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#39 Importing Tables from Word and Excel

In most workflows, data that will be presented in a table—whether it's financial data for an annual report or a price list for a catalog—is born in another program. It might be extracted from an accounting system and stored in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or it might be a table a writer produced in Microsoft Word. Either way, InDesign makes it easy to handle tables created elsewhere: You import them like you import other text files. See #20 for more information about importing text.

Importing Tables

To import tables from Word or Excel:

  1. Choose File > Place.
  2. In the Place dialog box, navigate to and select the Word (.doc) or Excel (.xls) file.
  3. Check Show Import Options.
  4. Click Open. The Microsoft Word Import Options dialog box or the Microsoft Excel Import Options dialog box opens.
  5. For Word files, make sure Preserve Formatting from Text and Tables is selected in the Formatting area in the Microsoft Word Import Options dialog box. For Excel files, make sure Formatted Table is selected from the Table menu in the Formatting area (Figure 39).
    Figure 39

    Figure 39 The Microsoft Excel Import Options dialog box lets you customize how Excel tables are imported into InDesign.

  6. Click OK.
  7. Since the table is treated like text, the table is either imported at the text insertion point or the cursor is loaded and you click in an existing text frame or create a new one.

Linking Tables

When you import tables, spreadsheets, and text files, you have the option to link to the original file. If any changes occur in the original file, you can update the link in InDesign (using the Links panel) and the table or text is automatically updated. This is similar to updating the link to a graphic file, which InDesign maintains automatically. If you want to do this, check Create Links When Placing Text and Spreadsheet Files in the Type pane in the Preferences dialog box before you import the table. Then check the Links panel to see if a table needs to be updated. See #58 for more information about managing links.

Linking to tables sounds great, right? How many times do writers and accountants make changes after you have formatted their text and tables? But linking is really not as great as it seems, because if you update the link between InDesign and the original file, any formatting you applied in InDesign is lost. And why would you be using InDesign if not to make the table look better? Use this feature only if you're not planning to make formatting changes to the tables in InDesign.

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