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Is there any way to create multiple instances of an element?

Engaged ,
Sep 03, 2023 Sep 03, 2023

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Does InDesign have the equivalent of Symbols in Illustrator?

 

I would like to create a group of elements that I can reproduce throughout my document in such a manner that changing one of the instances of that group automatically updates all of them. 

 

For example, I have created a simple double-sided template for generating tabs. I have set the front and the back of the tab as two pages in a spread. I place an image inside a clipping path for the front of the tab. I add some text where the label goes. I use both Object Styles and Paragraph Styles to ensure consistency and I get the front of my first tab configured the way I want it.

 

Now, to get the back to exactly match the front but in reverse, I have to copy all the elements and paste them into the second page of the spread. I then flip all the elements from their center coordinates horizonally. Then, I just select the text elements and flip them vertically so they read correctly.

 

But when I go to make changes to the front of the tab, if I forget to make changes to the back of the tab, It's a mess. It would be great to have a relationship between the front and the back such that when I updated the front of the tab, the changes appeared on the back of the tab as well. 

 

I think of it is a symbolic link of sorts, where rather than pasting a copy of an element, you paste a link to that element. Then transforming the linked content (not editing it) doesn't change the content, it just changes how the content is displayed. However, changing the content anywhere would change it everywhere.

 

So in my tab example, I copy and past my tab fronts to the second page in the spread for each tab position in the Parents Panel. I use transforms to modify the linked copies of the front elements to flip them around as necessary. Then, when I create an instance of Tab 1:4 Parent, I ctrl-shift click an element to make it editable and modify the front only. The back would automatically update.

 

Thios would be great for thumbnails where you could have your source image and then the thumbnails somewhere else in the doument would be scaled down instances of the original. If your thuymbs are separate files, you run the risk of changing the image and having the wrong thumb file for it's unrelated thumb. This same sort of thing could be used for form letters where someone edits a text object and everywhere that information is needed on the form, it would automatically be updated bwcause everywhere else that was used, it was simply an instance of the original.

 

Before I submit a feature request, is there some way to do this now that I am unaware of? Thanks for any input.

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Feature request , Scripting

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Community Expert ,
Sep 03, 2023 Sep 03, 2023

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Group your elements. 
Then copy 

And use Edit>Place and Link

 

Then your group appears in the Links Panel
When you update the Parent Element - it will show as a modified link int he links panel.

 

Alternatively - you can could set it up as .ai file with layers. 

And when you place the file you can select which layers to place - and you can place it in sequence on top of each other and then group it.

To update everywhere you'd just need to edit the .ai file

(the layering in InDesign is up to you - if you want to work that way - you don't have to do this - but it would allow you turn on and off .ai layers, and manipulate them separately within the InDesign file - just an idea)

 

 

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Community Expert ,
Sep 04, 2023 Sep 04, 2023

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I don’t think you even have to do any grouping or copying. Just save your “symbol” as a separate InDesign document, and place that into any other InDesign document as many times as you need. Of course it’s placed as a linked file, so editing that original updates all instances when you update all links in the destination document. It might not be as seamless as an Illustrator symbol, but editing the source is as easy as right-clicking any instance in the destination document and choosing Edit Original. If you are iterating, just keep the symbol’s document open in another document tab or window.

 

quote

This same sort of thing could be used for form letters where someone edits a text object and everywhere that information is needed on the form, it would automatically be updated bwcause everywhere else that was used, it was simply an instance of the original.

By @Jason Burnett

 

Some examples of this are already covered by text variables (Type > Text Variables). For example, I have a form template where the project number is a text variable, so everywhere in the document where the project number exists can be updated in one step by editing the text variable.

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Community Expert ,
Sep 04, 2023 Sep 04, 2023

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With Place and link as a group - you can delve into the group of the original and update parts of it - as long as you don't ungroup it.
When you're finished editing you can then update all the links that it's referenced with.

I do this all the time for calendars. Where the Calendar on the main pages are minaturised for a smaller version at the back of the calendar.

It means any update to the original is then reflected when updating the link.

 

In essence, works similar to a 'symbol' in Illustrator.

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Community Expert ,
Sep 04, 2023 Sep 04, 2023

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We have no symbols in InDesign, but we have several methods to do that:

  1. InCopy stories. Export such a thing, image or text to an InCopy story and pace it where you want to have it. If you want to change it, check it out, do your changes and check in again. In the link panel you can update after a change or when you open a document with a changed assets you are asked like if you open a document with a changed image.
  2. You can use the content tools from the tool bar. Click with the content samper tool, and palce it with the content placer tool. With the appering convoyer panel you decide how it should be handled.
  3. Snippets: Export any asset you have selected as InDesign snipett. You will be able to place them anywhere you want, but the link to the original get lost. Changes are not tracked.
  4. CC Libraries or INDL Libraries.

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Guide ,
Sep 04, 2023 Sep 04, 2023

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Hi @Jason Burnett,

 

Another good old trick is placing the target component as an anchored object in a linked story, as discussed in this 2012 post: “Cloning and Syncing Objects in InDesign CS5.5”

 

Best,

Marc

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