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You know how when you import an image, InDesign links to that file on disk, right and then when the image changes you can update InDesign and it re-imports the graphic. Now wouldn't it be cool if you could do the same thing with text files? And the answer to that question is you can do it, but whether or not it's cool depends on your workflow. Here I have a document opened in Microsoft Word. It's an rtf file and you can see that I have applied paragraph styles to each one of these paragraphs. Here is the bullet styles, here is the subhead style, here is the Body style and so on. Now let's go ahead and import that into InDesign linking to this original file.
I will switch to InDesign and I will place my cursor in the frame that I want to import the text file. Normally as you know InDesign doesn't link to the file, so I need to change a preference in order to make it link. So let's open the Preferences dialog box. Command+K on the Mac, or Ctrl+K on Windows, then I will click on the File Handling pane and I am going to turn on this checkbox. Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files. When I click OK, InDesign will now behave differently. So if I import that text file, I am pressing Command+D or Ctrl+D on Windows, choosing the rtf file and clicking Open. Now, if I look in the Links panel, you see that it shows up right there.
There is the rtf file; there is the file that was in Word. We have linked to it. Let's test it out. I am going to switch back to Word and change something here. Maybe I will change this number 50 to let's say 1,000, okay. And I press Save, Command+S or Ctrl+S on Windows, jump back to InDesign. We will see that we get an icon now saying something what has been updated and I better zoom in here to see if this is going to work. I am going to go to 400%, Command+4 or Ctrl+4 on Windows and I'll see that right now that 50 is supposed to be 1,000. Let's see if it will work when I update my link. Down at the bottom lower Links panel, I click on the Update button and it imported the whole new thing. Now it jumped me to the end of the story. You see the cursor is actually at the end of the story. So let me zoom back with my power zoom mode, come back over here and zoom back in to where I was looking. There you go. There is the 1,000. So I updated it and the Links panel shows me a little green check mark saying this is now synced, it's up to date. So this is great, right? We could all of our text files on our hard drive and then we could link to them from our InDesign files, everything is up-to-date and everything is happy, right? Well, there is one problem and it's an important problem and that is this only works if I don't make any changes to the text in InDesign and when I say no changes, I mean no changes. That means I can't go in here and change a word, maybe change this 15 instead and I can't go even here and apply italics. I just did a Command+Shift+I or Ctrl+Shift+I on this word 'phone' and that applied a change to this story. As soon you make it change, the linking stops working.
It is linked here in the Links panel, but -- well, let me show you what I mean. Let me go back to Word, make some other change. Maybe I will change this from 20 to 40 and then save it, come back to InDesign. We see that it's updated, so I better click the Update button and look what happens. InDesign says Edits have been made to the imported version. In other words, I made some changes. It saw that I changed this number and it saw that I changed this formatting. So you will loose these edits if you update. That's the big problem. If you make any changes at all, even little formatting changes, they will get lost as soon as you update. Let's go ahead and click Yes, it takes us all the way end of the story again. We will zoom back and zoom in one more time and we can see that yes indeed, all those changes that I made are lost.
So linking to text files on disk is a great idea, but loosing the local formatting and edits you have made is a bad thing. On the other hand, if you don't do edits inside InDesign and you can make the style names match up properly, then this whole linking thing could be a big efficiency boost for you.
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