(Degrees). By moving an object beside another and then down slightly Smart Guides will select the next point to snap to.

If you only have one object, pic, or text box your smart guides will appear when you try and center your object, both top and bottom, so you have absolute center alignment.

Why should you use Smart Guides?

As I say Smart Guides are generally automatically on when you generate a new document. They make life much easier when adding objects to a document. If you are, like me, a graphic designer for a long time, no doubt you were aligning objects by eye. You get pretty good at it over time but Smart Guides gets rid of the margin of error.

In saying that there are times when you don’t want Smart Guides turned on. You may be designing a flyer or poster where you want objects and texts to be randomly positioned. If this is the case then just toggle it off.
Every new edition of InDesign has new tools or extras to make things supposedly easier. Sometimes this is the case, and sometimes definitely not. But Smart Guides is definitely a useful tool/application.

What Else Can Smart Guides Do?

So we looked at the snapping to objects with Smart Guides on but there are a couple of other categories that it applies to:

  • Smart Dimensions
  • Smart Spacing
  • Smart Cursor

Smart Dimensions is also a really neat feature. Smart Guides appear when you are creating, changing the size, or transforming ie rotating an object on a page. If you already have a text box or an image/ shape tilted at a certain degree or angle, as you rotate the new item it will show you this angle in a Smart Guide to suggest if you want the new item to be the same then you just click off your mouse.
You can also do this when resizing an object/ item. If it is close to another item, arrows will appear, that allow you to snap your object to duplicate another.

Smart Spacing
I really like Smart Spacing. Green Guides appear that shows you the space between other objects on your page.

For example, if you have an image box and a text box that you have already aligned, placing a third object beside them will show temporary guides to allow you to have equidistance between all three. And so on for more objects. Again this saves a lot of X, Y checking to line everything up.

Smart Cursors appear in a Panel with the X, Y values if you are moving an object, or if you are altering the size. The Smart Cursor allows you to select a start point, so to speak from where you are going to move the object or resize it.

Click on one of the nine dots, this will show the coordinates of the object from that point.

As I say, Smart Guides can be turned on or off at any stage of your document generation. They are an invaluable asset to any multi-object layout.

Here are some other posts that you might find useful:

I’ve written a lot on common InDesign issues, which might help you on your InDesign journey:

1 Background Problem was found with a Background Task

InDesign Won’t Let me Select Anything

InDesign Unlock All On Screen Greyed Out

Also, check out the InDesign FAQ page

If you are curious about other common Design problems check out our general FAQ page

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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