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Setting InDesign Units and Increments

by Ron Kurtus (revised 2 June 2019)

Since the default InDesign units and increments are points (p) for print documents and pixels (px) for web and digital documents, you might want to change the defaults to something else for the documents you create. I typically prefer to use inches.

This is done through the Preferences > Units & Increments dialog box.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Access Units & Increments

You can set the units used in a new document by closing all documents and selecting Edit > Preferences > Units & Increments.... The Preferences dialog box displays for Units & Increments:

Units and Increments dialog box

Units and Increments dialog box

Set Ruler Units

When you are working on document, you can view rulers across the top and down the side of your InDesign work space. They can help in aligning objects. You can set the configuration or origin of the rulers, as well as their increments, from the dialog box.


The origin or starting point of the ruler can be set to Spread, Page, or Spine.


By selecting Spread, the ruler will start from the left hand side of the document and span across the spread of the document.


By selecting Page, the ruler will start at the left hand side and stop when it gets to the end of the page and it will start at zero again.


The Spine preset is useful when you are using facing pages. The ruler will start its zero point from the spine and work outwards to the edge of each document.

When working on a book, I set the Origin as Spine.

Horizontal and Vertical units

The default unit setting for a New Print Document is in picas, such that the document size might be listed as 51p0 by 66p0. Choices are:

I prefer to see page sizes in decimal increments of inches.

Other items

Other items that you can set on this dialog box are:

It seems like the default setting for these items are sufficient.

How to Set Measurements for InDesign From Picas to Inches

Click "View" and select "Show Rulers" if the left and top rulers are not visible. Alternatively, press "Ctrl-R."

Click "Edit," "Preferences" and then "Units & Increments."

Select "Inches" from the Horizontal and Vertical drop-down menus to change both rulers. You can also change just one of the rulers.

Click the "Edit" menu, "Preferences," and then "Units and Increments."

Click the drop-down list labeled "Horizontal" and select "Inches" instead of "Picas."



It is good to set your preferences of units and increments when you start to use Adobe InDesign. You can access the dialog box for setting the preferences from Edit > Preferences > Units & Increments.

In designing a box with facing pages, I normally set the Origin as Spine. I also set the units as Decimal Inches. The other setting can be left as is.

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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


InDesign Resources


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Top-rated books on InDesign

Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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