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Adobe InDesign: Replacing Text with Icons, Really Fast!

by Barb Binder, Adobe Certified Instructor on InDesign
updated Jul 6, 2017

A little known addition to Adobe InDesign CS4 was the ability to replace an object by pasting the contents of the clipboard. This can be useful in a variety of ways, but it’s is the single easiest way to replace a text string with an icon in a document. Here’s how:

  1. Select an image with the Selection tool. In my example below, I want to replace the word airline with the icon of the airplane, so I selected the airplane icon in the top left corner:
    Adobe InDesign CS4 & CS5: Replace text with an icon
  2. Edit > Copy
  3. Edit > Find/Change
  4. Type in the word you want to find, in my example it’s “airplane”. Next, click the @ icon at the far right of the Change to line. Choose Other > Clipboard Contents to tell InDesign to paste the contents of the clipboard:
    Adobe InDesign CS4 & CS5: Find/Change > Replace > Other > Clipboard Contents
    In this example, you can pick either Formatted or Unformatted. Since we are pasting an icon, it won’t make a difference. If you use this later with text in the clipboard, you’ll be able to specifiy if the text should be pasted with or without it’s formatting. I picked Formatted, so my Find/Change dialog box looks like this:
    Adobe InDesign CS4 & CS5: Find/Change > Replace > Other > Clipboard Contents
  5. Pick Change All to replace each occurrence of the word “airline” with the icon. It’s that easy!
    Adobe InDesign CS4 & CS5: Text replaced with an icon

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, I applied a baseline shift of -9 to shift the airplanes down so that they appear centered on the text lines. If you are going to do this, be smart and create a Character Style to handle the shift and then apply it during the find/change so that it’s all automatic:
Adobe InDesign CS4 & CS5: Apply a Character Style during the Find/Change

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2 thoughts on “Adobe InDesign: Replacing Text with Icons, Really Fast!

  1. Brilliant! Thank you so much for this insightful post. I’m on CC now and wish I’d found this a few years ago. I’m creating a photo directory and the “anchor” structure for photo with each listing requires that I place 600 FPOs and then RE-place them with the actual person’s photo. This worked like a charm to place the FPOs (instead of insert text cursor/paste for each one!) Now it’s just the tedium of linking each one to the actual, but so much time saved from this trick. Thanks again!