Adobe InDesign: Numbering Chapters, Subheads, Tables & Figures
by Barb Binder, Adobe Certified Instructor on Adobe InDesign
Updated Mar 2326 2021
InDesign has a robust set of numbering tools, but most users don’t do much more than set up basic numbered lists. Yesterday, in my Advanced Adobe InDesign class, a student asked how to number her chapters, subheads, tables and figures. It can be done, but isn’t covered in our workbook.
Note: This post explains how to handle the numbering when working with chapters in a book file. If you are working with headings within a single file, please see “Numbering Headings in an InDesign Document” at the bottom of this post.
Numbering Headings in an InDesign Book
The trick is to look at the numbers as columns. I’ll sketch them on paper out for complex situations. Here’s how numbering properties look for each of these paragraph styles:
1. Define a new list
All of this happens in the Bullets & Numbering dialog box, shown below. You will definitely want to use paragraph styles for this. My first one is called Chapter title. You will need to begin by changing the List Type to Numbers for all of the levels, and you must both name the List and use the same named list for all Levels. You do this by selecting the List > New List.
Type in a List Name. If you are going to be working with separate chapters in a book, uncheck Continue Numbers from Previous Document in Book. Click OK. (Note: you can update this dialog box after you have created your list via Type > Bullets & Numbering > Define Lists > [Your list name] > Edit.)
2. Set up the Chapter title numbering
Let’s start with the settings for the Chapter title style. Note the list name (FM Numbering), the level (1), the format (1, 2, 3, 4…), the all-important numbering style (Chapter ^H: ), the mode (continue from previous number) and restart numbers at this level is on (and can’t be turned off for level 1).
Chapter title is the first level of numbering in this document, and “Chapter ^H: ” tells InDesign to type “Chapter 1: ” in front of the chapter title in the first chapter, “Chapter 2: ” in the second chapter, and so on.
3. Set up Subhead 1 numbering
Let’s move on to the Subhead 1 style. Note the same list name (FM Numbering), the level designation (now it’s a 2), the number (^H.^2.^t) and that restart numbers at this level is on after any previous level.
Subhead 1 is the second level of numbering in this document, and “^H.^2.^t” tells InDesign to type the chapter number (^H), a period (.), the subhead number (^2) and a tab (^t) in front of the each Subhead 1, “1.1, 1.2, 1.3”. When set up as shown, the ^2 numbers will increment automatically.
4. Set up Subhead 2 numbering
On to Subhead 2. This one looks exactly like the settings for Subhead 1, but the level is now 3, and the number style “^H.^2.^3^t” is now calling in the level 3 number, i.e., “1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, etc.”
5. Set up table and figure numbering
You may already be done, but my student also need table and figure numbering. In her document, the tables and figures only appear after Subhead 2s, so the formatting needs to look like this for her Table titles:
and this for the Figure titles:
Note that the list name remains the same for all of these tags. Table titles have a level 4 designation, and Figure titles have a level 5. The numbering style calls out the level 4 numbers (^4) on the Table titles, and the level 5 numbers (^5) for the Figure titles. It’s important to note that for this style, both of these restart after the level 3s (Subhead 2s).
6. Wrapping it up
In summary, paragraph numbering is really just an exercise in logic, and this blog post is showing the numbering styles for a very specific project. Your project may be similar, but not exactly the same. You just need to think though the levels and how you want to restart the numbers. I do my best to think it through correctly the first time, set it up, and then try as hard as I can to break it, so that I can find my errors. The good news is that once you get your numbers working, you shouldn’t ever have to think about it again.
If you are working in with chapters in an InDesign book file, and the second and subsequent chapters don’t reset the Subhead 1 and Subhead 2 numbers, return to those chapters and choose Type > Bullets & Numbering > Define Lists > [Your list name] > Edit and uncheck Continue Numbers from Previous Document in Book.
The above instructions explain how to set up numbering in a multi-chapter InDesign book. If you prefer to lay out a multi-chapter document in a single InDesign file, you will need to make two changes to the Chapter Title tag:
- Substitute ^1 for ^H in the first column
- Change to Mode to Continue from Previous Number