Jon Gold

2 minute read · May 20, 2016

Filling in the blanks with InDesign

Working on a gigantic project in InDesign, I found myself with lots of pages descending from the same master; filled with placeholders to be filled out each time. It looked something like this:

indesign master

My attention span is way too short to keep track of each occurrence of each item across hundreds of pages, and I didn’t want to risk missing something out and having placeholder text in my final document so I set about finding a better way to make it obvious when I forgot to change something.

Paragraph Styles

One of the things that InDesign does best (I missed you 💞) is Paragraph, Character & Object Styles. Each item in my master page is associated with a paragraph style so that was a good place to start. Clicking around I discovered GREP Styles, which apply character styles to text matching a regex. Cool!

I created a Character Style called HIGHLIGHT that sets its text to a bright pink (hopefully hard to miss!), and created GREP Styles in each of my Paragraph Styles to apply it based on a regex. These were pretty easy! Some of my expressions had one thing in them (e.g. Title), some were reused for a few items (so I had one matching (Date|Role); for my placeholder text rather than matching the full string of lorem ipsum I matched for Lorem.+.

indesign styles

indesign master after

This works really nicely; I’m sad that I didn’t discover it years ago! As soon as you change the text from the default the HIGHLIGHT style disappears and your text displays as usual.

It’s chill because it’s really easy to spot mistakes even in the layer browser.

indesign pages


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Jon Gold

Jon Gold is a designer–engineer–researcher–musician making AI-augmented creative tooling at Airbnb & building weird things for that thing in the desert.