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Structure Pane Close-up

Although it’s pretty well hidden, we’ve heard many humorous tales from perplexed designers who revealed the Structure pane accidentally and thought that they had broken the program.

The Structure pane (Figure 2.5) is available only in Layout view. There are four ways to reveal (on purpose) the Structure pane. You can:

  1. Select View > Structure > Show Structure.
  2. Click anywhere on the left border of the Layout view window.
  3. Click the Show Structure button at the lower-left edge of the Layout view window.
  4. Press Option-Cmd-1 (Ctrl-Alt-1).

Showing Text Snippets, Attributes, Comments, and Processing Instructions

When the XML content first appears in the Structure pane, it’s hard to make heads or tails of the icon display. So InDesign provides snippets of text to help you identify the contents of each element.

Figure 2.6 shows you how to turn on Text Snippets.

Expanding the Structure

By default, the XML structure schematic starts off fully closed. It may be empty or contain one or multiple elements, attributes, and/or comments. To reveal, or expand, the structure, click on the triangle in front of each element, as shown in Figures 2.7 through 2.9. To expand an entire parent element at once, see Figure 2.10.

Collapsing the Structure

To collapse the structure, click on each open triangle until the elements are all closed, or to close the entire structure at once, see Figure 2.11.

Structure Pane Anatomy

The Structure pane provides a graphical overview of your XML structure that displays all elements, attributes, comments and processing instructions contained within the XML (Figure 2.12).

Within the Structure pane you may see as many as 17 different icons. Table 2.2 helps you familiarize yourself with their names and descriptions.

Structure Pane Icons




Closed triangle or “twirlie”

Represents a closed element that contains one, or more, child element(s) or attribute(s). Click the triangle to open, or expand, the element and reveal its contents.

Open triangle or “twirlie”

Represents an open element. Click the triangle to close, or collapse, the element to hide its contents.


Represents an XML attribute or other metadata. Attributes do not appear in the layout, nor do they print, but they may be accessed by an XML application.


Represents a comment. Comments are non-printing notes stored within the XML. Comments are imported with the XML content and can be added and edited within InDesign. All comments visible within the Structure pane are included whenever XML is exported from InDesign.

DOCTYPE element

Indicates that a DTD has been loaded.

Empty element

Represents a graphic or unassigned frame that is empty.

Graphic element

Represents a tagged frame that contains a graphic. Graphic elements automatically include an href attribute that defines the path or URL to the graphic file.

Graphic element–unplaced

Represents an XML reference to an image that has not been placed within the document.

Processing instruction

Represents an instruction that will trigger an action in applications that can read such instructions, such as an XML parser.

Root element

The first XML element that automatically contains all other elements. All XML files will have one root element. Note: Although Root is the default name in InDesign, most XML applications will probably call it something else.

Story element

Represents a story in a single frame or several linked frames. One such icon is displayed on the parent element of each story flow.

Table element

Represents a tagged table.

Table–body cell element

Represents a tagged cell within the body of a table.

Table–footer cell element

Represents a tagged cell in the footer row of a table.

Table–header cell element

Represents a tagged cell in the header row of a table.

Text element

Represents tagged text within a frame.

Text element–unplaced

Unplaced text element not yet associated with a page item.

Placing Unformatted Elements from the Structure Pane

We said earlier that the XML content is actually stored within the Structure pane. You can place text and graphics stored in the Structure pane by dragging the elements to your layout.

Figure 2.13 shows how to place a graphic element from the Structure pane.

Figure 2.14 shows how to place a text element from the Structure pane.

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