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How to Link an Excel Spreadsheet to a Table in InDesign or QuarkXPress

Answered by Jay Nelson, Editor and Publisher, Design Tools Monthly

It seems to me that InDesign ought to be able to maintain a live link between a table on one of its pages and the Excel spreadsheet that was used to populate it. QuarkXPress can do it -- can InDesign?
You're right: keeping a table linked to an Excel spreadsheet is pretty obvious in QuarkXPress 6.1 and higher: just enable the "Link to External Data" checkbox when creating the table.

To do the same in InDesign, you must set an application preference before importing the spreadsheet into the table. In InDesign CS4, choose InDesign> Preferences> File Handling and tick the checkbox next to "Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files". In InDesign CS3, it's under InDesign> Preferences> Type.

Either way, you need to be careful about formatting the table. When you update the Excel spreadsheet and then tell InDesign or QuarkXPress to update their tables, text formatting may be lost. Maybe that's why InDesign hides this feature so deeply.

Therefore, it's probably wise to put off formatting the text in the tables until the project data is finalized. You can still use the preliminary spreadsheet data to create the size of the table and its cells, but save the text formatting for later on.

This question was answered by Jay Nelson, Publisher & Editor, Design Tools Monthly. We love DTM's tips and advice and think you will, too. For a free sample PRINTED issue, contact Design Tools Monthly at 303-543-8400, e-mail, or go to their website:

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