Why can't I track my text back to the previous line? Why is InDesign messing with my text when I'm trying to sub it?

There's a really clever InDesign feature that, whilst clever, makes many people fume. People who have subbed text for years (edited the words to get them to fit) clearly know a thing of two when it comes to getting it to not only fit the space, but for it to read well and look good too. If they've come from a background of using QuarkXpress they will be used to looking at a paragraph line by line, sending the occasional word over to the next line using a soft return (Shift+Return: works in InDesign too).

But when they start using InDesign many of them find that the tricks they'd previously used don't work, and it drives them crazy. In a nutshell this is because a clever InDesign feature, called Adobe Paragraph Composer, is trying to do their job for them. Unlike QuarkXpress, InDesign's default behaviour is to look at a whole paragraph at a time when calculating where to break the lines. So the way it makes the lines flow in a paragraph is often what a sub might have done by use of soft returns. The problem lies when a sub wants to edit that text - it simply will not behave as expected. It's possible to change that behaviour for a particular paragraph by going to the dropdown menu at the top right of the screen (in the Control Panel, when the paragraph is selected) and by choosing Adobe Single-line Composer instead of Adobe Paragraph Composer.

InDesign will now examine the paragraph line by line, like QuarkXpress used to. In my experience of helping magazines and newspapers move from QuarkXpress to InDesign, setting up Paragraph Styles to use the Single-line Composer instead of the default Paragraph composer makes life a lot easier for the editorial staff.