I have twelve book chapters with figures numbered this way.

For reasons known only to a few people in San Jose, InDesign numbers things like figures in the order that the frame containing the number is added to the document, and not in "reading order." I understand that's the reality.

That means if one purposely or accidentally adds a new numbered figure to an InDesign document, it will get numbered one higher than the last figure, no matter where in the document it is placed. I understand that reality, too.

Now for the question: If I need to insert a figure other than after the last one, or rearrange figures, is there a way to put the numbering in reading order other than cutting each frame containing a number, pasting them into a separate document, then finally pasting them back into the original document in the proper order? That works, but is both time-consuming and fiddly. If you make a mistake, you have to start over again from the point of the mistake.

Is there a better way?

Update: Here's the requested screen shot. I've made it nearly full size so one can see what's what. This is the first page of the chapter, so the figure should be numbered 4-1, and it used to be. I replaced the photo and now it's numbered 4-13.

I've placed the images by drawing an image frame of the proper size, placing the image in the frame, then cutting and pasting into the text. That makes an anchored object (you knew that!) which I set as "custom" and plop it where I want it. I do the same thing with a text frame that holds figure number and caption. There may very well be a better way to do this, but I am very new to InDesign, and a appreciate the help. enter image description here

  • I can't really see how one could write a robust algorithm for determining the order of frames. Your document might follow a simple and strict system, but InDesign is a direct modeler and you can place text and images in any kind of rotated and overlapping mess you want. To help you I think we need more information. Some screenshots showing the layout and some more details about how you place the figures. Are they just separate frames with text wrap applied? Are they anchored objects that float freely or anchored objects that always follows the text flow? How are the figures numbered? Etc.
    – Wolff
    Aug 22, 2023 at 15:38
  • This questions reminds me of this answer I made. The solution I propose there would only work if your images are always placed in a certain position in the text flow. Doesn't work if you want to be able to move them around on the spread.
    – Wolff
    Aug 22, 2023 at 15:40
  • This sounds very very .... quirky ? I use INDD for really heavy content stuff and I can tell you can easy get around with plain text boxes for those captions. Why struggle with a faulty feature, or something that can easily break, or complicate your workflow, revision process ... ? Just type the figures, etc as plain text in a plain text box imho.
    – Lucian
    Aug 22, 2023 at 21:37
  • @Lucian Thanks, and thank you for all your earlier help. The captions are in plain text boxes, although they're anchored. Is that the source of my problem?
    – Bob Brown
    Aug 22, 2023 at 22:09
  • 1
    I haven't used cross-references much, but I'm pretty sure you can reference any paragraph. It doesn't have to be an auto-generated number.
    – Wolff
    Aug 22, 2023 at 23:02


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