Tabbed Text Into Tables

There’s a great new productivity feature in InDesign CS3 that you may not have heard about. In InDesign CS3 you can now copy and paste tabbed text across a selection of table cells.

For example, suppose you have last issue’s finished, formatted table:

and now I have this month’s updated content. The formatting of the table remains the same, I just need to replace the text in some of the cells.

One way to do this in CS3 is to link to an external Excel spreadsheet that you import into InDesign and update the link. If you’ve formatted your table using InDesign CS3’s table styles, you’ll retain most of your formatting.

But suppose you don’t have a new spreadsheet. Suppose what you’re handed for the new issue is some tab-delimited text that came from who-knows-where:

All you need to do to replace the content in the old table with your new tab delimited content is copy the tabbed text to the clipboard, select the range of cells to be updated, and then paste into the table using the Paste Without Formatting command (cmd/ctrl + shift + V). By using this command, the text will adopt the formatting of the table cells into which you are pasting it.

The ability to intelligently paste tabbed text into an existing table is a great new productivity feature that can save you a ton of time if you’re regularly updating table data.

3 Responses to Tabbed Text Into Tables

  1. Yes, this is a wonderful feature! One addition: You don’t actually have to select all the cells in the table you want to replace. Just select the first cell (for example, the one in the upper left corner). When you Paste, InDesign assumes you want to fill the cells down and to the right of the selected cell.

    (Don’t forget you can select a cell by placing the text cursor inside the cell then pressing Esc.)

    TC: Yes, good addition. It’s important for users to note, though, that at least the first cell in the range of cells you want to update has to be selected as per David’s instructions, and not simply the location of a text tool insertion point. With only an insertion point, all the copied text is simply poured into the cell in question…and that’s not what you want.

  2. Very interesting indeed. Is there a way to link the cells so that text flows into each text frame? I haven’t heard much about this, but it’s something that’s been on my wish list for a while.

    By the way, thanks for the great insight. I’m loving this blog.

    TC: You can’t link table cells to each other, if that’s what you’re asking. What kind of job are you doint that requires linked cells?

  3. Jill Lougheed says:

    I need to link cells so that the days of the calendar can be moved easily from month to month. Can it be done in InDesign? Quark does it easily.

    [TC: XPress uses a very different underlying architecture for its tables, which makes some tasks easier, other’s more difficult. In your situation I’d probably choose to either link to a spreadsheet, or I’d use the copy and paste technique explained in the tip to quickly update my calendar dates.]