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Numbering pages, chapters, and sections

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Equitable Language: We are replacing non-inclusive language from InDesign 2022 (version 17.0) onwards, to reflect core Adobe values of inclusivity. Any reference to Master page is replaced by Parent page in our Help articles for the English, Danish, Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Japanese locales.

Add section and chapter numbering

Determine what kind of numbering you want to use for your document or book. For long documents, you can assign chapter numbers. Each document can be assigned only one chapter number. If you want to use different numbering within a document, you can define ranges of pages as sections; these sections can be numbered differently. For example, the first ten pages of a document (the front matter) might use Roman numerals, and the rest of the document might use Arabic numerals.

A single InDesign document can contain up to 9,999 pages, but page numbers can be as large as 999,999. (For example, you can correctly number a 100‑page document that starts on page 9,949.) By default, the first page is a recto (right) page numbered 1. Odd-numbered pages always appear on the right; if you use the Section Options command to change the first page number to an even number, the first page becomes a verso (left) page.

For information on creating basic page numbering in a document, see Add basic page numbering.

Add an automatically updated chapter number

You can add a chapter number variable to your document. Like page numbers, chapter numbers can be updated automatically and formatted and styled as text. A chapter number variable is commonly used in documents that are part of a book. A document can have only one chapter number assigned to it; if you want to divide a single document into chapters, you can create sections instead.


Chapter numbers cannot be included as a prefix in a generated index or table of contents (such as 1-3, 1-4, and so on). If you want chapter numbers to be included as prefixes, use section prefixes instead of chapter numbers.

  1. If necessary, create a text frame where you want a chapter number to appear. If you want a chapter number to appear on several pages, create the text frame on a parent page, and apply that parent page to the document pages.
  2. In the chapter number text frame, add any text that will come before or after the chapter number.
  3. Place the insertion point where you want the chapter number to appear, and then choose Type > Text Variables > Insert Text Variable > Chapter Number.

You can update the starting number and format of chapter numbering by choosing Layout > Numbering & Section Options.

Add an automatically updated section marker

  1. Define sections in your document. (See Define section numbering.)
  2. On a page or parent that you’re using in a section, drag the Type tool to create a text frame large enough for the section marker text, or click in an existing frame.

  3. Choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Section Marker.
On parent page A, section marker (left) and section marker with page number marker inserted (right)

Change the format of page and chapter numbering

  1. Choose Layout > Numbering & Section Options.
  2. Under Page Numbering or Document Chapter Numbering, select a new number format for Style. (See Document numbering options.)
  3. Click OK.

Define section numbering

By default, page and chapter numbers in a book are numbered consecutively. Using Numbering & Section Options, you can restart page numbering at a specified page, add prefixes to page numbers, and change the numbering style of both pages and chapters.

You can define a section prefix to label section pages automatically. For example, if you specify A– for Section Prefix on page 16 of a document and include the section prefix, the page will appear in the table of contents or index as A–16. Text you type for a section marker appears when you choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Section Marker.

Pages panel

A. Section indicator icon shows start of section B. Page number is changed for new section C. Status bar displays document length 

Define sections in a document

  1. In the Pages panel, select the first page in the section you want to define.
  2. Choose Layout > Numbering & Section Options, or choose Numbering & Section Options in the Pages panel.
  3. If you’re changing the numbering options for any page other than the first page of the document, make sure that Start Section is selected. This option marks the selected page as the beginning of a new section.
  4. As necessary, specify the numbering and section options (see Document numbering options), and then click OK.

    A section indicator icon  appears above the page icon in the Pages panel, indicating the start of a new section.

  5. To end the section, repeat the section numbering steps on the first page that follows the section.

Edit or remove section numbering

  1. In the Pages panel, double-click the section indicator icon  that appears above the page icon in the Pages panel. Or, select a page that uses a section marker, and choose Numbering & Section Options in the Pages panel menu.
  2. Do any of the following, and then click OK:
    • To change the style or starting number, change section and numbering options.

    • To remove a section, deselect the Start Section option.


To quickly identify a section in the Pages panel, position the pointer precisely over any section indicator icon . A tool tip appears, displaying the starting page number or section prefix.

Display absolute or section numbering in the Pages panel

The Pages panel can display absolute numbering (labeling all pages with consecutive numbers, starting at the first page of the document) or section numbering (labeling pages by section, as specified in the Section Options dialog box).

Changing the numbering display affects how pages are indicated in the InDesign document, as in the Pages panel and in the page box at the bottom of a document window. The numbering display also affects how you specify page ranges when printing and exporting the document. However, the numbering display does not change the appearance of page numbers on document pages.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > General (Mac OS).
  2. For Page Numbering, choose a numbering method in the View menu.
    Pages panel showing absolute numbering (left) and section numbering (right)

Document numbering options

You can change document numbering options when you select a document page (not a parent page) and choose Layout > Numbering & Section Options. You can also change these options when you choose Document Numbering Options from the Book panel menu.

Automatic Page Numbering

Select if you want the page numbers of the current section to follow the numbering of the previous section. Using this option, the page numbers in the document or section update automatically when you add pages prior to it.

Start Page Numbering At

Type the starting number for your document or for the first page of the current section. For example, if you want to restart the numbering for a section, type 1 . The remaining pages in the section will be renumbered accordingly.


If you chose a non-Arabic page-numbering style (such as Roman numerals), you still must type an Arabic numeral in this box.

Section Prefix

Type a label for the section. Include the spaces or punctuation you want to appear between the prefix and the page number (for example, A–16 or A 16). The prefix is limited to eight characters.

You cannot enter a blank space by pressing the spacebar—copy and paste a fixed-width space character from the document window instead. Note that plus (+) or comma (,) symbols cannot be used in section prefixes. (See Insert white space characters.)

Style (Page Numbering)

Choose a page-numbering style from the menu. The style applies to all pages in this section only.

Section Marker

Type a label that InDesign inserts on the page at the location of a section marker character that appears when you choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Section Marker.

Include Prefix When Numbering Pages

Select if you want the section prefix to appear when you generate a table of contents or index, or when you print pages that contain automatic page numbers. Deselect this option to display the section prefix in InDesign but hide the prefix in the printed document, index, and table of contents.

Section prefix in document window

A. Section prefix in the page box at the bottom of the document window B. Section marker and prefix on the page itself 

Style (Document Chapter Numbering)

Choose a chapter-numbering style from the menu. This chapter style is used throughout the document.

Automatic Chapter Numbering

Select this option to number chapters sequentially in a book.

Start Chapter Numbering At

Specify the starting number of the chapter numbering. This option is useful if you don’t want chapters to be numbered sequentially in the book.

Same As Previous Document In The Book

The same chapter number as the previous document in a book is used. Select this option if the current document is part of the same chapter as the previous document in a book.

Create headers and footers

Headers and footers run through the top and bottom of the pages in your document, providing important background information. To create a simple header or footer that includes page numbering, see Add basic page numbering.

Headers and footers can include such items as page, chapter, or section numbers; title or heading text; the author’s name; and the document’s filename and creation or modification date.

You can add many of these items by using text variables. InDesign includes several preset variables, such as Creation Date and File Name. You can modify these variables, and you can create your own. For example, you can create a variable that displays the first use of a Heading paragraph style in the header or footer. Once you create or edit the variables you need, you assemble them on the parent page to create your header and footer, and then you apply the parent page to the appropriate document pages.

Using page numbers and variables to create a footer

A. Footer variable inserted on parent page B. Variable text on document page that grabs text from the first heading on the page 

  1. If necessary, create or edit the variables you want to use in your header or footer. (See Create variables for running headers and footers.)
  2. Go to the parent page where you want to add the header or footer.

    The header or footer will appear on any document page to which the parent page is applied.

  3. Create a text frame large enough to include all the header or footer information. Place the text frame above or below where the content of the document pages will appear.
  4. Add text, page numbers, and variables as needed.
  5. Apply the parent page to document pages where you want the header or footer to appear.
  6. If necessary, create headers and footers for additional parent pages.

Create variables for running headers and footers

By default, the Running Header variables insert the first occurrence (on the page) of the text to which the specified style is applied. Running Header variables are especially useful for displaying the current heading or title in the header or footer.

  1. If your content is not already formatted, create and apply the paragraph style or character style for the text you want to appear in the header (such as a title or heading style).
  2. Choose Type > Text Variables > Define.
  3. Click New, and then type a name for the variable.
  4. From the Type menu, choose Running Header (Paragraph Style) or Running Header (Character Style).
  5. Specify the following options:


    Choose the style to display in your header or footer.


    Decide whether you want the first or last occurrence of the style that’s applied on the page. First On Page is the first paragraph (or character) that begins on a page. If there is no occurrence of the style on the page, the previous occurrence of the applied style is used. If there is no previous occurrence in the document, the variable is empty.

    Delete End Punctuation

    If selected, the variable displays the text minus any end punctuation (periods, colons, exclamation points, and question marks).

    Change Case

    Select this option to change the case of the text that appears in the header or footer. For example, you may want to use sentence case in your footer, even though the heading on the page appears in title case.

  6. Click OK, and then click Done in the Text Variables dialog box.

    You can now insert the variable in a header or footer you create on the parent page.

    If a header or footer text frame has been created on the parent page of the InDesign document, you can insert the variable in the header or footer. (See Edit text on a parent page.)

Add automatic page numbers for story jumps

You can easily maintain the jump lines of stories that continue to other pages, such as a line that says “Continued on page 42.” Use a jump line page number to automatically update the number of the page containing a story’s next or previous threaded text frame when you move or reflow the story’s threaded text frames.

Usually the jump line page number should be in a separate text frame from the story it tracks. That way, the jump line page number remains in position even if the story’s text reflows.


If you insert a Current Page Number character in the Find/Change dialog box, jump line page numbers can also be found.

  1. With the Type tool, drag to create a new text frame where you want the jump line to appear.
  2. With the Selection tool  , position the new text frame so that it touches or overlaps the frame containing the story you want to track.
    Make sure text frame touches or overlaps the story you want it to track.

  3. Select the Type tool and click an insertion point in the new text frame. Then type the text that you want to appear before the page number, such as “Continued on” or “Continued from”.
  4. Then choose Type > Insert Special Character > Marker and one of the following options:

    Next Page Number

    Inserts the number of the page containing the story’s next frame. Use this character when creating a “continued on” jump line.

    Previous Page Number

    Inserts the number of the page containing the story’s previous frame. Use this character when creating a “continued from” jump line.

    The page number automatically updates to reflect the current location of the next or previous frame of the story.

  5. To prevent the story from being moved without its jump line, Shift-select the frames with the Selection tool, then choose Object > Group.
  6. If necessary, repeat this procedure to add more jump lines.

If an unwanted character appears at the beginning of the page number (so that, for example, a jump line reads “Cont’d on page A16” instead of “Cont’d on page 16”), you probably included a section prefix in the Numbering & Section Options dialog box. Turn off or edit the prefix.


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