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How to Find and Fix Overset Text in InDesign

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

What is overset text, and what do you do when you end up with overset text in your Adobe InDesign document? Whether you're working on a poster, a magazine, or even a large book, overset text is a common occurrence to address when working in Adobe InDesign. 

In this tutorial, we'll explain what overset text is and walk through ways to address it when it appears in your InDesign document—and we'll look at multiple ways to do so, too! As with many things, it's about choosing the right approach for the circumstance.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need:

The following assets are used in this tutorial:

If you don't necessarily want to use this text file, you can use any text file with a substantial amount of text in it, suitable for a multi-page document. We're going to import this copy into our document, as an example, later in the tutorial.

Ready to dig in? Pull up a chair, grab some copy, and let's get some overset text sorted out.

1. What Is Overset Text in Adobe InDesign?

Step 1

So what is overset text anyway? 

When we place text into our document, it is often called "setting text". This text "sits" within a text box—a rectangular frame, within our InDesign document, that specifically holds copy (another word for text). 

Overset text, then, is text beyond what our text box can hold—the defined area can't display all the text, because there's too much inside it. 

How do we know if we have overset text? One quick and easy way is to look at your text box. If it has a little red plus icon, as seen below, it means you have overset text within this text box that is not being displayed.

InDesign Overset TextInDesign Overset TextInDesign Overset Text

Step 2

Let's deliberately create some overset text, so we can see it in action.

If you don't already have a test document open, create a new document by going to File > New. I worked with US Letter size in this tutorial, but you're welcome to choose any size you prefer.

Next, select the Text Tool

Then, click and drag to create a text box on one of your active pages.

Creating a Text BoxCreating a Text BoxCreating a Text Box

Step 3

Next, paste a large amount of body copy (or text) into this text box—more than what would fit in this space.

I used a few paragraphs of lorem ipsum as my dummy text. You can grab some lorem ipsum at Lipsum.com, if you'd like to do so.

Notice how my text can't fit into this tiny text box, so again, we see this little red icon in the corner of the text box. It means that there's more text here than is visible right now.

Overset TextOverset TextOverset Text

Step 4

But why does this matter? Do we have to address overset text? Couldn't we just leave it alone?

Well, generally speaking, when we set text in our document, it's because we want to be able to see it—and if the text is overset, you won't. That's really the big consequence here; if you don't address your overset text, some of it will likely be missing from your final product.

Thankfully, even if we miss the visual cues that warn us about overset text, InDesign will remind you when you print or export your work (unless these alerts have been disabled)—so we can address the problem.

Overset Text WarningOverset Text WarningOverset Text Warning

2. How to Fix Overset Text in Adobe InDesign

Step 1

Now that we know what overset text is, what do we do about it? How do we fix it?

One of the easiest and most straightforward ways is to resize our text box.

With the Selection Tool active, simply click and drag on any of the resize handles on the text box to change its dimensions.

If the text box is larger, it will display more text. This solution makes sense in simple scenarios, like if your title ends up being a little longer than the text box it's sitting in. Sometimes, for example, when adjusting text sizes, we might also have to adjust the size of our text box to accommodate the change in scale. 

In these cases, make a slight adjustment to the size of the text box and you're good to go.

Resizing Text BoxResizing Text BoxResizing Text Box

Step 2

However, changing the size of the text box is not always a practical solution, nor is it one that's typically going to work for larger volumes of text.

So let's look at another way to tackle overset text.

Here's another example, below. Remember the red box that lets us know the text box contains overset text?

This time, click on that red box to "pick up" this text.

Overset Text Red IconOverset Text Red IconOverset Text Red Icon

Step 3

This is what it looks like with the extra, overset text "picked up". My cursor has changed to indicate that I'm holding this extra text, right now, and it's waiting to be placed.

Overset Text CursorOverset Text CursorOverset Text Cursor

Step 4

Let's click and drag to create a new text box.

Once the text box is created, InDesign automatically inserts the overset text that I "picked up" from the other text box. Easy, right? Now all of my text is visible.

Linked Text BoxesLinked Text BoxesLinked Text Boxes

Step 5

Not only that—these two text boxes are now linked together.

This means that if I continue typing in the first text box, it will continue to flow into the second.

This icon, highlighted below, indicates that this box is linked to another box; text from the other box is flowing into the selected box.

Text Box LinkText Box LinkText Box Link

Step 6

However, this isn't the only way we can deal with overset text. Let's take a look at another method.

Take a look at the example, below. This time, I have a text box with overset text on the left. 

On the right, I've created a new, blank text box. You can do so with the Text Tool—just click and drag to create a new text box.

Then, just as we did in Step 2, click on the red box to "pick up" the overset text. 

Place Overset TextPlace Overset TextPlace Overset Text

Step 7

This time, instead of creating a new text box, all I'm going to do is click on the empty text box I've already created.

InDesign will paste this overset text into my empty text box and link these two text boxes together. Easy, right? 

In the example below, both text boxes are selected—and the link icons are highlighted. Remember, this means they are flowing to and from one another.

Linked Text BoxesLinked Text BoxesLinked Text Boxes

Step 8

But let's take this even further.

Let's say you have a really long document, like a book. In this case, the above methods could prove to be very time-consuming and impractical.

As with many things in life, good planning can prevent problems. The same can be said for overset text, especially when you've got a lot of text to work with.

In this case, let's take a quick look at InDesign's Smart Text Reflow. This will basically create new text boxes and new pages to accommodate our text for us—and it's easy, too.

To find these settings, go to Edit > Preferences > Type

The Smart Text Reflow settings are at the bottom of this window. Make sure to toggle this option on. 

Also, toggle on Limit to Primary Text Frames and Delete Empty Pages.

Smart Text ReflowSmart Text ReflowSmart Text Reflow

Step 9

For example, let's say we're working on a long, multi-page PDF document here. I've made a new document at standard US Letter size, without facing pages.

Start off by going to your Master Pages. They're located at the top of your Pages panel. If you don't see that, go to Window > Pages.

Go to the A-Master page. I know I'm there because it's highlighted in blue in my Pages panel (you can also check to see what page you're on at the bottom of your screen).

Master PagesMaster PagesMaster Pages

Step 10

Now, on the A-Master page, create a text box. This is going to act as a template of sorts.

After you've made the text box, click on the Primary Text Flow icon. You'll need to have the Selection Tool active, to see it and click on it. It's highlighted below for your reference.

Primary Text FlowPrimary Text FlowPrimary Text Flow

Step 11

Remember that "Limit to Primary Text Frames" option we toggled on, earlier? Well, now we're going to put it to good use!

Come back out to your active pages. Take a look at my Pages panel below. Note that page 1 in my document is highlighted. I am no longer in my Master Page.

However, there's a text box here! Why? Because this page, page 1, is referencing my Master Page A-Master. See the "A" on the page's thumbnail, in my Pages panel? That's our reference here.

Go to File > Place and select a large text file to import. You can use the example one included with this tutorial if you like—it's some sample lorem ipsum. 

Notice, below, how my cursor changed. It looks a lot like how my cursor looked when we "picked up" overset text before, right? Again, it's "loaded" with my content that I just imported via File > Place. Now, I have to put it down on my page, somewhere.

Click to place it within the text box created by your Master Page, here on page 1.

Placing TextPlacing TextPlacing Text

Step 12

Just like that, InDesign has created pages for me, to accommodate my text—no overset to worry about here.

In fact, since we toggled "Delete Empty Pages" on, I can edit this long passage of text, and if it means one less page, InDesign will drop that page for me. Convenient!

Even better, we can adjust the size of these text boxes easily from our A-Master. Want it to be a little narrower? Just resize, and the rest of your pages will update accordingly.

Auto Generated PagesAuto Generated PagesAuto Generated Pages

And There You Have It!

There are a lot of different ways you could tackle overset text in Adobe InDesign. The best choice is often subjective or depends on the circumstances, so it's a great idea to know more than one way to tackle this challenge. I hope you found this tutorial helpful.

Good luck, and happy designing!

Enjoyed this tutorial? Looking for more on Adobe InDesign? Check these out!

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