Creating Custom Cross-References: Video

Using InDesign’s cross-reference feature is a smart move. Instead of you having to manually check that all your references (“See chart on page 3”) are accurate as the document is edited, and update them by hand, you leave that up to InDesign’s computer brain.

Yet, I’ve found many users who would benefit from automatic x-refs in InDesign continue to create these by hand, mainly because a) The New Cross-Reference dialog box has a couple of hidden traps that can ruin things from the start, if you don’t know how to avoid them; and b) they find that none of the default Cross Reference Formats are useful to them (“Full Paragraph” x-refs can get a little long, you know?).

I reveal the traps and their workarounds, and show you how easy it is to customize x-ref formats for your publication in this just-released video from our InDesign Secret series at

A friendly heads-up: the video is kind of long (14 minutes) and I probably should have split it into two or three segments. But once I got going I just couldn’t stop with the tips and workarounds! Note that if you’re already used to creating and updating cross-references, you can fast-forward to about 5:40, where I get into customizing the default x-ref formats.

Check out all the great InDesign Secrets videos at — many of which are free, and some of which are for subscribers only. (If you’re not yet a subscriber, get 7 days free content here!)


11 Comments on “Creating Custom Cross-References: Video

  1. Those are great tips, Anne-Marie! I especially like a description of how to use the building blocks for customizing your cross-reference!

  2. This hint might be useful for somebody, who tries to insert a x-ref in e.g. a document from an older version of ID, which didn’t support x-refs.

    The problem that might occur (and which troubled me this afternoon for a while, until I found out …) is that you can not insert a x-ref in a document that hasn’t yet defined any x-ref formats. If you try from within the Insert-x-ref dialogue box, it doen’t work or even makes ID crash, because ID handles the x-ref not as such but as a hyperlink (it appears in the hyperlink section of the panel) – for what ever reason.

    So you have to define at least one x-ref format (in the hyperlink/x-ref panel), before you can insert a x-ref. Then anything works fine.

  3. Anne-Marie,

    I’m doing some research on x-refs and came across this video. Great work.

    But there is one thing you could have done differently. (Or I think you could have done differently. Let me know if I’m wrong.)

    When you wanted just the word “Application” to be in the x-ref, you didn’t have to choose End Nested Style and then insert that in the text.

    You can just insert a space between the quotes to define the partial text as everything up to the first word. The benefit of this is you don’t have to insert something into the text and you can use the same definition all over your document without massaging the text.

    Finally, I agree with you about those quote marks around the Full Paragraph code. In my case I need something a little different. The words from my paragraph come from the chapter name. So my x-ref would be something like:

    For more information see Points and Paths on page ##.

    I need two character style controls for the x-ref. One for the “For more information see” and “on page ##” with no italic. And another with italic for the name of the chapter.

  4. Hi Anne-Marie! I was wondering if you know of any scripts or ways to make multiple cross-references at a time. I am currently working on a book that has 711 footnote references that all need linked to their footnote at the end of the book. I have been going through them one by one, which I am pretty sure will take me longer than I have left to live. Haha.

    Any tips would be appreciated!


  5. Thanks Anne-Marrie, this has really helped cement things in my head!

    What would be the best way of cross referencing to different images which are anchored throughout a chapter of running copy? Would I need to have a deferent paragraph style for each paragraph an image is anchored to so that the cross reference can find each image?

    I’ve been learning so much from you recently, thank you!

  6. Hi, I have two questions:

    1. If a figure caption should look like this: “Figure 1.1.Graph of XYZ”

    And the in-text reference should look like this: “Z is linearly dependent on X and Y (Fig. 1.1.)”

    It should be abbreviated — “Fig.” instead of “Figure” (not essential, but nice to have). Is there a way to do that when defining your own cross-reference format?

    2. Can you reference multiple figures given the conditions above?

    Example: “Z is linearly dependent on X and Y (Figs. 1.1. and 2.3.)”

  7. Hi Anne-Marie, is there any way to automatically generate a batch of cross-refs by populating the panel with everything that’s a certain paragraph style? Just like generating a TOC, but I don’t find anything about it anywhere. Putting them in one by one is pretty tedious.

    Thanks for any insights.

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