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Going Deep with Footnotes

Whether you’re explaining, referencing, or elaborating, footnotes and endnotes are an invaluable designing tool.

True to their name, footnotes are simply notes at the foot of the page. They contain ancillary information that supports or extends the main text by providing additional information or giving credit to sources. They are numbered in some way (using numbers, letters, or symbols) and they are keyed to the text by a note reference (often also called a cue or callout).

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Peter Kahrel

Peter Kahrel

Peter Kahrel is a script developer at Typefi Systems. He is the author of several eBooks on InDesign and scripting, including GREP in InDesign, published by O’Reilly Media. He also wrote the feature article on "Getting a Grip on GREP" in InDesign Magazine Issue 59.
Peter Kahrel

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10 Comments on “Going Deep with Footnotes

  1. Anyone know why in the early days of ID Adobe decided to add footnotes but still hasn’t added endnotes? Visit a university library and pull down books that have either sort of notes. Publishing began to replace footnotes with endnotes in the 1950s. Today, they’re as rare as hen’s teeth and seen only under exceptional circumstances.

    It can’t imagine ease of implementation being why. Footnotes were harder to do in the pre-computer days of publishing. I suspect they’re also harded to implement in software today. Why did Adobe do the hard and almost unnecessary thing but still has not added a feature that’s far more useful?

    Long ago, I worked for Microsoft helping with system documentation. One of their editors had a sign on her door that said, “Stop making sense.” That’s a good description of what we’re seeing here. It makes no sense.

    • I believe (but am not sure) that the reason is: footnotes have to do with page layout, while endnotes have to do with document construction. And InDesign is a page-layout (or, technically, a spread-layout) program.

      Another way to think about it is that Adobe was very concerned with where objects (text, graphics, etc.) were placed on the spread. Footnotes was a very difficult problem to solve, so they knew they needed to do that first. (Always take care of the hard problem first!)

      Endnotes are more similar to a table of contents or cross-references, so I guess they figured they would deal with it later… and now we’re still waiting.

    • Footnotes are a far superior tool for the reader than endnotes, which is why they are very much alive. And that’s why ublishers who care about their readers design with footnotes. Endnotes stink. :)

  2. Makes perfect sense, David.

    Matthew:

    > Today, they’re as rare as hen’s teeth and seen only under exceptional circumstances

    That’s not true. Many publishers, especially academic publishers, use footnotes almost exclusively.

  3. Where is the script for producing margin notes? Text reads “Or, if you have a lot of them to produce, you can use this script.” But no link to script.

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