More powerful text placement in InDesign

So let’s say you have a long text to place into InDesign – a magazine article or a training manual. In talking to some friends who are InDesign users, many of them place the text one frame at a time. But it can be so much easier than that…

Enlargements of InDesign’s text placement cursors. The cursors (and functions) change depending on what additional modifier keys are pressed. From left to right: Manual (default), Semi-Autoflow (Option/Alt), Autoflow (Shift) and Fixed-Page Autoflow (Shift + Option/Alt).

Default behavior…

When your cursor is loaded with text in InDesign, you can place the copy by clicking or by drawing a text box. You load your cursor by going to File>Place or by clicking on a text frame’s overset indicator (the red plus in the lower right “out port”).

If you click on the page, a text frame is created to fill either the page margins or a single column. (You set the margins and column settings when you open a new document.) If you draw a text frame, the text fills the new frame.

One more thing to note about the default behavior. When you are done placing the text, the tool reverts back to what it was before you went to File>Place. So if the Rectangle Tool was selected when you loaded your cursor, after you place the text, the tool becomes a rectangle again. Most of the time, that’s exactly the behavior you want.

Hold down the option key…

(Or the Alt key for you Windows users) If you are placing a long piece of text, you may want to draw a few text boxes and have the story flow between them. In this case, the default behavior of reverting back to original tool is irritating because it forces you to keep switching tools.

However, if you hold down the option key, the cursor stays loaded. You can continue to click or draw frames and the copy with automatically flow between them.

Or the shift key…

So let’s say you have a long training document that’s going to be several pages. When you place the copy, you keep having to add pages and link the text frames. If only InDesign would add the pages and frames for you…

Well, it can. Hold down the shift key when your text is loaded and click. InDesign will autoflow the copy, adding pages and text frames for the entire length of the copy.

Note: If you hold down the shift key and try to draw a text box, the default behavior kicks in and the tool reverts to what it was before you placed the text.

Use the shift key and the option/alt key together…

If you hold down the shift and option keys at the same time and click, InDesign autoflows the copy for that spread only, but it leaves the cursor loaded. If you draw a new text frame instead of just clicking, the copy doesn’t autoflow, but the cursor does stay loaded.