Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe FrameMaker

Working with Multicolumn Page Layouts in FrameMaker 6

What's your pleasure: feather, synchronize, or balance? Multiple column page layouts in FrameMaker offer a variety of ways in which to work with text in columns. This article helps you understand how to accurately use these features, and shows you a few techniques to work with text, graphic, and table elements in multiple columns.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

It was big news when the first automated typesetter, the Linotype machine, was invented in 1886. Creating multicolumn page layouts on a machine as big as a room had to have its challenges and probably took a really long time. Thankfully, FrameMaker provides you with the capability to produce multicolumn page layouts in just a fraction of the time.

In this article, I focus on the techniques necessary to create and work with multicolumn layouts in FrameMaker 6. The highlights of this article include the following:

  • How to create new multicolumn documents

  • How to change existing one-column page layouts to multicolumn layouts

  • Applying multicolumn layouts to specific pages in a one-column layout document

  • Understanding settings associated with multicolumn documents, including Balance, Feather, and Synchronize

  • Working with tables, graphics, and text that span multiple columns


There is no existing HTML element that easily produces a two-column layout. Therefore, multicolumn page layouts do not convert well from FrameMaker to HTML. Consider using Adobe Acrobat to create PDFs instead.

Creating Multicolumn Documents

Whether you are considering creating a multicolumn document from the onset or decide to change a single column page layout to a multicolumn page layout, this section explores FrameMaker features to get the job done.

Starting a New Multicolumn Document

If you are beginning a brand new document from scratch or developing a template, you get to be in charge of the initial document settings. After starting FrameMaker, this exercise shows you how to customize page layout settings.

  1. Select File, New, Document.

    The New window is displayed.

  2. Click the Custom button.

    The Custom Blank Paper window is displayed. If you click Portrait or Landscape, you do not encounter page layout settings for the new document. Those selections use predefined page layout settings for a one-column page layout. You can still use those selections and change the page layout later.

  3. Type the number 2 in the Columns: Number: field. If you want a three-column page layout, type the number 3.

  4. .25" is the default Gap setting.

    Gap refers to the space between the columns as well as to cool clothes. If you type a larger number, such as 1-inch, the overall width of the two columns stays the same, but the width of each individual column is narrower due to the larger size space between them.

    Notice that Flow Tag A is displayed under the Margins pane of the window. Flow Tag A is the default flow tag used when starting a new document, and is what you will use most of the time.

  5. Click Update Entire Flow.

    The new document is created with the two-column page layout already included on Master Pages.


Flow tags indicate the name of a text flow. You can have more than one text flow in documents.

Changing an Existing Single Column Document to Multicolumn

If you are already knee-deep into a document using a single-column page layout and then decide to switch to a two-column format, have no fear. With FrameMaker, many things are possible. You can make this change from either a Master Page or any Body Page—it makes no difference for this particular command. For this exercise, I begin on any Body page. Follow these steps:

  1. Select Format, Page Layout, Column Layout.

    You see the Column Layout window.

  2. Type the number 2 in the Columns: Number: field. If you want a 3-column page layout, type the number 3.

  3. .25" is the default Gap setting.

    Notice that Flow Tag A is displayed under the Margins pane. If you used a different flow tag name, it is displayed.

  4. Click Update Entire Flow.

    The entire document's page layout is updated to the new two-column layout, including all Body and Master pages. If you used more than one flow tag in your document, only the flow tag that was displayed in the Column Layout window is updated.


There is no Undo available for Column Layout commands in FrameMaker. Make sure you save your document first. If you make a mistake, you can use File, Revert to Saved to recover the last saved version of your document.

Changing One Body Page to Multicolumn in a Single-Column Document

Occasionally, for one reason or another, you may want one page using a multicolumn format whereas the remaining pages continue to use a single-column format.

Before you perform this step, your document should be in its final format. Changes to columns on Body pages are applied to a particular page, and not to text per se. Let's say you change page 9 to a multicolumn format, leaving the remaining pages in their one-column format. If you decide to edit text before page 9 at a later time, some of the text on page 9 moves to page 10, and some of the text on page 8 moves to page 9. Now, the text that you originally wanted formatted in a two-column format is formatted incorrectly.

FrameMaker is quite versatile, often providing multiple ways to perform a task. For this task, you can either make the change to a Body page's column, or you can create a new Master page that includes the new column format and then apply that Master page to the Body page you want to change.

Using the Customize Text Frame Command

This exercise shows you the steps to make the change to a Body page.

  1. Click one time in the text column on the page that you want to change.

  2. Select Format, Customize Layout, Customize Text Frame.

    You see the Customize Text Frame window. If your insertion cursor is not in a text frame (column), this command is dimmed in the menu and not available.

  3. Type 2 or some other number is the Columns: Number field.

  4. Click the Set button.

    The column layout for that particular Body page changes to the new column layout. No other pages are affected by this change.

Using a Custom Master Page

This exercise shows you the abbreviated steps to make the change using a Master page:

  1. Create a new Master page with a two-column layout.

    Return to Body Page view.

  2. Go to the Body page that you want to have a two-column layout.

  3. Select Format, Page Layout, Master Page Usage.

  4. Select Use Master Page, Custom.

    Select the new Master page that you created in Step 1.

  5. Select Current Page in the Apply To pane.

  6. Click the Set button.

    The new Master page layout is applied to the indicated Body page. No other pages are affected by this change.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020