Thread text frames

The text in a frame can be independent of other frames, or it can flow between connected frames. To flow text between connected frames (also called text boxes), you must first connect the frames. Connected frames can be on the same page or spread, or on another page in the document. The process of connecting text among frames is called threading text. It is also referred to as linking text frames or linking text boxes.

Each text frame contains an in port and an out port, which are used to make connections to other text frames. An empty in port or out port indicates the beginning or end of a story, respectively. An arrow in a port indicates that the frame is linked to another frame. A red plus sign (+) in an out port indicates that there is more text in the story to be placed but no more text frames in which to place it. This remaining unseen text is called overset text.

Threaded frames
Threaded frames

A. In port at beginning of story B. Out port indicating thread to next frame C. Text thread D. In port indicating thread from previous frame E. Out port indicating overset text 

Choose View > Extras > Show Text Threads to see visual representatives of threaded frames. You can thread text frames whether or not they contain text.

Add a new frame to the thread

  1. Using the Selection tool , select a text frame, and then click the in port or out port to load a text icon.

    Clicking the in port lets you add a frame before the selected frame; clicking the out port lets you add a frame after the selected frame.

  2. Position the loaded text icon  where you want a new text frame to appear, and then click or drag to create a new text frame.


When the loaded text icon is active, you can perform many actions, including turning pages, creating new pages, and zooming in and out. If you start to thread two frames and change your mind, you can cancel the thread by clicking any tool in the Toolbox. No text will be lost.

Add an existing frame to the thread

  1. Using the Selection tool, select a text frame, and then click the in port or the out port to load a text icon.
  2. Position the loaded text icon over the frame you want to connect to. The loaded text icon changes to the thread icon.
    Adding existing frame to thread
    Adding existing frame to thread

  3. Click inside the second frame to thread it to the first.
Threaded frames

When you thread a frame grid to a plain text frame or to another frame grid with different grid settings, the text frame of the threaded frame is redefined to match the settings of the frame grid threaded from


You can add automatic “continued on” or “continued from” jump lines that track threaded stories as they jump from frame to frame. (See Add automatic page numbers for story jumps.)

Add a frame inside a sequence of threaded frames

  1. Using the Selection tool, click the out port at the point in the story where you want to add a frame. When you release the mouse button, a loaded text icon appears.
  2. Drag to create a new frame, or select a different text frame. InDesign threads the frame into the series of linked frames containing the story.
Adding frame inside a thread (top) and result (bottom)
Adding frame inside a thread (top) and result (bottom)

Unthread text frames

When you unthread a text frame, you break the connection between the frame and all subsequent frames in the thread. Any text that previously appeared in the frames becomes overset text (no text is deleted). All subsequent frames are empty.

  • Using the Selection tool, do one of the following:
    • Double-click an in port or out port to break the connection between frames.
    • Click an in port or an out port that represents a thread to another frame. For example, in a two-framed thread, click either the out port of the first frame or the in port of the second frame. Position the loaded text icon over the previous or next frame to display the unthread icon . Click in the frame you want to remove from the thread.
    Removing frame from thread
    Removing frame from thread


To break one story into two stories, cut the text that needs to go in the second story, break the connection between the frames, and then paste the text into the first frame of the second story.

Cut or delete threaded text frames

Whenever you cut or delete text frames, no text is deleted; the text remains in the thread.

Cut a frame from a thread

You can cut a frame from a thread and paste the frame elsewhere. The frame is removed with a copy of the text, but no text is removed from the original story. When you cut and paste a series of threaded text frames at once, the pasted frames maintain their connection to each other, but lose connection to any other frames in the original story.

  1. Using the Selection tool, select one or more frames (Shift-click to select multiple objects).
  2. Choose Edit > Cut. The frame disappears, and any text contained in it flows to the next frame in the story. When you cut the last frame in a story, the text is stored as overset text in the previous frame.
  3. If you want to use the disconnected frame elsewhere in your document, go to the page where you want the disconnected text to appear and choose Edit > Paste.

Delete a frame from a thread

When you delete a text frame that is part of a thread, no text is deleted: it is overset or it flows into the next frame in succession. If the text frame isn’t connected to any other frame, the frame and text are deleted.

  1. To select the text frame, do one of the following:
    • Using a selection tool, click the frame.
    • Using the Type tool, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS), and then click the frame.
  2. Press Backspace or Delete.

Flow text manually or automatically

Your pointer becomes a loaded text icon  after you place text or click an in port or out port. The loaded text icon lets you flow text onto your pages. By holding down a modifier key, you can determine how the text is flowed. The loaded text icon changes appearance, depending on where it is placed.

When you position the loaded text icon over a text frame, parentheses enclose the icon . When you position the loaded text icon next to a guide or grid snapping point, the black pointer becomes white .

You can flow text using four methods:


What it does

Manual text flow 

Adds text one frame at a time. You must reload the text icon to continue flowing text.

Semi-autoflow  by holding down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) when you click.

Works like manual text flow, except that the pointer becomes a loaded text icon each time the end of a frame is reached, until all text is flowed into your document.

Autoflow  by Shift-clicking.

Adds pages and frames until all text is flowed into your document.

Fixed-page autoflow  by holding down Shift+Alt (Windows) or Shift+Option (Mac OS) when you click.

Flows all text into the document, adding frames as necessary without adding pages. Any remaining text is overset.

To flow text in frames, InDesign detects horizontal or vertical type. When text is flowed with semi-automatic or automatic flow, it is flowed according to the frame type and direction set in the Story panel. The icon gives users visual feedback of which direction the text will flow.

Flow text manually

  1. Use the Place command to select a file, or click the out port  of a selected text frame.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Position the loaded text icon anywhere within an existing frame or path, and then click. The text flows into the frame and any other frames linked to it. Note that text always starts filling the frame at the top of the leftmost column, even when you click in a different column.
    • Position the loaded text icon in a column to create a text frame the width of that column. The top of the frame appears where you click.
    • Drag the loaded text icon to create a text frame the width and height of the area you define.
  3. If there is more text to be placed, click the out port and repeat steps 1 and 2 until all text has been placed.


When you place text in a frame that is threaded to other frames, text autoflows through the threaded frames, regardless of the text flow method you choose.

Flow text semi-automatically

  • With a loaded text icon, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a page or frame.

The text flows one column at a time, as in manual flow, but the loaded text icon automatically reloads after each column is placed.

Flow text automatically

  • With the loaded text icon displayed, hold down Shift as you do one of the following:
    • Click the loaded text icon in a column to create a frame the width of that column. InDesign creates new text frames and new document pages until all text is added to the document.
    • Click inside a text frame that is based on a master text frame. The text autoflows into the document page frame and generates new pages as needed, using the master frame’s attributes. (See About masters, stacking order, and layers.)

Flow text automatically without adding pages

  • With a loaded text icon, hold down Shift+Alt (Windows) or Shift+Option (Mac OS).

Use Smart Text Reflow

You can use the Smart Text Reflow feature to add or remove pages when you’re typing or editing text. This feature is useful when you’re using InDesign as a text editor and you want a new page to be added whenever you type more text than can fit on the current page. It’s also useful in avoiding overset text or empty pages for situations in which the text flow changes due to editing text, showing or hiding conditional text, or making other changes to the text flow.

By default, Smart Text Reflow is limited to master text frames — text frames that are on a master page. If the document includes facing pages, master text frames must appear on both left and right master pages, and the master text frames must be threaded for Smart Text Reflow to work.

You can change settings to allow pages to be added or removed when working in text frames that aren’t based on master pages. However, a text frame must be threaded to at least one other text frame on a different page for Smart Text Reflow to work.

Smart Text Reflow settings appear in Type preferences. These settings apply to the current document. To change default settings for all new documents, close all documents and specify the settings.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Type (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Type (Mac OS).

  2. Select Smart Text Reflow.

  3. Select any of the following options and then click OK.

Add Pages To

Use this option to determine where the new page is created. For example, suppose you have a three-page document with text frames on the first two pages and a full-page graphic on the third page. If you’re typing to the end of page two, you can determine whether the new page is added before or after the full-page graphic on the third page. Choose End Of Story to add a new page after the second page. Choose End Of Document to add a new page after the page with the full-page graphic.

In a document with multiple sections, you can choose End Of Section to add the page at the end of the section.

Limit To Master Text Frames

If this option is turned off, you can also add or remove pages when editing text frames that aren’t based on master pages. To prevent unwanted text reflow from occurring, Smart Text Reflow takes effect only if the text frame you’re editing is threaded to at least one other text frame on a different page.

note: When using Smart Text Reflow in text frames that aren’t based on master pages, pages are added with full-page, single-column text frames, regardless of the attributes of the text frame to which the new frame is threaded.

Preserve Facing-Page Spreads

This option determines whether facing-page spreads are preserved when text is reflowed in the middle of a document. If this option is selected when text reflows in the middle of the document, a new two-page spread is added. If this option is not selected, a single new page is added, and subsequent pages are “shuffled.”

If your layout includes design elements specific to the right or left side of the spread, turn on this option. If your left and right pages are interchangeable, you can turn off this option. This option is dimmed if the document does not have facing pages.

Delete Empty Pages

Select this option to delete pages when you edit text or hide conditions. Pages are deleted only if the emptied text frame is the only object on the page.


To see how Smart Text Reflow can let you use InDesign as a text editor, create a document with Facing Pages turned off and Master Text Frame selected. In Type preferences, make sure that Smart Text Reflow and Delete Empty Pages are selected. On the first page, hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS), and click the master text frame to override it. When you type enough text to fill this text frame, a new page and text frame is added automatically. If you delete enough text, a page is removed.

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