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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.
One of the holy grails of InDesign is being able to place something that a coworker creates in Excel, a spreadsheet, and then placing that in InDesign, where it comes in as a table, applying beautiful InDesign formatting to it with paragraph styles, and then when the coworker updates the Excel spreadsheet and lets you know, hey, we have changed some of the data. Then you could come over here and update this in InDesign without losing any of that formatting that took you so long to do.
First of all, when you place a text file, it doesn't become linked. So if I open up the Links panel, there's nothing here. So even if my esteemed colleague said, I updated that Excel file that you placed, there is nothing to update here. You would actually have to place it from scratch and then reapply all your formatting. First thing you want to do to make this work is you want to turn on the option to create links when placing documents and spreadsheets. It's not turned on by default because just think of how crazy making it would be if every time you place a Word document and made a link and whenever somebody updated that Word document on the other side of the company, suddenly you had out of date text, it could get chaotic.
So it's turned off by default. So you want to go to Preferences, which on the Mac is under InDesign, the name, and on the PC, it is the last item under the Edit menu. Go down to File Handling. You want to turn on under Links, Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files, turn that on. Now let's go to a Link page and we'll go ahead and place that spreadsheet. So I go to File > Place, here is a spreadsheet.
I am going to turn on Show Import Options, because I want to make sure that it comes in as just a regular basic table, Unformatted Table, Basic Table, and there it is in all of its glory. All right! That's exactly what we brought in and it comes in as a link. Now say that we apply some formatting to it. I am just going to come over here and select the entire table, I will go to Table Options > Alternating Fills, and I'll give it an Alternating Pattern of, let's say, Blue 20% with None, and let's take all this text and make it bold, just like that.
Now it's linked, and I go over to Excel, and I make a change like I will change Jackson to Jefferson and save my change. When in InDesign, I see that that Excel file is out of date, it's been modified. So I can update it, double-click to update. You'll always get this alert if you have done anything at all to the contents; either the formatting or the text of the spreadsheet. You're going to lose those edits when you update the link. Are you sure? Yes, go ahead, and there you go, so now it says Jefferson.
You will get an even better result though if you create a table style and apply this table style when you bring it in. I have already created table style, this is what it looks like. I am going to take this and delete it, and then we will place it again, the same spreadsheet, but this time I'm going to apply the Table Style called Doctor Table, and I have already created and bring it over. Now Table Style cannot maintain the same geometry, so we can't save like the width of a column, but you can always resize it after you bring it in of course.
I am holding down the Shift key, so as I resize it, they all resize in proportion. The one thing that whenever you apply Table Style that you always have to redo because for some reason this can't be saved, is you have to reapply the header row. Converting the first row or how or many rows you want to a header row, you have to keep doing that, so I select it, Convert Row > To Header. Once you do that, then it does take on the formatting of whatever you specified for your styles for header text.
Go back to the Excel file and we will change, let's say the word James to Douglas, and save our change, come back to InDesign, update the link, and I'll just say Ok, and there it is, Douglas. I will just select this, re-convert it to header row, and we are done. If you want to create links to the spreadsheets that you bring in, so that when people change the data in that spreadsheet, you can just immediately update it in InDesign without losing any of your formatting, those are the steps that you need to do.
First you have to turn on that option, in Preferences, under File Handling, and second you should use a Table Style, rather than manual formatting, for more consistent results. Just one thing is, don't forget to turn this off when you're done working with that spreadsheet. You can turn it off and it's not going to lose the link, it will still be linked. Now at least you won't have to worry about accidentally linking to all the other text files that you bring in.
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