So.... Is this how you do this and I'm dreaming of a easier way, but there is none?
There were only 13 minutes between when you made you original post, and when you posted again.
Not everyone is on this forum every moment, and most of us use workflows which don't use features you're asking about.
Be a little more patient. We're just users like you, we're not Adobe staff.
Didn't realize it had only been 13 mins. My appologies.
It's obvious that you can't share the doc you are already working on, but can you post a mockup? I think I understand about 70% of your post, but for someone who is not working with your document, it's not easy to understand what you are saying. At least post the "Number:" from the numbering style (you know, this stuff: ^#.^t) so we know how your first and second levels are being formatted.
I often have to make a single parent paragraph style "FigureNumbering" and a bunch of child styles with stupid names like "FigNumRESTART_AT_FIVE." That is because of InDesign's convenient-yet-inflexible method of top-down, left-right location of items to be numbered. That's what I think you are saying when you say
"ok you're not part of the main fileds, you're secondary, so number from the primary text field."
When you're doing things like running chapter heads using variables or harvesting paragraph styles for TOC or whatever, InDesign presumes a top-down, left-right orientation - it'll pick up frames that are further left or further up the page. So if you have content to which you've applied your figure-numbering style in more than one frame, then it doesn't matter what the logical or reading order of your content may be - ID is going to number stuff top-down, left-right. You can use this stupidity to your advantage: if you need figure 5-5 to be the first thing on the page, you can extend the frame to the very top-left edge, and then align the content of your frame to the lower-right-hand corner of the frame. This is an ugly hack but it's better than going back to FrameMaker, which has much better tools for this kind of complex figure-numbering job, but is worse in almost every other way for page layout.
I also need the figures to move with the text as we add and remove copy above and below neighboring figures...
You've obviously figured out how to make an inline anchored object (I assume by pasting in a screenshot?) but for these purposes you should look into custom positioning of anchored objects. If you're using CS5.5+ you can just drag the blue box on the top-right-hand corner of your figure frame into your text flow and it'll create an anchor. Or, you can select a figure and go to Object -> Anchored Object and tweak it from the menu.
I can provide a doc a little later today. Thanks for the reply.
I'm placing figures, and using the custom anchoring option (blue box thing). When I add copy above or below, all the figures move with the copy.
I'll see what I can get for you tonight or tomorrow morning. I'm wearing a few different hats this week.