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How Master Pages Work

Master pages work behind the scenes to provide page layout information for body pages to follow. Typically, master pages contain the following page layout elements:

  • Text frame (text column)

  • Headers and/or footers (background text frame)

Text Frame

The text frame on a particular master page is reflected on corresponding body pages with respect to column height, width, and spacing from the top, bottom, left, and right of the page.

Text frames have a tagged text flow. The flow tag enables text frames to be related to each other or not, and enables body pages (that correspond to a master page) to automatically connect to each other.


Click anywhere in a text frame to display its flow tag in the status bar.

Tagged text frames are text frame templates for body pages, and appear on body pages as text columns. This is where you type text on each page of your document. When text flow reaches the end of a body page, a new page is created using the same page layout and tagged text frame, allowing document content to continue from one page to the next.

If you were to type text in a tagged text frame on a master page, the content is not displayed on corresponding body pages. Tagged text frames on master pages provide the framework for text columns on body pages.

Headers and/or Footers

Typically, headers and footers are displayed on every page throughout a document to facilitate navigation or provide other information about a document. In FrameMaker, header and footer content is inserted in background text frames on master pages.

Background text frames do not have a tagged text flow. You can type or insert information in background text frames on master pages only. They do not provide a text template frame on corresponding body pages. While you cannot access background text frames from body pages, their contents are displayed on body pages.

Behind the Scenes with Master Pages

Master pages are part of every FrameMaker document. Every FrameMaker document can also be thought of as a template, and the reverse is true as well.

You can include up to 100 master pages in a document. That's a lot of page layouts to keep track of! Even if you had 100 master pages, there are only two master page layouts that are automatically generated in body pages: the left and right master pages.

Before we move on, I want to clear up what I mean by automatically generated. As I said earlier, if you are typing on body pages, and text reaches the end of a body page, a new page is created allowing document content to continue to the next page.

If you have a single-sided document, a new right page is created using the right master page layout. If you are working in a double-sided document, either a new left or right page is created (using the left or right master page layout), depending on whether you ended on a left or a right page.

With that in mind, if you planned to use master page layouts other than left or right, you must manually apply a specific page layout to a particular body page or series of body pages. You learn more about that later in this article.

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