I’ve already covered how to create numbered lists for outlines and multi-level lists. Now I’m going to walk through the steps of adding figure numbers, such as “Figure 1-1,” “Figure 1-2,” and so on. Using sequential numbering for lists of figures is common in technical manuals and user guides. I actually did a fairly thorough job in the Creating running captions for figures and tables Help topic if I don’t say so myself, but it may be helpful to demonstrate this process with a specific type of caption list.
Running caption for figures
Step 1 – In the source document, define a list.
I’m assuming you have a book in which each document represents a different chapter. After you create the list and styles in the source document, you can synchronize the documents in the book so that these items are copied to the rest of the documents. For more information on working with books, see Creating book files in Help.You need to define a list and then create a paragraph style that references that list. Defining lists allows you to have multiple lists in a document that don’t interfere with each other. You don’t want the numbering sequence in your list of figures to get mingled in with the numbering of your list of tables or multi-level heading list.Choose Type > Bulleted & Numbered Lists > Define Lists. Click New, and type the name of the list, such as Figures. In our example, we’re going to include chapter numbers, so we want numbering to restart with each document in a book. Deselect “Continue Numbers from Previous Documents in Book,” and click OK.
Step 2 – Create the paragraph style
In the Paragraph Styles panel, click the Create New Style icon, and type the name of the style (such as “Figure Captions”).* Click the Bullets & Numbering section. For List Type, choose Numbering. From the List menu, choose the list you defined.* Click Number to select the contents of the Number field, and then delete it — we’ll use a different pattern. Type Figure followed by a space. To insert the chapter number, choose Insert Number Placeholder > Chapter Number from the menu to the right of the Number field. Then type a hyphen and choose Insert Number Placeholder > Current Level. Then type a period followed by a space. (Feel free to vary the format however you like. For example, you may prefer using an en dash instead of a hyphen, a colon instead of a period, and an em space instead of a space.* If you want the number to be formatted differently from the rest of the caption (such as “Figure 1-1. Dart frogs”), select or create a character style from the Character Style menu.
Paragraph style for running caption
Step 3 – Apply the paragraph style to the caption
I designed this paragraph style to include custom text for each caption, such as “Figure 1-1. Dart frogs.” Drag a text frame below the figure image, and then apply the paragraph style to the paragraph. When you type the first character, the “Figure 1-1. ” prefix is inserted.Tip: In some cases, you may want to include only the “Figure 1-1” text. In such a case, simply type a space in the paragraph to make the prefix appear.Step 4 – Create an object style for your images.In the Help topic on creating running captions, a commenter named Keith mentioned the idea of creating an object style for figures that includes a 1p0 text wrap. By applying this object style to the figures, you can then align the caption text frame to the bottom of the figure, and the top line of the caption will be offset from the bottom figure by a consistent amount.To create the object style, select a figure image (not the text frame), and then open the Object Styles panel (Window > Object Styles). Click the Create New Style icon, and type a name for the object style, such as “Figures.” Click the Text Wrap & Other panel, and then specify text wrap settings.
Object style settings
Apply the object style to the figures in the document. Then create a caption text frame for each figure, and apply the paragraph style to the caption text. Group each figure with its caption text frame to keep them together.
Before and after applying the object style
Step 5 – Make sure figures on the same page are in the right order.
InDesign automatically sorts the figure numbers from first to last page. But what if multiple figures appear on the same page? InDesign sorts the figures in the order in which they were added to the page (InDesign uses a different method for creating the table of contents order, but we’ll get to that later).If your figures are in the wrong order on the page, the solution is clumsy but simple. Cut the figure/caption groups one-by-one and choose Edit > Paste In Place in the order in which you want the captions to appear. (Yes, I’ve asked the InDesign team for a Tab Order feature.)Step 6 – Synchronize the book.Once you get all the styles for the figures and captions set up in your source document, open the book panel and synchronize the documents in the book. Then apply the styles and group the figures and captions in each document.Step 7 – Generate a list of figures.Some documents require a “List of Figures.” If you need to do this, you can use the Table of Contents feature.
List of figures
Create a page or document then will contain your list of figures. Choose Layout > Table of Contents, and then move the figure captions paragraph style to the Include Paragraph Styles list. Specify a different style for the Entry Style. If you use the same style for the TOC entries, you’ll end up with entries that look like this: Figure 1-9. Figure 1-1. Dart frogs.” Change other settings in the table of contents, and then generate the table of contents.
Generate a list of figures
As I mentioned, figures that appear on the same page may not appear in their proper order. InDesign reads the page first from top to bottom and then from left to right. If your captions are out of order, you can rearrange the paragraphs in the generated text frame. However, if you regenerate the list, you’ll have to do it all over again. One workaround is to paste the figures as anchored objects in the text frames.I thought this would wrap up the numbered lists coverage, but it turns out I have one more task to discuss — creating simple numbered lists.