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Five Adobe InDesign CS5 Tips in Five Days: Tip 3 - Spanning a Paragraph Across Multiple Columns

By  Apr 14, 2010

Topics: Design, Adobe InDesign

Since the dawn of page layout software in the mid-1980s, layout artists have been forced to create two text frames for stories that span multiple columns: a one-column text frame that spans multiple columns for the headline and a multicolumn text frame for the body text. Adobe® InDesign® CS5 makes it a whole lot easier to lay out pages with multicolumn stories by providing the option to extend paragraphs across the gutters of multicolumn text frames. It’s a killer feature with an intuitive UI that will save many users considerable time.

Figure 1 shows the traditional method of laying out a standard two-column story. The top text frame contains the headline. It’s a one-column frame with a width that spans two page columns. The bottom frame with the body text is a two-column text frame that spans two page columns.

Figure 1.

Figures 2 and 3 show before and after versions of the new Span Columns feature in InDesign CS5. To use this feature, select a paragraph in a multicolumn text frame, and then choose Span Columns from the Control panel menu. (To keep things simple, start by selecting a paragraph in the leftmost column. You can select any paragraph, but this feature gets a little wild if you apply it to a paragraph in a column other than the leftmost.)

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

In addition to the option to span a paragraph across multiple columns, the Span Columns dialog box offers the option to split a paragraph into multiple columns. In Figure 4, a one-column text frame extends from the left margin to the right margin of the page. The headline spans the entire frame, but the body text is split into three equal-width columns.

Figure 4.

Because the option to span and split paragraphs is a paragraph-formatting option—like alignment, indents, space before/after, and so on—you can include span/split settings as part of a paragraph style.