InDesign Fortnight 8: Captions

Although probably not one of the show-stopping features of InDesign CS5, the new options for captions are a great productivity bonus for so many document types – and every little helps.

Static Captions

Of the two kinds of captions available you’re likely to come across static captions first – you’ll notice that when you import an image there’s an additional option available in the bottom of the import dialog: Create Static Caption.

Placing an image

Placing the image caption

This will generate you a text box at the same time and by default will contain the file name of the file being placed – although this can be modified in the preferences. Any changes to the content of the box will need to be modified manually, but at least you get a frame populated with some text ready to work on.

Live Captions

The power of this feature comes from InDesign CS5′s increased support for metadata – data stored in a file about the file – and it is becoming more and more an essential part of everyday workflows (especially cross-media and variable data publishing), so if you’re not familiar with this already then now might be a good time to start learning! Just an aside for a moment – if you want to have a look at a ‘metadata panel’ go to File > File Info… (in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc.) and you’ll see just how much data can be added to the file – you can also use Bridge to add/edit metadata for several files at once. To find out more about metadata in general – and how it enhances the file (searchability…) – try reading more on Wikipedia for starters and follow that up with a link (on the same page) to the Adobe eXtensible Metadata Platform: XMP.

Now that’s out of the way, back to Live Captions – the best place to start is with caption setup, that can be accessed from Object > Captions > Caption Setup. From here you can set up exactly what you want your caption to include – you can type directly into the two available fields, or add special characters from the small menus to the right of each field.

The drop-down in the middle gives you access to the different metadata you can add – there’s a lot – and if you need still more thenĀ  there are two icons at the end of the row that allow you to add and remove more. After that, you can determine the position and style of the caption – these attributes can be set and applied to static captions also – such as where the caption appears, the caption’s offset, paragraph style and even the layer on which the caption is placed.

The important thing to know once you’re out of the dialog is that the frame containing the caption must be either touching an imported file’s frame or grouped with it (the option to do that does also exist in the Caption Setup dialog) – if not you’ll get text inside the frame with the words <No Intersecting Link>.

Adding captions to links that are already placed is simple, too – right-click the link and choose Captions > Generate Live Caption or simply create a copy from an existing caption by alt-dragging it to the other links and it should update with the new data.

You can also convert your live captions to static captions (right-click and choose Captions > Convert to Static Caption) and indeed it may be necessary at certain times to do so – the captions are essentially a text variable and text variables don’t wrap; if you have a particularly long text string in a description for example, it may have to be converted so that you can wrap the text.

BTW – this works with other placed files, not just images – even placed ID files!

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