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Quick Tip: Master Text Threading in Adobe InDesign

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Using InDesign's Text Threading capabilities can save you time when you need to make changes to the content because when a text frame is filled up the content will move on to the next frame; this is particularly helpful when working with magazines or brochures layouts. Threading gives you the possibility to divide content into various text frames linked together and they will automatically format the text anytime you make changes either when you add more content, change the text size or modify the frame itself.

Knowing the Symbols

Before we begin, let me introduce you to some terminology Adobe uses.

  • Flow / Flowing - When content text starts in one frame and continues to others.
  • Thread / Threading - Frames which are linked; when they have flowing text among them.
  • In port - Icon displayed on the upper-left side of the frame.
  • Out port - Icon displayed on the lower-right side of the frame.

Refer to the following graphic; it resumes the meaning of the three symbols featured at In ports and Out ports.

Activate Showing Options

This is not a mandatory step; but it will help you know and identify which frames are linked ; and you can turn it off anytime you want. Activate this option at "View > Show Text Threads" (Option + Command + Y)

Step 1: Create Your Layout

Even thought you can always insert text frames later it's recommended to at least have a general idea of the page layout. Create text frames according your needs. For this example, I have created 3 making sure the first frame isn't big enough to include all the content (text).

Step 2: Select Text

For illustration purposes, I'll use a simple document with 30 lines of text in it so it will be easy for you to see how the content automatically fits the frames with any modification done.

Step 3: Fill the First Text Frame

You can copy and paste text to your clipboard or use the "Place" feature to select a document. Paste the text into the first frame, you'll notice the red "+" mark at the out port (lower right side of the frame), that indicates content has been left out.

Step 4: Fill the Other Text Frames

Click over the red "+" in the out port and you'll notice your mouse pointer has changed. Move on to the next text frame and the pointer will display a chain icon, this indicates your text will be threaded, click over the text frame and see how it has automatically filled up to capacity. If you had activated the "show text threads" option you'll see a line between both boxes. Repeat this step until all the content has been placed to your document.

After linking the 3 text frames the document should look similar to the image below.

What Happens If I Edit the Content?

A really cool feature of working with text threading is that when you edit the content it will accommodate automatically. For example let's increase the text size of the first line, as it would be a title, you'll notice the content has been distributed among the linked text frames.

And it doesn't stops there, it also works when you add content and even between pages.

Manual and Automatic Text Adjustments

In the previous steps you had learned to link text manually. By pressing additional keys you can change from manual to semi-automatic and fully automatic. The mouse pointer will change its shape according to your command.

The following table will show the different mouse shapes, what key to press to activate it and what it does.


So now you should know more about text threading in InDesign. This feature helps a lot when you have to work with large documents. I have saved time by using this feature on numerous occasions; I'm sure it will help you from now on too! I hope you've enjoyed this Quick Tip.

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