7 Replies Latest reply on Aug 28, 2018 5:07 AM by Randy Hagan

    Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text


      My group writes technical documentation for our products. We utilize "Standard Language" but insert images, tables and some specific text (such as part numbers) for the specific product.

      We created some style sheets for the cover, table of contents and chapters.

      We want the specific document number (which is how we control releases) to appear in the footer.

      We created our first sample document and it was great.  Created a second and the variables we want specific for the second book affected the first book as well. The same happened for images.

      Is there a way to create our book template with variables that are specific to each specific document?

      Lastly, if we update our standard language, I'd like to sync it into each of the books created - is that possible and how do you set up the original template or book to achieve this?

        • 1. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
          Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

          Point by point, let me try to help.


          Think of each piece of your intended book as an assembly of modular parts. You can create sub-assemblies (InDesign documents) built to tight specification (templates, paragraph/document styles, Table/cell styles, libraries, etc.).


          With that in mind, let's go point by point:


          1) It's easy to create write once/place all elements like your document numbers. Rather than think of them as footers, per se, but as master page folio elements set up at the bottom of your pages within InDesign.


          Master page  elements |


          2) I'm afraid I have to respond to this question with other questions. When you're asking about "variables" causing version/issue problems, are you referring to them as text/image variables placed through some data-driven solution? Or are these variables you place manually into each document, and you're seeing versioning problems creep into your documentation?  Fixes each problem are quite different than the other.


          3) Yes. You can build them into a template, using master page elements, then populate them as needed for each document. If the book requires multiple InDesign documents, you can copy and paste each master between every InDesign document for the book.


          4) Update your language? As in some data-driven front end? Hard tellin' not actually knowin' what you're doing right now. But as a general rule the answer probably lies in how portable data exports are, The more options you have for exporting data to InDesign, the better chance you have of finding a workable data solution for your documentation needs.If you're talking design language? It'd be as tight as your design templates.


          The devil's in the details, of course. But if you can share answers to some of the questions here, and consider some of the suggestions in that light, we can help you get where you want to be. There are a lot of sharp people on here who can help.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
            susanb49829 Level 1

            Thanks Randy -

            We are using different Master Pages for the different elements such as cover, TOC and Chapters (aka Sections). We inserted "running Header" variable in the header for the section name to appear and "custom Text" variables for the document part number, Company name  and copyright info in the footer. But when we created the next document and updated the information, our original document indicated that there were updates and when it was updated the info changed to the new document info. Are we using the wrong kinds of variables? Or using the master wrong?

            The standard language is created today to provide elements such as an explanation of function without the details for the specific assembly. We make thermal management systems, utilizing common components such as our controller, our fans and pumps. Specifics for the assembly are entered in tables in the text today.  My expectation is that we can pull from a common .txt file for the words, using a linked COMMON file and when this text file is updated, we could go into the end document, click to update  to the linked text file.  The table of specific info can be edited in each separate book when it is assembled.  Same for specific images where we want a placeholder for the specific image in the final book.


            I thought we could create the master pages to use across-the board, add the standard text for each of the elements as chapters in a book, then combine them to make the "NEW" document for the specific assembly, adding any special elements that assembly requires. Then in the NEW document, edit the text variable and have it apply to ONLY that new document. Instead it updated all the documents. That's why I think we are using the text variable wrong.

            • 3. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
              Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

              I think I've gotcha.


              You're using InDesign-generated text variables in your documents, manually entering the field value, which then populates the variable. What this does is create background, stand-alone data referenced by InDesign. Since the field reference has the same name, but the information is different, it wants to update information anywhere the field reference is applied.


              Different documents referencing the same field + changing the field value = updated field references in multiple documents.


              You've got two ways out here: Change the field names or eliminate the variable.


              Create and edit text variables in InDesign


              Changing the field name can be done, but eliminating the variable is much easier.


              Once you're done with the previous/current issue, convert the variables to text:


              • To convert a single instance, select the text variable in the document window, and then choose Type > Text Variables > Convert Variable To Text.


              • To convert all instances of the text variable in the document, choose Type > Text Variables > Define, select the variable, and then click Convert To Text.


              This keeps the live variable in your new document, and populates it with current variable information. And since you've killed the variable in your old document by converting it to plain ol' text, it won't change when you change the value for the next version of the document(s). Reading the link I provided above, then printing it and keeping it handy will walk you through the process of making text variables work for you.


              Note: With careful version control, you can manipulate this capability to remedially correct previous information-corrupted versions. Just work from old to new, first entering values for the oldest-corrupted file, converting those variables in the InDesign document to text and then saving the old file without text variables to update. Follow these steps sequentially to correct each document, and you'll be able to fix faulty old documentation with a minimum of pain. Ask me how I know ...


              Hope this helps. I think it will. If this works for you, please mark this question thread as answered. That way the moderators will archive this so it can help others who find themselves in a similar bind. This is a great place to get answers to your InDesign questions. If you have problems, there are lots of smart people around here who can help.


              Good Luck,



              • 4. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
                susanb49829 Level 1

                That sounds perfect!  Convert the variable to text after we've used it to populate around the document.

                Yes, we'll give that a try when we (the two of us working on implementing the use of InDesign) get together next week.  If we have more trouble, I'll capture the specifics and repost.

                Thank you!

                • 5. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
                  susanb49829 Level 1

                  We tried this, but must be doing something wrong.  For example, we want the document number in the footer on each page.  We created a master page with this as a text variable. We assembled chapters (from standard text) that all use that same master.  We saved the book. Then we went in and changed the variable to text. It changed it on the master page too, so when we create a new document from that same master, it was back to text again.  Do we need to create a new master layout for each document?

                  • 6. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
                    Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

                    You're very close.


                    You can't easily switch a text variable to text and back to a variable again.


                    If you want to do that, you're better deleting the old converted variable text, which is now just plain ol' text, and re-inserting the variable.


                    But honestly, I wouldn't bother. Rather than get myself wrapped around the axle juggling variables, I'd just insert the fresh document number in the master page(s) once I create the document.


                    For a given Master page "A", with document number "My Company Document001-2018", placing that number on the master page will automatically populate every page in your document with "My Company Document001-2018" that's based off that master page. If I have 3 master pages, I'd change one -- proof it to make sure it's right -- then copy it onto the two other master pages. From there I'd build my document.


                    When it comes time to create "My Company Document002-2018" I'd just update the master page(s) for the new document with your new document number and let InDesign place the information on your pages.


                    Hope this helps,



                    • 7. Re: Make multiple books utilizing common text but different images and some custom text
                      Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

                      Another advantage of putting the document number on master pages, even if you choose to keep the text variables, is that changing the variables to text for a handful of master pages will be much easier and more consistent than having to hunt them down in dozens (or hundreds, or more) of pages throughout one of your output documents.


                      Keeping the text variables, saving a copy of the document then converting the variables to text is also a viable way to "recover" your previous publications for archiving. You can work backward to recover your archive this way just as easily as you can work forward with future issues.


                      Hope this is helpful,