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Use Your Own Placeholder Text in InDesign

Mark wrote:

I was wondering if there was a way to replace the “Fill with placeholder text” from the latin gibberish to another English babble.  I know in QuarkXPress they give you different options for Jabberwocky. Can InDesign be customized to replace the fill Placeholder text from it’s default setting?

We’ve gotten three separate questions about placeholder text in the last week, so obviously it’s time to revisit this subject! We mentioned the trick for creating custom placeholder text back in Episode 46, but it’s not always easy to find solutions in the middle of a podcast transcript. So:

To make your own custom placeholder text, just create any text file (no formatting, just a Text Only file). Save it with the name “placeholder.txt” and put it in the InDesign application folder. You don’t even need to restart the program… next time you use Fill with Placeholder Text, it will use that text instead.

We also got a report from someone else that when they try this, InDesign ignores the paragraph returns in the text file and just strings all the text together. This sounds like it may be some kind of text encoding issue. One solution may be to import the text file into InDesign, then use File > Export to save the text out again as Text Only. That has always worked for me.

Of course, no discussion of placeholder text and QX’s Jabberwocky feature would be complete without a mention of the excellent ChatterGoofy plug-in from Rorohiko (lightningbrain.com). This free plug-in lets you use Jabberwocky sets in InDesign. They say they haven’t updated it to create your own languages yet, though I hope they get around to that soon, as I always loved Jabberwocky in XPress and miss that ability in InDesign.

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
David Blatner

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22 Comments on “Use Your Own Placeholder Text in InDesign

  1. Exporting the text from InDesign did the trick, although I’m not sure what trick InDesign did that TextEdit didn’t.

  2. At some places that has evolved into a popular way to play a joke on unsuspecting colleagues. Even worse when it is widely known that they’ll be doing a mockup for something directly in front of a client. A bonus is having write access to somebody’s InDesign folder via network. And as you mentioned in the post, InDesign doesn’t have to be restarted for a change to take effect?

  3. For French speaking users, I have posted a few days ago the same tip for the French version of InDesign CS3 and CS4. Watch out : it’s slightly different and subtle.

  4. Lorem Ipsum etc. is a section from 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of The Extremes of Good and Evil (de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum) written by Cicero in 45 BC. It’s over 2000 years old and it’s been used in printing since 1500s.

    The Lorem Ipsum is good to use because normal text will distract a reader, when they should just be looking at layout. I can’t tell you the amount of times someone asks for a mock up and I put in my own mock up text, and the layout mock up comes back with more text mark ups than layout mark ups, which isn’t the purpose.

    Anyway it’s good that you can change it and the option is there. However, the Quark name is way better jabberwocky which is just fun to say.

  5. That’s great info, Eugene. Note, however, that you get slightly different “default” placeholder text if you have the Caps Lock key down when you use Fill with Placeholder Text. I don’t recall what Latin that’s based on.

  6. Hey, David, your Export advice worked to bring back my hard returns. I thank you as does at least one other inhabitant of dekeOpolis

    And although I never used Quark (I was confined to Editorial cubicles for most of the 90s, and the designers never let me near page layouts. That changed when I started asking for so many complicated design elements they started saying, “Here, why don’t you do it yourself and we’ll clean up after you.”), it just so happens my placeholder text of choice is Through the Looking Glass, the birthplace of the epic nonsense poem, Jabberwocky!

  7. I want that the Preflight feature in InDesign CS5 warns me if at least one character of the fake latin text is still present in a document when I print/export.

    A unified warning box can contains all these warnings instead to have to hit Enter 2, 3, 4 times : transparency blending mode, TOC not updated, Index not updated, Missing or outdated links, fake latin text still presents, etc.

  8. Ah, that’s interesting, never even knew about that, never seen it before. I will have to look into that. I’m nearly sure it’s random text and it has to be Cicero!

    Ok so I do know that 1 cicero is 12 points

    Back in the day befor numbers were used they used names instead.

    Like Pica, which is latin for a type of bird, most likely a magpie or jay. Well, we all know how much that Pica in the window is!

    Like Ruby, which is 5.5 point in size and sit above kanji characters, for phonetic purposes in translation. But more commonly used in newspaper prints these days, yep the 5.5 point size might have given it away, also known as Agates!

    Like wise “Primer” which is 10 pt, well Long Primer is, not Great Primer (18pt) and Double Great Primer (36pt).

    I love the whole history that is implemented into indesign, and I hope that they do keep the Lorem Ipsum etc. it would be also nice if they provided the translation text file :) as Cicero was a very important Lawyer and a massive influence all round.

    I think the history and reference is a testament to who we are and what we do. I prefer not to call it giberish, :), but if you tell someone you work with, it’s not giberish, it’s actual text by Cicero about Ethics, then they may have a deeper respect to the origins of your daily work, as I find most people take what is done for granted, because computers are always there, a point size is a point size because the computer told them so.

    If you were to ask someone what a Cicero is, they probably couldn’t tell you the measurement, and I’d be surprised if they even knew he was fairly prolific in world history, well at the minimum, ancient Rome.

    Soooo.. how do you go about changing THAT text to something you want?

    So in theory you could leave lorum ipsem as standard, but in fact you could hold caps lock and put in your own text, right?

  9. Hi David,

    Thank you for the tip. I use the Middle East InDesign version. Here in Israel we have not so usable placeholder text for Hebrew. Do you know how to replace the placeholder text for non-latin languages?

    Thank you in advance.

  10. Jochen, thank you very much. It actually has a Hebrew option into the “Other languages/charsets” list, just the word “Hebrew” appears in Hebrew, not in English. It is the fifth list item.

    The generated text much better from the original in InDesign, but it is not working according to the way David give us.

    David and Jochen, thank you again. I will send the question to Winsoft that develops the ME versions.

  11. Thank you, Alexey, for finding this information! Very interesting. I wonder if there are other language-specific placeholder file names we should know about. Interesting…

  12. I understand that Indesign CS4 has the internals for supporting Hindi in Unicode Devnagari script, but it is missing the user interfaces for this.

    Some good patches and plug-in by external parties fill in this gap to some extent.

    Will cs5 have the user interfaces for Hindi in Devnagari script and thus will be the first version of Indesign to fully support Hindi?

  13. @Balasubramaniam: No one knows what CS5 will have at this early date. Right now, the only good solution I know of is world tools from in-tools.com. I hope that a future version of InDesign will be fully world-aware-and-able.

  14. I’m using a French version of ID CS4 and I can’t change my placeholder text. I’ve tried Branislav Milic’s tip from his website, I’ve tried to get inspired by Alexey Kletsel’s method, but it doesn’t work at all! Could someone help me? (OK, I know, it’s not essential InDesign, but I would like to found back the klingon placeholder I used to with QXP… just for the fun! QA TLHO’ !)

  15. @Jochen Uebel
    @David Blatner

    Hello people. Just wanted to let you know that after seeing your comment I’ve added Hebrew and a few other languages (Russian, Chinese, Japanese) to random text generator.

    I’ve also added the ability to get the text in HTML with and tags. Just in case someone is already coding a web design.

    Thank you in helping me make it a better tool for everyone :)

  16. it seems the name of the file needs to be localized: my german InDesign CS5 only accepts the german named “platzhalter.txt” file.

    also, there are problems with UTF-8 encoding, it gets the german special chars wrong. I saved it with western europe (mac os roman) and it works fine.

  17. It works ? except I can’t seem to get line breaks in the .txt. file to show up when I fill the placeholder text in inDesign. Using v. 5.5.

    ???

  18. Placeholder text in latin serves to be unreadable to the wider public due to the fact that some clients actualy draw your attention to any english placeholder text as not being relevant to their company. You would think people were more intelligent to realise that the document is merely a forma for design layout at that point. But it happens regularly, clients pick up on the english placeholder text 20% of the time as inaccuracies in the document.