Updating Bits of Text Across Multiple Documents
I create a lot of sales literature that includes the same office phone number footer. We keep adding offices and changing the numbers. Short of opening every InDesign document and doing a find/change on the phone number, is there a better way to update? Like linking somehow to a single file? Can you link to text or snippets like an image, so every time the doc is re-opened, it updates?
This is a common request, and the answer is (as it so often is): yes and no. InDesign won’t let you link to snippets, but it will let you link to a text file. We discussed linking to text files in podcast Episode 38, but I don’t think we got into the details of how to link to a little chunk of text that changes periodically. Here’s what you can do.
First, I’ll create a Word document with the boilerplate text I want to link to from all my documents.
In this Word document, I create and apply a paragraph style (in this case, I’ve called the style inlinephonenumber). I do not apply any additional local formatting.
Next, in InDesign, I open the Type pane of the Preferences dialog box and turn on the “Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files” checkbox, and click OK. I don’t normally like linking to text files, but in this case, it works pretty well.
Now I make sure I have a paragraph style with exactly the same name in my InDesign document, then import my Word doc.
Now I press Command-Option-C/Ctrl-Alt-C to fit the frame to the text, then use the Selection tool to cut the whole frame out and paste it into the frame where I want it. This step is optional, I suppose. If you don’t need it anchored in some other text frame, then ignore this.
(Note that I specifically chose Trajan here as my font after watching this brilliant video.)
Because my inlinephonenumber style is based on the paragraph style for the rest of the text, it all matches perfectly.
Now I turn off Create Links in Preferences, just so I don’t mess myself up later, next time I import a Word file.
That’s it! The phone number is linked to the Word file on disk. If I edit the Word file, the Links panel shows it as Modified and I can click the Update button. Or, if I’m already in the InDesign file, I can choose the link, click the Edit Original button (or choose Edit > Edit Original), change the Word file, save it, then return to InDesign, and it gets updated automatically.
There is no way to tell InDesign to update all your links everytime you open a document, but if you do open a document that is linked to a modified file, InDesign will warn you.
I don’t like to click Fix Links Automatically because… well, I guess because I like to be more careful about updating. I prefer to click Don’t Fix, then inspect the Links panel carefully and update the ones I want to update. But if you’re a trusting soul, then you could just do it automatically.
If you’re going to do this, you should be aware that anchored frames cannot break on to two lines. That’s kind of obvious, but it’s important. That means that you can’t expect to link to a whole sentence, then anchor that sentence inside another paragraph. It just won’t work right. But for a phone number or something like that, this method can work pretty well.
Also note that unlike linked graphics, you don’t need to send the original text file along with your InDesign document to print. The text will print just fine even if it’s listed as missing in the Links panel. That said, it might freak our your print shop, so before sending your files, you may want to select the linked text files in the Links panel and choose Unlink from the panel menu.