Of Endnotes and Footnotes

Bring up endnotes in a conversation with any long-time InDesigner, and they’re sure to cringe. Why? Because InDesign doesn’t support them. Still. After 12 years, the leading desktop publishing application in the world is still incapable of handling one of the most basic word processing functions. The developers have been too busy implementing interactive features, Flash animation capabilities, EPUB support, and other bells and whistles to worry about boring things like endnotes.

But let’s look on the bright side: InDesign CS2, if I remember correctly, introduced footnote capabilities in 2005. So for roughly half of its life, InDesign has been half-way there: capable of beautifully formatting footnotes, but completely incapable of managing endnotes.

Just to reiterate: As of CS5.5, there is no way in InDesign to convert from footnotes to endnotes or from endnotes to footnotes. In fact, there are no endnotes. There are only footnotes. Anything that looks like endnotes aren’t really endnotes; they just look like they are.

Importing from MS Word

So what happens when you place a document from MS Word containing footnotes and/or endnotes?

  • Footnotes are converted to true InDesign footnotes according to your Document Footnote Options.
  • Endnote markers are converted into independent superscripted numbers using local override superscript formatting, and the endnotes themselves are converted into a numbered list at the end of the document, with no connection between the markers and the numbered list.
  • Strange superscripting bug: occasionally all text after a particular endnote marker will remain superscripted throughout the end of the document when placed into InDesign. I’ve seen this on perhaps 8-10 out of hundreds of documents placed into InDesign, and I’m unsure as to why it happens. I’ve recently learned that it happens to other people as well, so I’m mentioning it  here.

Since InDesign is incapable of converting between endnotes and footnotes, it is essential that you get your references into the proper format in Word BEFORE placing the document. Otherwise you will have to manually create the endnotes/footnotes in InDesign via copy/paste for each note.

Working with Footnotes in InDesign

InDesign’s footnote functionality is well integrated, insofar as footnotes themselves are concerned. Formatting is controlled globally using the Document Footnote Options and various character and paragraph styles or your choice. When exported to interactive formats, endnotes are hyperlinked for ease of use.

As for actually creating and formatting footnotes, rather than going into detail here, I will simply refer you to this Adobe help article. However, I would like to make a few recommendations for your Document Footnote Options (in the Type menu):

  • InDesign’s default applies superscript as a local override to the footnote marker. I would recommend that you also create a “superscript” character style and enable the option to apply it.
  • Be sure to specify the paragraph style used for your footnotes, and then edit that style and configure it appropriately.
  • Be sure to explore all the formatting options in the Document Footnote Options dialog. You have full control of spacing options, the rule separating your body text and your footnotes, etc.

Working with Endnotes in InDesign

Wait a minute, I thought you said InDesign couldn’t do endnotes? Well, the work must go on even with technical limitations. If the client wants endnotes, they get endnotes, even if it takes us longer to do it. Convert your Word document to endnotes, then place it, and you’re good to go!

Well, sort of. Since they’re not “smart” endnotes, you have no global control over them. If you delete a marker, its corresponding note won’t delete itself, and the other markers won’t automatically renumber themselves. If you bring in a piece with 100 endnotes, and the author says “remove endnote #2,” you have a lot of work to do!

Also, when exporting to interactive formats, there will be no hyperlinks between markers and notes unless you manually create them.

If you end up having to work with endnotes, here are some tips:

  • Use find/change to find all local-override superscripting and convert them to character style superscripting so that you don’t accidentally lose them later.
  • IMPORTANT: before doing the prior step, check for the superscript bug! Make sure InDesign didn’t improperly superscript an entire final chunk of your document.
  • If you must remove and renumber endnotes, your list and markers will get out of synch as you work. Compare the Word document with your InDesign document as you work to help you get them matched back up properly. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a mismatched list, with your markers referring to the wrong notes!

Creating Smart Endnotes using Cross-References

If you’re desperate for a better endnote solution and want to spend some extra time on it, then there is a way to do it using cross-references. You’re still going to have a numbered list at the end of the document and markers in the text. However, instead of “dumb” numbers, these markers will be cros- references representing the number of their corresponding paragraph. Let us assume you’ve placed a Word document containing endnotes and you wish to replace the superscripted “1” with a cross-reference to its numbered paragraph:

  1. Apply your endnote paragraph style(s) to your endnotes.
  2. Find the superscripted “1” and delete it, leaving your cursor in its place.
  3. Go to the hyperlinks panel menu and choose “Insert Cross-Reference.”
  4. At the top of the New Cross-Reference dialog, set the Link To selector to “Paragraph.”
  5. Ensure that the Document field is set to your current document.
  6. Choose your endnote paragraph style on the left. This will cause all paragraphs in the document using this style to appear on the right.
  7. Click the paragraph you’d like to use on the right; In this case, you would choose the first endnote.
  8. For the format, select “Paragraph Number.” If necessary, click the pencil button to the right and make sure that the only thing that appears in the definition field is “<paraNum />” then click OK.
  9. The Appearance should be an invisible rectangle with no highlight (unless you’d like something else).
  10. Click OK.
  11. Repeat steps 2-10 for each additional endnote.

The New Cross-Reference dialog shown for creating a smart endnote marker. The marker will display the number of its corresponding footnote.

As you may guess, this can be a time consuming process, but there are advantages. The numbers are now linked to the numbered lists. Their values will automatically update if you change your list. So if you delete one of your endnotes, all your endnote markers will automatically change to the correct numbers. You will still have to go find the marker corresponding to the footnote you deleted and delete it as well, but at least it will be easier to find (the hyperlinks panel will show it with a missing destination warning symbol). In addition, when exported to interactive formats the markers will now be hyperlinked to their respective endnotes.

Hope for Endnotes in CS6

Well, I’ll believe it when I see it, but it would be about time. Here’s hoping for full endnote/footnote support in CS6, a mere 12 years after InDesign’s initial release, and 7 years after the release of footnotes. Let’s hope they can squeeze it in.

NOTE: Portions of this article come from a post I wrote in a conversation on the LinkedIn InDesign User Group. My thanks to Rebecca for mentioning her experience with the superscript bug.

, , , , ,

2 Responses to Of Endnotes and Footnotes

  1. David Blatner August 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Peter Kahrel came up with some great scripts for handling footnotes and endnotes: http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/footnotes.html

  2. Paul Erdman August 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, David. Now that you’ve mentioned them, I remember reading about these scripts a long time ago on InDesignSecrets! Thanks for the link to the developer’s site, too.

Leave a Reply