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OMG! Drag-and-Drop to Excel!


I’m doing a huge project transferring the dimensions of documents typed in InDesign onto an Excel spreadsheet for use in a database. (Don’t ask.) It’s a mess and can’t be automated.

Some schlub (me) has to sit at the machine and individually highlight the dimensions for the bleed for the document, copy it, switch to Excel, and then paste. Then switch back to ID, highlight the trim dimension, copy it, switch to Excel, tab to the new cell, and then paste.

It’s been awful. I do as much keyboarding as I can, but I still have to manually highlight the text.

With only about 20% to go, I thought I’d try something daring. I turned on the Preference in Type for Drag and Drop text in the Layout mode.

I then highlight the text in InDesign and just drag it over to the cell in Excel. I highlight appears over the cell. I release the mouse.

The text appears in the cell, but I’m still in InDesign. It saves me 4 or 5 steps!

I actually had an out loud OMG moment. (The cat woke up to look at me.)

Again, OMG!

Sandee Cohen is a New York City-based instructor and corporate trainer in a wide variety of graphic programs, especially the Adobe products, including InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat. She has been an instructor for New School University, Cooper Union, Pratt, and School of Visual Arts. She is a frequent speaker for various events. She has also been a speaker for Seybold Seminars, Macworld Expo, and PhotoPlus conferences. She is the author of many versions of the Visual Quickstart Guides for InDesign.
  • Gobit says:

    Hi Sandee

    Not sure if you mean you’re dragging and dropping the info from the Document Set Up panes of numerous documents or if you’ve got all the dimensions listed somewhere in one document.

    If the latter, would be faster to delete everything except the information you need (maybe through a GREP based Find and Replace), convert what’s left over into a table, copy and paste the table into Excel and then do any remaining clean up in Excel?

    Cheers, Gobit

  • Sandee Cohen says:


    No, it’s not dragging the info from the Doc setup panel.

    It’s a document that has a “slug” of information for the bleed, trim, and live area of the file. But even worse, these dimensions were NOT used as the actual sizes of the files. The files were created the old-fashioned way of creating oversized pages with crops put inside the actual artboard. (Don’t ask.)

    But it isn’t possible to do some sort of GREP find/change as each document has its own set up for the text in ways that can’t be predicted.

    Believe me I looked at a look of ways to try to automate the process. Manually extracting was the only way possible.

  • Hi Sandee

    For things like this I normally go the Keyboard Maestro, which is a program, where you can automate/create macros for all sort of things.
    It is a fantastic program. See more here:

  • Nadya says:

    Is my understanding correct: Drag and drop works for single cell only? If I select several cells in InD, it declines to drag and drop.

    I have another piece of advice for you.
    Convert your InD into Word.
    There is a very powerful instrument: Spike. It’s a special sort of buffer memory, which collects what you put there in the consequtive order of adding.
    1. Select the text. Press Ctrl+F3. The text dissappears (it comes into Spike). If you need it back, press Ctrl+Z.
    2. Repeat it as many times as you need.
    3. Go to the empty paragraph (or another destination) and press Shift+Ctrl+F3. Your Spike buffer shoots its contents into this place and it becomes empty.
    This is the way to organized a specific order of formatted text.

  • Jerome Gantner says:

    If there is a way to identify the slug you might have been able to create some logic to pull the information out using javascript (or AppleScript). Not having the documents to reference it would be difficult to guess at a solution but I would imagine that the location is standard (bottom left -x, bottom – y for example) or there if there is a unique paragraph style to identify the text or object style to identify the text frame or table style to identify the table.

    If you could find a solution similar to these then with AppleScipt you could pull the information out and put it into your excel document through a batch process on a folder or drag and drop.

  • Sandee Cohen says:


    I appreciate the thought, but the slugs are all over the place. No consistent XY coordinates.

    In addition the dimensions are inconsistent as to their position in the text string.

    Believe me, I’m working with a very sophisticated AppleScript and InDesign JavaScript expert. And it was he, after looking through all the documents, came up with the manual solution.

    For the amount of time it would have taken him to write the script, I finished the project. The most important reason he didn’t try to script this is this is part of a conversion of XP documents into a database that will generate ID documents.

    And we will never have to do it again.

  • Sandee Cohen says:


    I just did a quick look at KeyBoard Maestro. It is indeed very powerful. And I suspect that it would be the perfect solution for so many people who want a form of Actions in InDesign.

  • Gobit says:

    Wow Sandee,

    From what you’ve written that’s definitely one big hairy mongrel of a job. Congrats on finishing. Sounds like a celebration dinner is in order. Enjoy!

    Cheers, Gobit

  • Uwe Laubender says:

    @Sandee ? this is very cool trick.
    Thank you for sharing.


  • Timothy Mayers says:

    Are you only exporting text from InDesign? Why not use Markzware’s PageZephyr. When I need to extract text, I use PageZephyr and its a breeze. It doesn’t keep the styles/font type but at least I get all the text in 1 second.

    I don’t know, just an idea?

  • RYan says:

    Hi Sandi,

    I used to be able to do this but I have reinstalled Adobe Reader and for some reason it is not letting me paste the text into excel. I can Ctrl C – Ctrl V and it works but I want to be able to drag and release the mouse like you explained.

    Any idea what setting I need to adjust?

  • Hi I need to transfer information from a text file into an excel sheet. Any way this can be done with drag and drop?

  • Paul says:

    Sounds like you need to use an InDesign apple script

    Script to export object size (W, H) and coordinates(X, Y) for all objects to a file

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