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Find/Change Objects and Attributes in InDesign CS3

Among many exciting new and improved features in InDesign CS3, the totally re-imagined Find/Change function is among my favorite top five. The first time I opened the Find/Change dialog I was literally stunned into silence (shutting me up is not an easy task). What about it could possibly silence, even for a moment, this opinionated and prolifically verbose sermonizer of divine Creativity and Creative Efficiency? Only one thing: a new feature of a prime creative tool that can save hours, days, even weeks of manual labor for thousands of my fellow creatives. (Actually, there are two things, but I don't think we should discuss my fiancé in this particular post.)

Tell me if anything about the following scenario sounds familiar. You receive (or create) a publication layout in an InDesign document. Let's say there are 64 pages filled with text frames, placed assets in graphic frames, vector objects drawn within InDesign, and so on; many of those objects have strokes, fill colors, blending modes, opacity settings, text wraps, and maybe even new, CS3 Photoshop-like effects. Unfortunately, many of those objects are styled incorrectly. Maybe the document was a team effort and the workgroup didn't adhere to a strict style guide, maybe everything was correct, but the client requested a sweeping change of some object formatting option throughout document. Making changes should be easy if every affected object was assigned an Object Style, but rarely is every object in a layout given an Object Style, even when created by the most fastidious of designers. Faced with one or more object formatting changes across the entire document, you're probably already reaching for the phone to cancel your plans for the night, the weekend, and perhaps the next few weekends.

Adobe created the new Object tab in InDesign CS3's Find/Change dialog specifically to save your weekends and evenings. It enables you to replace object formatting options?everything I mentioned above and more?literally in seconds whereas doing it manually could take hours, days, or weeks. That, my friend, is what stilled my tongue.

Using Object Find/Change

Accessed from Edit > Find/Change, the new Find/Change dialog is a complete rewrite of the relatively simply text substitution version in CS2. The Text tab itself has been vastly improved, and new GREP expression search and Glyph replacement tabs have been added. Also new is the last tab, Object (see Figure 1). You can search in the current document or all opened documents for just about any visual or structural formatting attribute that can be applied to any object, and, if desired, remove or replace that attribute with another.

[Click thumbnail to zoom.] The new Find/Change dialog's Object tab.

The initial interface is fairly simple and typical of any text replacement tool. You have fields for the search criteria, the replacement criteria, and options that expand or refine the search. The Search dropdown menu offers two options: find only in the current document, or across all opened documents, the latter of which enables you to, say, replace everything in an entire book. In the Type dropdown, you can choose to search only on text frames, graphic frames, frames with unassigned content (e.g. vector objects drawn in InDesign), or across all frames. Beneath those, five toggle buttons offer the ability to include in the search . . .

  • Locked layers, but only for Find, Change can't touch the contents of locked layers;
  • Locked stories, also for Find only;
  • Hidden layers;
  • Master pages, and;
  • Footnotes.

Choosing the formatting options to find and/or change from the magnifying-glass-over-frame button is very much like choosing the options for Object Styles (see Figure 2). Just pick the attribute(s) to search for, and the attributes to replace, add, or remove. Even if the objects do have Object Styles assigned, you can easily replace one Object Style with another from the Style Options pane. Or choose attributes in Fill, Stroke, Stroke & Corner, Text Frame General Options, Text Frame Baseline Options (text baselines are now in CS3 a per-frame attribute), Story Options, Text Wrap & Other (the Other being a nonprinting attribute), Anchored Object Options, and Frame Fitting Options. Beneath that, the Effects section mirrors the new Photoshop-like attribute-level transparency effects, with the ability to find opacity and blending mode, drop shadow, inner shadow, outer glow, inner glow, bevel and emboss, satin, basic feather, directional feather, and gradient feather on whole objects or just their fills, strokes, or the text within them (in the case of text frames). Any attribute can be found and replaced wholesale or simply refined?say, to alter the angle of drop shadows by 2-degrees.

[Click thumbnail to zoom.] Every object formatting option is open to replacement in the Object Format Options dialogs.

After choosing your options, hit OK and then Find or Change All. Blink, and it's done. Imagine what you can do with this power! Alter object formatting across one or a hundred pages in one or a hundred documents, with the click of a button! I don't know about you, but I've had to do that manually, one object, one page, at a time. Such manual tasks are tedious enough to make one contemplate sepuku. With the InDesign CS3 Find/Change object formatting... Well, there isn't even time to say sepuku. Not that I could say much of anything when I first tried it out.

Pariah S. Burke

Pariah S. Burke

Pariah S. Burke ( is a design and publishing workflow expert bringing creative efficiency into studios, agencies, and publications around the world as principal of Workflow: Creative ( He is the author of the first InDesign book written for experienced InDesign users, Mastering InDesign CS3 for Print Design and Production (Sybex, 2007), and other books on Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Creative Suite, and QuarkXPress; author of more than 250 published articles; the former trainer and technical lead for InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat to Adobe?s own technical support team; a freelance graphic designer with 20 years experience; a WordPress evangelist; and the publisher of the Websites Quark VS (, Designorati (, Gurus Unleashed (, Workflow: Freelance (, and the Creatives Are Community and Toolbar ( When not traveling, Pariah lives in Portland, Oregon where he writes (a lot) and creates (many) projects and publications to empower, inform, and connect creative professionals.
Pariah S. Burke

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39 Comments on “Find/Change Objects and Attributes in InDesign CS3

  1. The other thing I was awaiting wor is GREP. I’ve used this for a couple of years now, in BBEdit, and I can assure you, it’s one of the most powerful tools in text sorting, correcting, etc. Hope the GREP implementation is as complete as in BBEdit. Would you imagine a list like:

    “Doe, John – 1945/20/11
    Martin, Philip – 1957/12/3″

    and so on for hundreds of entries
    transformed into:

    “John Doe ::: Born 20/11/1945
    Philip Martin ::: Born 12/3/1957″

    all in one find/change session?

  2. One thing we always wished for on the prepress production end was a select same stroke/fill such as was present in AI. Looks like it is there within the find/change objects and attributes. Fantastic, what a time saver for just that alone!

  3. Sandee Cohen has written an excellent introduction to GREP (also in the new Find/Change dialog) in the new issue of InDesign Magazine due to come out in early April. Subscribers have been sent a copy of that and another article about InDesign CS3 while we’re anxiously waiting for our next issue!

  4. Guido: I’m not familiar with BBEdit’s implementation of GREP searching, but I can confirm that InDesign’s is very well done. I’m also very glad to see that Adobe went with GREP instead of building their own expressions syntax.

  5. Jim: I was in the same position. I use Select Same in Illustrator frequently, but the InDesign team went far beyond that in the new Find/Change.

    I’m also very happy with the fact that Find/Change can replace Object Styles. So, even if objects were diligently assigned to styles, replacing one with another is a quick search and replace operation and can be done selectively.

    Something I didn’t mention in the article is that all your searches can be saved and reused like presets, too. This is particular will be a big help to prepress operators that find themselves fixing or altering the same types of object attributes frequently–for example, fixing instances of designers inadvertantly using Registration Black instead of Process Black.

  6. If you aren’t a subscriber to InDesign Magazine, I heartily recommend you sign up. The issue Steve mentioned is loaded with InDesign CS3 information and how-tos. Also, in addition to Sandee’s excellent GREP article, subscribers got the article “Get Your Photoshop On,” wherein Anne-Marie Concepcion and I cover the new Effects panel, attribute level transparency, and the Photoshop-like effects.

  7. What I’m curious about as a freelance dtp-er is if (ID) CS3 can be installed seperate from CS2. Not all my customers have the newest software and they have to be able to still open the documents that I make.

  8. All Adobe updates are completely separate applications. More than one version can happily coexist. I’ve got CS and CS2 and have used this machine for prerelease CS3 with no problems.

  9. The only exceptions would be applications or applets that integrate with the OS on a deeper level. For instance, only one version of Bridge will function. And, though you can use multiple versions of Acrobat, only the most recently installed Acrobat Distiller will function.

    Like Bob, I have InDesign CS, CS2, and CS3 all running fine on a couple of computers. I also have multiple versions of InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Flash co-existing.

  10. What I’m looking for (and have been requesting for over a year) is a way to find text that is styled with a specified Paragraph Style and then over-ridden (possibly due to an import error), and revert it to the desired Paragraph Style. Neither Find Font nor the new Find/Change appear to be able to do this directly.

  11. To Bob and Pariah,
    thanks for the answer :) I’m glad that it’s not going to be a hassle.
    I have CS in dutch and CS2 in english, and they don’t like each other, so I set up a seperate HD to run CS on. I didn’t want to have to go through that with CS3 too (I will get that in english to when it comes out here in holland)

  12. David, Clear Overrides can fix the problem once it’s found. But Ed wants Find/Change to find them, and Find Format doesn’t have that option. (“Find Format: Body Style plus extra manual formatting of any type.”) He might want to use Find/Change because he wants to take care of all instances of local overrides in a style in a big document … but Clear Overrides can only work a spread at a time, at most.

    But come to think of it, Ed, you can do what you’re asking already, in CS2.

    Find/Change has a “featurenotabug” in that it automatically clears overrides (which some people don’t like, but works great in your situation) whenever you specify a Paragraph Style in the Change Format area.

    So say text styled with “Body Copy” paragraph style is all wonky throughout your doc because of various kinds of local formatting.

    To fix, go to Find/Change and set it to run through the Document. Leave the Find/Change fields empty but click the More Options button to open the Format fields. In Find Format, set it to find Paragraph Style: Body Copy. In Change Format, set it to find the same thing, Paragraph Style: Body copy.

    Then click Change All … voila, all local formatting is stripped from paragraphs styled with Body Copy.

    If there is some local formatting you want to keep, be sure to use Character Styles for those … the Find/Change thing won’t clear out Character Style formatting without a bit of extra work.

  13. When using GREP to find words typed in Captitals, more than one character I would think:

    But when the word is last in a sentence it has no space. But the option [ ]? (space may be there) results in finding every capital.

    How would one find words in capitals, at least 2 charcters?

  14. Anne-Marie

    You’re on the right track, and because I can apply Paragraph Styles with the Edit > Find Change dialog box still open (unlike the Type > Find Font dialog box – what’s up with that?) I can conceivably go through the document paragraph by paragraph and style by style.

    But we have ~52 styles, and 80 – 90 % of the document is already styled correctly (either using paragraph styles or by character styles) so what I’m really looking for is a method to find JUST the parts that have an over-ride applied, so that they can be examined and modified only if necessary.


  15. Can you find/change the table strokes with cs3? I have an 100 page document with tables which have every second row line 50% tint black stokes and every other of the lines 100%. Can I change the 50% tint lines to dot lines with new find/change option all at once?

  16. Pekka: No, I don’t believe there is any way to find/change with table formatting at this time with InDesign.

  17. Can we also replace one object with another using GREP. e.g. we have a book about 100 pages with over 300 rectangular graphic frames. Now the client wants to show broken edged frame instead of rectangular. If we replace them all one by one it shall be enormous job as the managing text wraps and text reflows shall also add to misery. I strongly feel there is some easier way or GREP search script which can do the job easily. please help me. Thanks in advance… manuj bajaj

  18. Manuj: If you’re just changing the stroke style (solid to dashed), then Find/Change object style in CS3 can do that already.

  19. Thanks David…for a prompt response…I have learnt that from you, already. But the problem at hand is that the shape of the graphic frame has to change. The rectangular frame has to be changed to saw tooth cutting style from right and bottom side. This kind of saw tooth cutting style is used in most books on computer / technology. The frame does not show the complete screen shot but it is ‘cut’ as if by saw to show the raoughend edges on right and bottom edges… I wish I could attach the before after screen shots… Can we find / replace graphic objects based on the number of nodes or names like we can do that in corel draw.

  20. one correction… in corel draw you can only find objects based on type of polygon, number of sides, number of nodes, and Horizontal and Vertical sizes… you can select them and after finding them you can change various attributes like color model, fills, outline strokes properties etc…. but you still cant change the object shapes… You can also find an object by a name you have already assigned to it earlier… thats pretty neat… but still we cant change it with some other object of different shape… I believe that is possible with GREP… someone please tell me HOW!… tomorrow I shall start the conversion process if nothing is found by then…Thanks in advance…

  21. Manuj: I am sorry to say that I cannot think of any way to automate this. In theory, you could find a way to do it by using GREP in an INX file, but I think it would take longer to figure that out than it would to simply do it manually. ;)

    However, one other idea: Could you use the Pathfinder features to change the look of the frame? For example, if you put a jaggy shape on top of the current frame, you could then select both frames and choose Object > Pathfinder > Subtract.

  22. Hi,

    Does anyone know how to replace text with an object in find/change.

    e.g. replace the word “yes” with an image found at “file://hardrive/” ect.

    any help would be much appreciated.


  23. Find/Change has a ?featurenotabug? in that it automatically clears overrides (which some people don?t like, but works great in your situation) whenever you specify a Paragraph Style in the Change Format area.

    I’m using ID CS3 and tried to change all [Basic Paragraph] of the footnotes (of a placed text) to MyFootnoteParagraph, but the ‘clear overrides’ was not applied.

    Maybe it’s because the footnote number is formatted by ID, i.e. differently…? Who knows…

    I solved my problem incidently – tried to find/change some white spaces (i.e. entedred some text in the find/change text fields) and forgot to remove the mentioned find/change formatting. That turned the ‘clear overrides’ on.

  24. Could anyone help! With the current reduction in VAT I need to amend a 40pp brochure to accommodate these price changes is there a quick way to amend all prices from 17.5% to 15% in Adobe Indesign CS3

  25. Yes, Trish. In AppleScript, write something like the following, using the strings that are currently in the GREP dialog (or Find Text dialog):

    tell application “Adobe InDesign CS3″
      tell active document
      set tableList to tables of stories
        repeat with eachItem in tableList
          tell eachItem
            change grep –for GREP, OR
           –change text –for text
          end tell
        end repeat
      end tell
    end tell

  26. Often, when I go into the Find/Change dialogue box and try to type in the “Find what” field it doesn’t let me and the cursor actually flicks back to the document and types there instead. So if you searching for “ink” you’ll see the first few letter appear in the Find/Change box and then disappear and appear in the document instead.

    Has anyone ever had this problem? And if so, how is it fixed/avoided?

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  29. I work with six different Indian languages and when we receive the translated material, I am responsible for formatting the material. Often times with quotes, our Indian keyboarders will forget to add the corresponding opening or closing quotation marks. Currently I have to run a search for opening quotation marks and then visually scan the text to make sure the corresponding closing quotation mark is there and then vice versa for closing quotation marks. I know there MUST be a way to do this using the GREP search but neither myself or our company computer tech has been able to figure it out.

    In the Kannada Indian language, an opening quotation mark would be ëë or a double e-umlaut. (Obviously I am using a Kannada font called Chandana and in that font, it shows as a double opening quotation mark. But in an English font such as Times New Roman, it show as the double e-umlaut.) The closing double quotation mark in the Kannada font is íí or a double acute i.

    How do I search ëë that is not followed by íí before the next ëë and have InDesign highlight that in red? And how do I do the opposite of searching for íí that is not preceeded by ëë?

    If I could figure this out, it would save myself and our proofreader a TREMENDOUS amount of time! And thanks in advance for ANY help.

  30. Aimee, I don’t think there’s a way to formulate a search that specifically excludes a certain character. And that seems exatly what you need to do in your lookaheads/lookbehinds… I can see only one workaround to address this: make up explicit lists of characters that don’t have what you don’t need. For example, the following lookahead search will find all occurences of ëë that are followed by:
    1. Any lowercase letter OR
    2. A space OR
    3. Any digit
    Any number of times
    AND THEN by another ëë

    ëë(?=[\l| |\d]+ëë)

    Because your íí is not in the list of alternatives in square brackets, you will only find the orphaned ëë’s not followed by íí before another ëë comes around.

    But you must pay attention to really include all characters that can possibly go between your opening and closing quotes in that list of alternatives ? alphabet in both cases, spaces, dashes, digits, etc. ? my list is just an example and I know nothing about Indian scripts. And you can’t use too generic wildcards like .+ as they will likely include your íí and that will ruin the idea.

    When you’re done, it’s best to implement this as a GREP style so your orphaned quotes are painted red for you automatically.

  31. Hi David

    I’m working on a project where we use object styles a LOT. Various people work on this project, so there are instances when unwanted attributes (such as text wrap on body legs) get accidentally assigned to objects that have object styles applied to them. Do you know of any way to do a wholesale purge of attributes not defined in object styles? I’ve tried using Anne-Marie’s trick ( of finding an object style and applying the same style using change all, but that doesn’t clear the unwanted attributes… I can’t find any literature anywhere giving an indication of how to automate this process…

    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Mijburgh: There is a “Clear Overrides” feature in the Object Styles panel menu. And also there is a “Clear Overrides When Applying Style” feature, which should also help. However, you may need to define more formatting the object style itself.

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