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Understanding Multicolumn Settings

Regardless of how you implemented multiple columns in documents, there are a few settings that you must be aware of. In this section, I focus on the techniques necessary to accurately set up multiple columns in documents.

Of course, you don't have to use any of these settings. These settings provide you with more control over text in multiple columns, but it's your choice.

There are three main settings to be concerned with:

  • Balance
  • Feather
  • Synchronize

The most notable difference between these settings is the way in which text is adjusted in each column, in relation to the other columns on the page.


When text in multicolumn layouts does not quite fill the page, Balance may be the answer for you. For example, in a two-column layout, if column 1 is full, and column 2 does not include enough text, column 2 is filled halfway down the page. After activating the Balance setting, the bottom of each column ends in the same place, leaving white space beneath both columns rather than just one column. Figure 1 illustrates the difference between balance and no balance.

Figure 1 Comparison of two columns with and without balance applied.

To change the Balance setting:

  1. Select Format, Page Layout, Column Layout for the entire text flow; and Format, Customize Layout, Customize Text Frame for a single page.

  2. Check Balance under the Columns setting.

  3. Click the Set button.

The Balance command does not change line spacing or spacing before or after individual paragraphs.


Using the same scenario as described previously in Balance, Feather adds vertical space between lines and paragraphs to make the columns appear even from top to bottom. Figure 2 shows you the before and after effect of Feathering multicolumn layouts.


Page display slows down after feathering multicolumn documents.

To change the Feather settings:

  1. Select Format, Page Layout, Line Layout.

  2. Check Feather.

    Interline Padding refers to the maximum amount of vertical line space that is allowed, and Inter-P Padding refers to the maximum amount of space that can be added between paragraphs.

  3. Experiment with various amounts for both line and paragraph spacing to determine what works well for your documents.

  4. Click Update Flow when you have finished.

    This command applies to an entire flow and not just a unique page column.

Figure 2 Comparison of two columns with and without feathering applied.


Using the same scenario, this commands aligns the text across columns, so that if you were to place a ruler across two columns, the text is lined up perfectly across the columns.

This command is useful when you want the main body text to line up across columns. If you do not use this command, when body text follows a heading, using a larger font and line/paragraph spacing, the body text no longer lines up perfectly with body text in the adjacent column.

To effectively use this setting, first check the line spacing in the Paragraph Designer for the main text that you plan to synchronize. For example, if the Body text size is 10.5 with 12.5 pt. line spacing, 12.5 becomes the magic number for this exercise. Figure 3 displays a before-and-after example of Synchronizing columns.

Figure 3 Comparison of two columns with and without synchronization applied.

To use the Synchronize command:

  1. Select Format, Page Layout, Line Layout.

  2. Check Synchronize.

    In the Synchronize Pgf's with Line Spacing Of: field, type the number that you viewed in the Paragraph Designer, Basic, Line Spacing field. In this example, 12.5 is the number. As a result, all paragraphs with this particular line spacing get synchronized.

  3. In the First-line Synchronization Limit: field; type the font size of the largest font that you want to align at the top of the column.

    Check the font sizes of the largest heading text that can possible begin at the top of a column.

  4. Click Update Flow when you have finished.

    This commands applies to an entire flow and not just a unique page column.


Feathering presides over Synchronization if both commands are in the on position. You should turn just one or the other on.

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