Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
I've been writing and laying out books for over 20 years, and one of the great challenges over all that time has been figure numbering. That is, how to deal with the fact that sometimes you need to add or remove an illustration right in the middle of a chapter, and that can mess up all the figuring numbering after that page. Fortunately, InDesign makes figure numbering a breeze, if you just follow these few basic steps. In this document here, I have a figure and a caption underneath it. I want to add a figure number to that caption, so I'm going to double-click on it with the Selection tool, which switches to the Type tool.
And I'll zoom in, so I can see it better with the Cmd+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows. Now, I'm going to edit the paragraph styles. You have to use paragraph styles in order for this to work, but if you're laying out things like books, you better be using paragraph styles or else you're in all kinds of trouble. So, I'm going to open the Paragraph Styles panel, and you can see that the figure paragraph style is highlighted. That's because the figure paragraph style is applied to this paragraph. I'll double-click on it to open it, that is to edit it, and I'm going to jump over here to the bullets and numbering pane inside the paragraph style options dialogue box.
Because we're trying to do automatic figure numbering, we're going to be using the bullets and numbering pane. Next, I'll go to the list type Popup menu and change it to numbers. Now by default. The numbering is set up to the number followed by a dot or a period, followed by a tab. That's the way most numbered lists look, but we can change that. You can change it here in the number field, but right now those codes mean number followed by a period, followed by a tab. I'l just click in there and hit Delete to delete it entirely because I want it to look different. I want it to say figure followed by a space followed by the number what figure number it is and I can get that special code over here in the little Pop up menu that little triangle on the right.
So I'll select that and say Insert Number Placeholder and then I'll choose Current Level. It types that code in for me so I don't have to remember it. Then, I'll just type a space. So it's figure, followed by a space, followed by the number, and then followed by another space. And I'm going to apply a character style to this. I've already made a character style in advance, and I'm simply going to apply it. That's going to make it bold. Let's go ahead and try it out. I'll click OK, and you can see that immediately, Figure 1 is added to the beginning of this caption. Even better, it applied that figure number to all the paragraphs that have that paragraph style applied to it.
I'll press Shift+Page Down to jump to the next page and then scroll down a little bit here and you can see, there we go, Figure 2 is applied to the next one. So, all our captions are now numbered the way we want them, but what about the figure references, that is, inside the text, up here. Right now, I simply have put figure reference here. So I could go in here and just replace this with text, I could just type Figure 2. But that's not really helpful, because if the figure numbers change, as they inevitable will, I would have to go in here and manually fix all of these. Now, I want something that's a little bit more automatic.
So I'm going to delete all of that text, and instead I'm going to use a cross-reference. Cross-references are great for automatically updating text that refers to other text in the document. To get my cross-reference, I'll go to the Window menu, come down to Type & Tables and then choose Cross-References. The Cross-References panel is actually hidden inside the Hyperlinks panel. But that's okay, you don't have to worry about hyperlinks. You just need to worry about the cross-references. So, to get my cross-reference, I'm going to go to the Hyperlinks panel menu an choose Insert Cross-Reference.
Or, you could click on the little Add a cross-reference button down here, the one that looks like an anchor. To make a cross-reference you have to know what paragraph style you're looking for, that is, what paragraph style is applied to this paragraph down here and I happen to know it's the figure style. So I choose that from this list of paragraph styles on the left. Then, you simply choose which paragraph you're aiming for, in this case I know that I'm aiming for Figure 2, that's the paragraph down here. And finally, you need to choose a cross-reference Format. By default, this is set to full paragraph and page number, which is a complete disaster in this case, because it's grabbing all the text from the caption.
I don't want that, I just want the figure numbering, so I choose Paragraph Number from this Popup menu. You can see up here, behind the dialog box that it's going and grabbing the figure number, which is Figure 2. Now, I'll simply click OK, and you'll see that it's automatically typed in exactly where I want it. Okay, let's try it out. I'm going to press Shift+Page Up to go back to the previous page, and I'm going to change the figuring number. For example, in this chapter of this book, the figures start at figure number 52. So, all I have to do, is place my cursor inside this caption.
I'm going to go to the Control panel Fly-out menu. Which is way over here on the right side of the Control panel. And I'm going to choose Bullets and Numbering. I'm not changing the paragraph style in this case. I'm just changing the local formatting for this one caption. Just so that I can change the mode to start at, and start my numbers at 52. Click OK, and you'll see that this one starts at 52, and then all the other ones are going to number automatically after that. I'll press Shift+Page Down and we'll see that indeed, this is set to Figure 53 automatically. But, what about the figure reference? Our cross-references that we created, it still says Figure 2 and that's because InDesign does not automatically update your cross-references, it waits until you tell it to.
Otherwise, it would spend all day looking for them and updating them left and right. Now, you have to do it manually, but it's a one step process for all of your cross-references. All you have to do is go back to your Hyperlinks panel and click on this little double-headed circle arrow at the bottom. That updates all the cross-references throughout. Notice that InDesign jumped back to this caption up here. That's just because my cursor was flashing in that when I left it, so it brought be back to that place. Not really helpful in this case. So, I'll press Shift+Page Down, and we can see that it did in fact update my cross-reference here in the text.
Let's try it one more time. Let me pan down a little bit. I'll press Return here to break this up into a couple of different paragraphs, and I'll say another figure here, and a third figure. I'll select both of those, go back to my Paragraph Styles panel, and apply my figure style to it. You'll see that it automatically updated it with the figure numbers. And, if I pan down here, it updated this one as well. But, not the cross-reference. Cross-reference I still need to go back here, and click the button. It goes through and it updates all of that automatically. When you're working on long documents like this that have figure numbering in it.
This combination of automatic numbering and cross-references is absolutely unbeatable.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 50941 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 38674 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81570 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 11589 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.