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Where do tables usually come from? Well, most of the time they come from some Microsoft product, either Word or Excel. So let's take a moment to look at how InDesign imports these tables and what happens when the original file gets updated. Before I import one of those files, let's go take a look at it in Word. In this Word document there is nothing but a table. Now that's unusual. Usually there is a bunch of text with a table stuck in the middle. But in this case, I am trying to keep things simple. Now that I've seen this Word document, let's import it into InDesign.
I'll switchback InDesign, go to the File menu and choose Place. There is my Word doc and I'm going to turn on the Show Import Options checkbox so I can see that I have more controls over how that Word document is going to come in. By default, InDesign will try and preserve all the styles and formatting from my text and tables. However if I want to, I could strip away all the formatting by turning on this radio button here. This will actually let me convert my tables to either Unformatted Tables or just Tabbed Text.
The problem is normally when I'm importing a Word document the tables are inside along with a bunch of other text and I do want to keep the formatting for the text. I really wish there were a way to preserve all the styles from the text but then strip out the formatting from the tables, but you can't do that here. So instead, I am just going to take the hard route and preserve everything. I'll click OK and it loads the Place cursor and now I'll click and drag out a text frame for that story to go into. I'll zoom into 200% with a Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on Windows, and now I see that that table with all its formatting has come into InDesign.
There are couple strange things going on here including the fact that the table is wider than my text frame. I can deal with that by double- clicking in one of the cells to switch to the Type tool and then dragging the right edge of the table with the Shift key held down. Remember that will resize all the columns proportionally so that they all fit. When you import a Word document and you see that the formatting came across, the first thing that you should do is open your Cells Styles panel and remove all the local formatting from the cells.
To do that, select all the cells with the Command+Option+A or Ctrl+Alt+A and then click on the Clear Overrides button at the bottom of the Cell Styles panel. That completely strips out all the local formatting that came from Word. Now you can format your table cleanly using the tools in InDesign or if you've already built table styles go ahead and apply them now. In this case, I had a table style made so I simply clicked on it. Unfortunately when I do that I see that there's still a little plus sign after the table style name.
That happens sometimes when extra formatting gets leftover from the Word document. I am not sure why but I do know how to take care of it. All you have to do is clear the formatting in the Tables Styles panel too. There we go. Now we have the table looking just right except for one thing and that is the header. The header is not automatically applied because you have to manually come in here, select it, and then go to the Table menu and choose Convert Rows > To Header, perfect. Okay, now let's do the same thing but with an Excel document.
Here is the Excel document. You can see that all the text is formatted exactly the same way, with a little bit different data. I can actually copy and paste this data from Excel into InDesign but I am going to use the Place feature again. I'll come back to InDesign, I'll scroll down and zoom out a little bit and click out here in the margin just to make sure nothing is selected on my page. Then I'll go to File > Place and grab the Excel document. Once again, I'm including Show Import Options just to show you what you can choose when you have an Excel document.
You can pick a worksheet and you can even pick which cell range from that Excel document. Even better, you can choose what to do with the table formatting. You can say bring it as Formatted or Unformatted. I am going to strip away all the formatting that was in the Excel document and automatically apply the table style that I've created. Now when I click OK it loads the Place cursor and I can drag it out and it's all formatted. Now the only thing left for me to do is to select that first row and then right-click and choose Convert To Header Rows.
Now a lot of people ask me what do I do with Excel documents where the data is going to change frequently? Is there any way to link InDesign to that Excel document? Well, the answer is yes and no. Let me show you what I mean. I am going to delete both these frames that I have created, just so we can start with a nice fresh page. And I'm going to import the Excel document one more time, but before I do that I'm going to change a preference in the InDesign Preferences dialog box. On the Mac I choose that from the InDesign menu. In Windows you choose it from the Edit menu.
I'll pick the General preferences but now I'll immediately go down to File Handling. And in the File Handling pane of the Preferences dialog box, I am going to turn on the checkbox called Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files. When this is on, any Word or Excel documents that you place will automatically get linked to the file on disk and they'll even show up in the Links panel. I'll click OK, open the Place dialog box with Command+D or Ctrl+D, choose my Order Form, click Open.
I'll use all the same settings as I did just a moment ago, click OK, and click and drag. The table style is automatically applied. It is imported and it looks great. What's better, if I look in the Links panel, I can see my Excel file here. Now if you don't need to do anything more to this table other than import it, then things are great. But as soon as I make a change to this I am going to have trouble. For example, in this case I'll double- click, select my header row and convert it into a true InDesign header row.
I've done something to this table, so I'm going to have a little trouble. Let me show you. Let's switch back to Excel and I'll change some numbers here. I am just going to randomly change these numbers around to... I'll make this 2, 5, and 10 in the Quantity column here. Now I'll Save, Command+S. Come back here to InDesign and we'll see that the Links panel shows this document as modified. We know what to do there. We simply click the Update button and here's the warning, Edits have been made.
So what do you want do about it? Do you want to update it anyway? We are going to say Yes and the new data comes in. There is the new quantities that were in the table, but look what happened to the header row. It got stripped out. That is any changes that we made in InDesign even that conversion to the header row is stripped away. It's as though we re -imported the Excel file from scratch. Now in this case, it's not that big of a deal. We simply select it and convert it to header rows one more time. But if you've done a lot of editing to your table inside InDesign it's going to be a real hassle.
So let me show you one other way that you can update a table if the data changes in Excel. I'll go back to Excel. Let's change these numbers one more time. I am going to make much bigger numbers. They're really obvious here. So I've updated that numbers in Excel and I really wish InDesign would have those new numbers. So instead of saving it and updating it in InDesign I am simply going to copy and paste. To do that I could select the entire table or just the cells that have changed. In this case I'll just select the numbers in the second column.
I'll choose Edit > Copy, I'll switch back to InDesign, and I need to paste those numbers into this column. The trick here is to make sure the cells are selected not the text. For example, if I click after this 2 right now and paste, well it's kind of a mess. All of that information is pasted into that one cell. That's not what I wanted. So I am going to undo with Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. Instead, I want to make sure that the cell is selected. You can toggle between the content of the cell being selected and the cell itself by pressing the Escape key.
I press Escape and the cell is now selected. I don't have to select all these cells in order to paste. Just the one in the upper left corner or in this case, the one at the top of the column. Now when I Paste with Command+V or Ctrl +V, you can see that all the data from this cell down has been updated. So as you can see, this is a much more efficient method for moving data from one table to another. This also works if I want to copy data from one table in InDesign to another. Just make sure the cell is selected, not the text inside the cell.
You pretty much can't avoid these Word and Excel documents, so you might as well try and live the best you can with them. These tools, and especially the copy and paste cells trick, really makes life easier.
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