InDesign Secrets: How to place and link text—without its formatting

Published by | Thursday, June 13th, 2013

The Place and Link feature of Adobe InDesign is amazing. If you select any object in your layout, you can go to the Edit menu, choose Place and Link, and it’s as though you were placing something that you imported from an external file. The benefit to Place and Link is that, unlike simply copying an object, the parent element and its children are linked; any change to the parent ripples down to all the other children when you update the link. This can be a huge timesaver when you need to reuse artwork or text multiple times in multiple places.

However, there’s also a way to keep the formatting of child objects in place. In this week’s InDesign Secrets video, Anne-Marie Concepción shows you how to create multiple copies of linked text that retain their own formatting.

Figure 1

1. First of all, to use this feature, select the object, choose Edit > Place and Link, and click the location where you want to place it. If your objects become out of sync, simply click the Relink icon in the Links panel or on the objects themselves to migrate the changes.

If you have made any edits to the child object, you may receive a warning: “Edits have been made in the linked page item. You will lose these edits by updating. Update anyway?” Clicking Yes will undo local changes. But what if you want to keep them? You need to set up the Link Options.

Figure 2

2. Select the child object and go to the flyout menu for the Links panel. Choose Link Options and select what you’d like to preserve from the Link Options: Objects dialog box. Options include

  • Appearance (stroke, fill, effects, etc.)
  • Interactivity (animation, button actions, etc.)
  • Size and Shape (width, height, transforms, etc.)
  • Frame Content (image, video, other content placed inside frames)
  • Others (text wrap, auto size, and other options)


Figure 3

Text is a special case. Imagine, as shown in Anne-Marie’s example, that you have an address you want to repurpose on your main document for use on an envelope. What if you have to change the text color or size to fit? Link Options doesn’t contain a character or paragraph styles option. The solution is still in that menu, though: Turn on Define Custom Style Mapping.

3. Very important: You need to first create a new paragraph style for your placed text. Then you can select the text, open the Link Options dialog, check that Define Custom Style Mapping box, and click Settings.

4. This opens the Custom Style Mapping dialog. Choose New Style Mapping. Select the correct option from the Style Type dropdown (Paragraph, Character, Table, or Cell), and identify the parent style from the Source Style dropdown and the new child paragraph style from the Mapped Style dropdown. Click OK.

Figure 4

Note that you’ll need to update the link to see the changes. But this way you can make a change to the address in the parent text and update the links to any children, and the text itself will refresh without affecting the formatting of the children.

Visit the library to learn how to set the baseline positions of captions and precisely control the distance between text and images, in the next InDesign Secrets video. Check back for another free video in two weeks, when David Blatner shows how to manage where your text goes when the master page changes, using primary text frames.

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