—The goal/problem

I am writing an academic thesis in InDesign CC 2019 (14.0.2) on mac OS 10.14.6. There are A LOT of footnotes. I hence use the automatic footnotes of InDesign a lot. Up until here, there's no problem. So, as an example, let's say I have: (footnote 12) 12 Max Writer, «intelligent article», 2015.

The problem is that, when I later want to cite the same article again, I have to write it as: (footnote 33) 33 Cited above at note 12.

—What I tried

  1. Using the cross reference functionnality of InDesign, I see that there isn't an option for linking to a specific footnote number. I can repeat the whole paragraph, but not the note number.

  2. I modified the paragraph style for the footnotes to include an automatic numbering, thinking that I would then be able to link to the number by using the "paragraph number" option in the cross references panel. No luck, because turns out that automatic numbering of footnotes resets the numbering for each footnote… so the cross reference links to a "1" every time.

—The cumbersome "solution" I came up with

When I first cite an article, or book (let's say we're still at footnote 12) I add in front of it's footnote: "12", followed by a marker of nested styles. Then I use the cross references panel and choose the option for partial paragraph, up until the nested styles stopper. That way, I still have to enter the right number, but only once, as then all the subsequent references to the article will automatically update. Cumbersome indeed… not ideal at all.

—What I'm looking for

  1. A plugin that can recognize the numbering of the footnotes and add this functionnality to the cross references.

  2. Or a way to make the paragraph numbering flow throughout the footnotes.

  3. Or any other ideas…

Thanks for any help.


3 Answers 3


I don't have the time to explain in detail, but here's how I would do.
Sorry: because of filesize limitation, I have to split the animation in 3. It's not going to be easy to follow, especially because of the gif loop... But hopefully, you'll get the idea.
The good thing is that the trick also allows you to add aside annotations to your footnotes references. Could be handy.
Mind the fact that a footnote at the very end of the article will not be caught by the Grep regex.

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • Reproduced it, works great! Very impressive! When you have the time, could you explain what the GREP expression used in the search/replace does, in more detail? Thanks! So the only downside is that I have to replace the original box in the buffer before every seach/replace?
    – EBassal
    Sep 27, 2019 at 13:44
  • ~F means footnote mark (it also includes the ones at the bottom, so make sure you pick the right paragraph style in the search scope) \K is a positive lookbehind [^.........] is a negative character class and ~a is an anchored object marker. So basically it says find the first character after a footnote marker if not followed by an anchored object then change to copied content and the found result
    – Vinny
    Sep 27, 2019 at 14:08
  • And yes, you are correct, you have to copy an anchored frame before running the regex. Also you have to check the xref panel. Of course, the whole thing could be scripted. If you look for a scripter, let me know, i can recommand one (not me ^^)
    – Vinny
    Sep 27, 2019 at 14:13
  • Oh and... don't forget to save your Grep regex :-)
    – Vinny
    Sep 27, 2019 at 14:16
  • Thanks for the details. This is great. I'll try it for a few days and see if the need for it to be scripted emerges ;) I'll accept your answer because I don't think it's gonna get any better than this!
    – EBassal
    Sep 27, 2019 at 15:45

This is a trick using GREP paragraph styles and Cross-References. It's a bit complicated to make it but has to be done just once. I will try to do it in parts with the title of the modified element. I'm using the same numbers at the question to make easier the explanation: Footnote 12 and Footnote 33

enter image description here

Footnote Paragraph Style

  • Add at the end of every footnote the footnote number

footnote number

  • Set a GREP Style to the footnote paragraph style to make invisible the numbers at the paragraph's end:
    • GREP: \s\d+$
    • Invisible Character Style: size=1, tracking=-1000, Horizontal Scale=1, Vertical Scale=1, Character Color= none

enter image description here

Cross Reference

  • Go to the Footnote 33 and add the cross reference to the Footnote 12


  • Click the pencil icon at the Cross-reference Format to add a new one
  • Click the plus to add a new format, in the image it's called My Footnotes and at the editing field write or paste ^S<paraText />^S. This is the footnote text between two Nonbreaking Space characters. This will be used in the next two steps to hide the linked footnote text and show just the numbers at the end.

Cross-Reference Format

Hiding the Linked Footnote Text

  • Add a new GREP Style to the Footnote Paragraph Style:
    • GREP: ~S.+ (these are all the characters preceded by a Nonbreaking Space Character)
    • Character Style: INVISIBLE

Footnote Text

Showing the Linked Footnote Number

  • Add a new GREP Style to the Footnote Paragraph Style to show just the linked footnote last numbers:
    • GREP: \s\d+(?=~S) (these are all the numbers between a space and a Nonbreaking Space Character)
    • Character Style: make a new character style with the same size, tracking, horizontal scale, vertical scale and color than the paragraph style to make the number visible

This is the Footnote GREP Style list, the order must be exact:

grep styles

crossreference footnote

Note: Avoid using a Tab Character as a separator between the footnote number and the text, the invisible GREP style for the text affects to every text character, the Tab is not read as a text character. In this example I used a "n" space ^>.

I have tested it in an interactive PDF and it works perfectly.

  • Hello, first thanks for the effort put in this! I have reproduced your solution, and it looks like it's working pretty well. But, if I understand correctly, I still have to manually type in the number "12" at the end of the important footnote, right? So if I was to later add a footnote before that one, it would become 13, and I would have to change it manually, which would invite mistakes (especially after many hundreds of footnotes). If there is nothing else, I'll use your solution (which has undeniable elegance, btw). But I would really prefer something necessiting less manual input? Cheers!
    – EBassal
    Sep 26, 2019 at 21:16
  • I didn't consider the subsequent change of previous footnotes. Sure there is a solution, when I have one I include it in the answer.
    – user120647
    Sep 26, 2019 at 22:04

There is a much neater solution when it comes to endnotes:

  1. Endnotes are set in the paragraph style Endnote Text.
  2. Endnote Text specifies Bullet:
    • List Type: Numbers
    • List: Create List... Endnotes
    • Format: 1, 2, 3...
    • Number: ^#
    • Character Style: Invisible
  3. The Invisible character style is specified as:
    • Size: 0.1
    • Horizontal/Vertical Scale: 1%
    • Tracking: -1000
    • Colour: None

Now, each note automatically numbers itself, which duplicates the reference number invisibly. You can now insert a cross-reference to the note by Paragraph Number, which picks up the invisible bullet number.

Unfortunately this does not currently work with footnotes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.