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In this series, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción, co-hosts of the web's top resource for InDesign tips and tricks, InDesignSecrets.com, share some hidden and sometimes surprising workflow tips that will make working in InDesign more efficient and more fun. The course covers built-in timesaving features such as Quick Apply and auto-expanding text, but also little-known tricks, such as using the eyedropper to copy and paste character and paragraph text attributes and making accurate selections by selecting through or even into objects.
New techniques will be added to the collection every other week, so check back early and often. Find more tips and tricks at indesignsecrets.com.
David Blatner: I'm laying out a book here and I want to add running headers that show the reader what section they are in. Actually in this case, they're going to be running footers, but you get the idea. There are several ways to do this, but I want to show you my favorite method using text variables. In this case I want to use my subheads, these orange subheads, and I want to grab that text and put it down into my footer down here. That footer is on the master page, so I can open my master page by opening the Pages panel, double-clicking on the Master, I'll close the Pages panel, and let's go ahead and just zoom in here, so we can see this better.
And I'm going to put it inside this text frame. I'll double-click to switch to the Type tool and put the cursor there, and now it's time to go insert that text variable. I'll select the Type menu, I'll select Text Variables, come over here to Insert Variable, and you can see that there is already a Running Header variable in here, but the problem is InDesign has no idea what paragraph style this Running Header should grab, so it's pretty useless. Instead I'm going to come up here and choose Define, so I can define my own text variable.
I'm going to click the New button and give it a name, call it my footer variable, you can call it anything you want, and I'm going to tell it the Type is going to be Running Header (Paragraph Style). That is, it's going to look for something that has a paragraph style on my page. What paragraph style should I look for? Well, I can choose that from the Style pop-up menu. I happen to know it's called Subhead. Now there maybe more than one subhead on a page, so InDesign lets me choose the first or the last on the page. It's up to you. You can also add Text Before or Text After if you want to, I'll leave those blank, and you can Delete End Punctuation.
I really like this, because sometimes people put in headings that have a colon at the end or a period or an exclamation point or something like that, and I may want to strip that out. That's what this checkbox lets me do, just strip those out. I can also choose to change the case. For example, if it's all in uppercase, I could change it to title case or something like that. In this case I'm going to leave it alone. I'll click OK and I'm going to insert that variable into this text frame. Because my text cursor was flashing in the text frame when I opened this dialog box, I could choose the Insert button, but instead I'm going to click the Done button, go back to the Type menu, and insert it from the Text Variables pop-up menu.
It doesn't really matter how you do it. I just wanted to show you that here in this pop-up menu my new variable is listed. Here on the master page all I see is the name of the variable, but if I zoom back a little bit, go to Page 3, and you can see that the subhead, Arrival of Europeans and early settlement, has been pulled down here to the footer. There's our new footer and it matches exactly. Now the great thing about variables is that if the header changes, the variable will change as well. For example, I'm going to change the capitalization here to Settlement and I'm going to add an S at the end, and you'll see that I can update the variable automatically.
Now here is the trick to updating these variables. It won't update while it's still on the page, but if I hide it and then bring it back, it does. In this case I'm just going to use my shortcut for the grabber hand, move down just a little bit, and then move back and it's updated. Isn't that crazy? Simply hide it and show it again and as soon as InDesign has to redraw that footer it updates. I'm going to jump back to Fit Spread in Window with a Command+Option+0 or Ctrl+Alt+0 on Windows, and let's see what the next spread looks like.
Here there's no subheads at all, so what is the InDesign going to put down here in the footer? Well here's how it works. InDesign looks on the page that has the variable. If it cannot find any paragraph styles that match that variable it'll go to the previous page. If it can't find any there, it'll go to the previous page, and it keeps going back until it finds a paragraph that has that style applied to it. In this case it went back to that original one, so it uses the very same footer as it did on the previous spread. Let's go to the next page.
In this case, there's no subhead on the page that has a variable on this right-hand page, but there is one on the left-hand page. So InDesign should grab this one that says "The gold rush," and bring it down here into the footer, let's see if it works. There it is, "The gold rush," so it's working perfectly. Of course text variables can't do everything that you might want in a header. For example, you can't make a header break across two lines, like if this subtitle were really long and you needed it to break across two lines down here in the footer. It can't do that.
You also can't grab any text formatting that was in the original subhead. For example, let's say that the word "gold "was italic in the subhead. There is no way to grab that italic and bring it down here into this text variable; just can't do that. If you need these kinds of advanced features check out a commercial plug-in called power headers. It's from in-tools.com. That's in with a dash and then tools.com. But most of the time for most people InDesign's own Text Variables feature does the job.
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