Numbered Lists — Part III Figure Captions

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.caption_define.jpg

Define list

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.caption_style.jpg

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.caption_object.jpg

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.caption_list.jpg

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.

30 Responses to Numbered Lists — Part III Figure Captions

  1. Tom Johnson says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been trying to figure this out all morning. I have a book with 5 separate documents. I just wanted the figures to read Figure 1, Figure 2, and so on. The problem is, the figure numbering doesn’t continue across books, even though I selected that option in the lists.For example, you wrote, “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.”With that option, I selected “Continue Numbers from Previous Documents in a Book.” Still, however, the figure captions don’t continue from one document to the next. I have also synchronized my book — nothing. I’m wondering if it’s a bug in CS4.

  2. Bob Bringhurst says:

    Yes, the figure numbering should work across documents in a book. I’ll do some research to find out what could be wrong. To get a quicker answer, you may want to explain your situation in the user forum:

  3. Tom, I just tested continued numbers. If I synchronize the styles in the booked documents and then choose Update Numbering > Update All Numbers from the books panel menu, the numbers are updated just fine.

  4. Tom Johnson says:

    Thanks for your replies. I found that reordering captions was difficult. Merely cutting and pasting them didn’t really work for me. Some of my captions are in text frames, others inline. When I want to put a caption text frame inline, I have to paste it inline, but pasting also affects the caption order, so it all kind of unravels from here. Spent the past hour trying to order 3 simple captions in the correct order.

  5. Lise Lingo says:

    Is there a way in CS4 to automatically number references in the text to figures–other than setting up a GREP Find/Change?

  6. Maarten says:

    I think this only works within books.Within a single document I seem not to be able to have numberings like 1.1 1.2 1.3 2.1 2.1 using sections as markers.Both with a book and a single document I do not manage to have independent numbering for figures and tables (fig 1.1 fig 1.2 table 1.1 table 1.2). the numbering continues over both tables and figures.What goes wrong here?

  7. Cassie says:

    Maarten,You should set up a paragraph style for tables and one for figures. Then set up the captions as described above one for each tables and one for figures. This should give you separate lists.

  8. Holly says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I have a question. I’m not sure if this is possible, but here’s my question:

    I have followed all of the directions above, and have created a List of Figures. The only problem, is that I don’t want the word “Figure” to appear in the List of Figures – I only want the number to show up. For example, I would like it to look like this:

    (page # / figure # / title)

    1 1-1 Dart Frogs
    2 1-2 Image Too Saturated

    Is there any way to do this? Or am I dreaming?

    Thanks for your help!

  9. Marc says:

    I added some pages in the middle of my document and now when I go to number them based on my list and paragraph style, it won’t renumber everything.

    What it does is goes to the end of the document and assigns the next number to it, as if the pages are out of order.

  10. Katy Muzikar says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial–it has gotten me *almost* to where I need to be!! I have figures in the style “Figure 1.1. Dart Frogs. Many dart frogs can be found in the rainforest yada yada yada…” In which there is a figure number, then a figure title, followed by a long caption. I need to generate a List of Figures, however since the whole paragraph has the “Figure Caption” paragraph style applied to it, the entire long description comes up in my generated TOC! I just want the List of Figures to say “Figure 1.1. Dart Frogs… ##”. I can’t find a way to have this generate properly. I can’t have the description be on a following paragraph, I need it to be on the same line as the figure number and figure title. Any ideas how I can make this work? Thanks for your input, this is for my PhD Thesis, and I really would like it to work well!!

  11. Katy Muzikar says:

    Hi, I am a student writing up my PhD. Thesis, and I have a very specific requirement for Figures and Figure captions, and am trying to use InDesign’s automated features to help me. I know it must be possible, I just don’t know how. Here is the situation:

    I need to have a figure that is captioned as follows: “Figure 1.1 Chemicals used. This figure shows the structures of the chemicals…” In which “Figure 1.1” is the figure number, “Chemicals used” is the figure title, and the rest of the text is the actual caption. I need them to be, as shown, within the same paragraph (ie not on separate lines). I have about 100 figures. I have learned how to define a list and then define the caption style to use the list so that the figures are automatically numbered. Here is the issue:

    I then need to generate a List of Figures (similar to a TOC) that lists each figure in the following format:

    Chapter 1. Introduction

    Figure 1.1 Chemicals used………….1

    Figure 1.2 Molecules made…………2

    Wherein the Figure number and Figure title are reported in the TOC, but the figure caption text is not. I have managed to somewhat figure out how to set up the TOC to report out more or less in the format that I need it to (although I keep having to fix it as I mess it up) but the real problem is that when I automatically generate the table of contents, it includes the entire caption text. This is because in the original caption, the text and the title and the number are all one paragraph, thus when I populate the TOC based on a paragraph definition, it populates with the entire paragraph.

    The two things I can think of that might fix it are if I can 1) define two different paragraph styles within the same paragraph or 2)Populate a TOC based on a character style instead of a paragraph style (Then I could define just the number and title as a certain style and populate the list with that.)

    Anybody out there have the solution for me? I clearly have some familiarity with the program (I have gone through the entire Classroom In A Book in the past few days) but am no expert. Your advice and help will be greatly appreciated!

    • Bob Bringhurst says:

      I’ll reply to this later when I have time. In the meantime, you may want to ask this question in the user forum:

    • Dave Cooke says:

      To both of the above I think your only hope is to create two threaded boxes for your text. Enter the text for the TOC in one and place a return. Reduce the text box size so that the remaining text flows into the second text box and simply position the first box on top with accurate placement so the text looks like it’s on the same line (some text wrap will porbably be needed). A bit messy but it should work.

  12. Mike says:

    How do I get the figure capture to pull the correct chapter number. Followed the steps above, but only getting Figure 1-*, even in chapter 8. Do I tag the Chapter title style?

  13. Ben says:

    My TOC is only showing as follows

    Figure 1 p.16
    Figure2 p.17

    is there a way to get the caption to show after or does it have to be entered manually?

  14. Gerard says:

    I have a book with chapters and sections within each chapter. Each Section is a procedure in a training manual.
    I want my Photos to be numbered either like this : (Continue across book)Chap.1 Sec. 1 Image 1 then Chap 1 Sec 2 Image 1 or ( Continue across stories) Sec. 1 Image 1 then Sec 2 image 1

  15. Gerard says:

    Ch.^>^H^>Sec.^>^#^>Figure ^# this is the code I have but it does not show the actual section number

  16. Jan Czarnecki says:

    I am working on a book and in one of the chapters the figure captions numbers go like this: 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.6, 6.7 … – the numbering skipped 6.5; and I have spent few hours to figure out why.
    Creating figure list (sing TOC) lists all the figures in the chapter but the numbering still skips 6.5.
    Any suggestions? Please help. Thanks, Jan

  17. Jan Czarnecki says:

    I am not sure where it is. I am putting a figure into a frame, then set a new frame under it, select content to text, type the caption and apply figure style below to it

    Caption + next [..] …. + list: numbered + level: 2+ should restart: no +numbering character style: Strong + number: Figure ^H.^#^>

    Then I group the two frame and am done. I know that sometimes when a new figure is added in front of one that is already there, the new figure number is out of order. I encounter that problem once or twice. This one is different, because I cannot find any figure which has stolen the 6.5 number.

  18. Rob Harris says:

    I got the figure numbers to span the different documents in a book. I have several books. How do i get the figure number to carry over to the next book? It starts over at 1. I read therough the thread but if I missed it, please point it out. Thank you in advance for any help!

  19. Susan Pittman says:

    I’m needing to add a character into some of my figure numbers..
    for example:
    Figure 6.14,
    Figure 6.15(a)
    Figure 6.15(b)
    Figure 6.16

    How can I get the (a) added and still keep the sequence going.