Ugh. Merge Tags. Metadata. Placeholders. Please kill me.

Note: I’ve searched and FAQ’d and can’t get the answer:

I’m creating a template for a technical document and need to insert some kind of merge tags for various text sets (names, places, court files, etc) which an end user should be able to change for their own data.

I realize I can use <$custom: . . .> placeholders and, apparently, custom meta-data text to do this. But I honestly can’t figure out how it works and my problem is embrassingly newbish: When I create a custom meta-data entry, I can’t figure out how to add the custom text.

Maybe I’m doing this wrong? I’ve looked through the manual and missed any step by step info on custom placeholders.

  1. If I insert this: <$custom:judge > then where do I create the text (a judge’s name) which will autofill that placeholder?

  2. Should I use custom meta data?

  3. How will end users easily change the custom fill data?[/list]

Please forgive such egregiously freshmen class help support. In my defense, I’m a better writer than coder.

The primary data entry point will be in the Metadata inspector pane (§13.5, pg. 324), within the Custom Metadata pane, documented a few pages down in §13.5.4.

You can basically build your own little forms into the side of the window, and for your template you may want to emphasis them by collapsing the General and Keywords panes, and leave that tab selected in the inspector (maybe even leaving it open) when you save your template.

Secondarily, the best place to edit metadata is where editing batches of items together is best done: the Outliner. Click on a group of case files in the binder, and press ⌘3 or click the outline group view button in the toolbar. Next, click the chevron button on the right side of the column header, above the scrollbar area, and check off every metadata pane you want easily accessed (§8.3.1, Managing Columns, pg. 179).

Metadata can be used as a filter in the Outliner (and corkboard) view. Press ⌘F to Find, and expand the find bar to enable advanced filtering options.

You can edit right in the outliner like a spreadsheet—even moving between fields with the arrow keys. From the inspector you can tab between fields.

Amber V–Thank you for your reply. Maybe my question is poorly written. Maybe metadata or custom placeholders is not the right way to do this.

I want to create a template which allows me to easily change a character’s name with just a few keystrokes–but not by using search and replace.

I think you wrote an entry a while back that used the phrase MERGE FIELDS and that’s what I’m trying to create.

Are custom placeholders and metadata the way or is there a better method?


If what you want is to end up with on-the-fly character names in your output (rather than in the source text), then you could use any sort of “stand-in” you want so long as it is uniquely identifiable. Because Compile has a Replacements dialog where you can specify substitutions that should occur on Compile. The way in which this differs from search and replace is that your source text remains untouched (and hence retains its special character-name placeholders).

Once upon a time I used to use some identifiable prefix (a chevron character, for example) in front of where character names occurred, so that I could finalize/change them later.*


  • Not anymore. Any such system has three problems. First, it requires a certain diligence to do it. Second, it effects in a bad way what it is like to do read-throughs of your drafts. And third, as it seems to me, the names of your characters effect who you take them to be and helps bring them into focus, shapes them. So, it is better to settle these things early anyway.