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Create consistently phrased, auto-updating cross-references in Affinity Publisher 2

Whether your cross-references are simple page numbers or complex phrases that describe their target, let the Cross-References Panel, introduced in V2.2, do all the hard work for you.

It’s time to stop typing cross-references as regular text. Doing so incurs a high cost in production time because you must manually check each cross-reference is up to date before publication.

The Cross-References Panel hands the responsibility for keeping cross-references up to date to Affinity. The more cross-references you have, the more time it will save you. The panel is available on desktop and iPad, starting with Affinity Publisher 2.2.

Cross-references can be inserted by Ctrl-clicking (Mac)/right-clicking (Win) in the document view and selecting Insert Cross-Reference, or by clicking an icon on the panel.

The Cross-References Panel showing multiple cross-references that have been inserted into a document.

On the resulting dialog, select a target, specify the phrase to display—including ‘subfields’ that represent attributes of the target such as its page number—and optionally apply formatting.

When you make trivial edits, such as inserting a new paragraph, Affinity automatically updates details such as page numbers in affected cross-references. No action is required from you.

With more significant edits, such as changing a section name (via the Section Manager), Affinity instead displays a warning on the Cross-References Panel next to each cross-reference whose value is out-of-date. Even then, you only have to click/tap an icon on the panel to tell the app to update values.

Editing a section name (left) can result in an out-of-date cross-reference (right). Select the cross-reference on the panel and then click Update Cross-Reference to have Affinity update its value.

Stick to your style

You can create presets to ensure all your cross-references follow the phrasing and formatting required by your publication’s style guide. Subeditors, rejoice!

Creating a preset from a cross-reference's text and formatting options.

Creating a preset preserves the contents of the Text box. This means any words you’ve typed in the box, and any of the subfields (shown as blue tokens) you’ve inserted to represent information about the target that can change.

Additionally, presets store your choice of Style Override, which is the paragraph style to be applied to all of the text, and your settings for Limit subfields and its associated options, which are available when the text contains subfields with likely long values.

Converting typed cross-references in older docs

Naturally, cross-references in documents created prior to V2.2 will have been typed as regular text and must be updated manually. If you want to replace them with fields that automatically update, you may be able to streamline the process using the Find and Replace Panel’s support for regular expressions.

Let’s say a publication uses these phrasings for cross-references, where the parts in italics vary:

  • See page number
  • See figure number on page number

With the Find and Replace Panel set to find text using a regular expression, the expression See (.)page [0-9]+ can be used to find words that match both of these patterns.

Searching an older document for a regular expression to find cross-references that have been typed as regular text.

In this regular expression, the (.)+ matches zero or more of any characters, and the [0-9]* matches one or more consecutive numerical digits.

Regular expressions are not only helpful when converting manually typed cross-references to the new, dynamic type. They’re invaluable whenever you want to find instances of patterns in large amounts of text. As powerful as they are, though, it’s worth manually inspecting text after using them in case there are instances that don’t quite match your regular expression.