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By Anne-Marie Concepción | Thursday, May 10, 2012

InDesign Secrets: Linking a table to an Excel spreadsheet for easy updating

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode, Anne-Marie Concepcion shows you how to place Excel spreadsheets into your InDesign documents as tables, and walks you through the process of linking your table and your original Excel spreadsheet to avoid having to manually update and reformat every time a colleague updates the spreadsheet in Excel.

I have to admit I find this tip vitally compelling, particularly because tables in InDesign are still a bit of a mystery to me. (I have Diane Burns’ InDesign Tables in Depthcourse in my queue for this very reason.) Once I establish how I want the formatting to work in a given table, the last thing I want is to have to re-establish said formatting on an entirely new table. Of course, the second to last thing I want is to painstakingly make manual data changes to an existing InDesign table (no matter how pretty I made it.)

InDesign table example.

Example of a table with formatting created in InDesign.

In this video, Anne-Marie explains the process for creating linked tables that save you from the hassle of manual updating or reformatting. Your first step is to set the Preferences so that InDesign knows you want spreadsheets to come in as linked files. In the File Handling portion of the Preferences dialogue box, you’ll select the Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files option in the Links section.

InDesign Preferences dialogue box example.

With this option selected, when data in your native Excel sheet is updated,  you will see a notification in the Links panel letting you know that your spreadsheet has been modified. Just double-click on that notification, and the data elements of your table that have been modified will update automatically, with no need for you to reformat your table. (OK, sometimes you may need to reestablish the header row or adjust cell size.)

If you are looking for more consistent table results, Anne Marie recommends creating a table style before placing your Excel file, and then applying that table style when you are placing your Excel table into InDesign. If you are new to table styles, I recommend checking out Michael Murphy’s InDesign Styles in Depth, in this case, specifically chapter six which covers table and cell styles.

Note that you may not always want every single spreadsheet table you place to update automatically, so remember to uncheck the Create Links option as soon as you are done working with the table you want linked, or find yourself facing updates where you don’t expect them.

Meanwhile, exclusively for members of lynda.com, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has a movie that shows you how to create electronic sticky notes in InDesign.

Stay tuned, Anne-Marie and David will be back in two weeks with moreInDesign Secrets.

Interested in more? • Start your 7-day free trial to lynda.com today • The entire InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series • Courses by David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion on lynda.com • All lynda.com InDesign courses

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