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Applying an Object Style when Placing an Image

One of the most frustrating aspects of object styles is that you cannot apply one automatically when placing an image. It should work… just select an object style in the Object Styles panel and then place one or more images. Each frame that InDesign makes (when placing the image) should get that object style applied to it.

But it doesn’t work. Instead, the Object Styles panel always reverts back to None. I never knew why until this week’s InDesign Conference here in Seattle. It’s a bug! Oh, well that explains it.

Fortunately, Michael Ninness (InDesign’s senior product mgr) mentioned a little “easter egg” in InDesign CS4 that (sort of) fixes the bug! He calls it an easter egg because it’s an undocumented and not-officially-supported-by-Adobe feature. But it’s a very, very helpful feature!

The trick (and yes, this only works in CS4) is to make a new object style and call it “Place Gun Frame”. That’s it. As long as you have a custom object style that is called Place Gun Frame, it will be applied to any image that is placed using the place cursor. (The term “place gun” goes back to early PageMaker days; lots of folks call it that… but only where owning guns is legal.)

Okay, now for a caveat: Michael thinks there is an undocumented bug in this undocumented feature. He has had problems getting it to work when the Place Gun Frame object style includes a definition for Frame Fitting Options. Somehow the frame fitting options in the object style conflict with the place cursor or something… However, when I try it, the feature works great, with or without Frame Fitting Options specified in the style. So there you go.

[One side note: I spent 45 minutes between last night and early this morning trying to get this tip to work. I was incredibly frustrated. I ended up calling Mr. Ninness to make sure I had the tip right. He walked me through it and then said, "You are using CS4, right?" I assured him I was, and then... I realized I was in CS3. I had both versions running at the same time and was just too blurry-eyed to notice. Wow. Time for stronger coffee.]

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11 Comments on “Applying an Object Style when Placing an Image

  1. Great post David.

    And the history of the “Place Gun” name explains why I have always called the cursor icon of a place image or text a “loaded cursor”.

  2. Sleep or caffeine…one or the other David!

    I work for the local public school system. Am I going to be allowed to use this great little (or not so little when you are placing a batch of images) feature?

    I don’t think I’ll ask the political correctness police. Hmmm, I just realized that the initials for that are pcp. Interesting.

  3. Regardless of the legality of guns, I think they ought to change the name to something equally deadly but legal. Like mother-in-law, chilly-fart or Brumak? ;)

    P.S. if you don’t know what a Brumak is, don’t worry, you’re probably of the wrong generation.

  4. Noticed this before, and my workaround has been to create the image frame first and apply the style, then place the images into them.

    In fairness, it doesn’t take that long, for what I’m doing anyway.

  5. Hi all.
    I do not think that this is a bug. Instead I see a very strong rule ? which I like very much: Every frame which is created by InDesign (and not by hand) follows always the Object Style [None].
    The same is true for every frame which is drawn by hand using the Rectangle Tool.

  6. @Jochen: I respectfully disagree with you. When you draw a shape with the Rectangle tool, the [Basic Graphics Frame] is automatically applied. When you draw a frame with the Type tool, the [Basic Text Frame[ style is automatically applied. We need some method for applying an “automatic” frame for image frames.

    @Jay: As far as I can tell, there is no additional functionality in the XHTML export in CS4.

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  8. It also works (including the fitting options) in CS6.
    That name has a true magnetic (metallic) attraction, I mean, when it’s present, selecting any other object style in advance, reverts to the Place Gun Frame style when placing a graphic occurs.

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