One step in the workflow of editing a 300-page multi-chapter book in Adobe InDesign CC that I don’t enjoy is the tedious and error-prone manual process of assigning a distinct Master Page (one with a different running header, to implement Chicago Manual of Style §1.16) and setting Start Section (to restart footnote numbering, to implement Chicago Manual of Style §2.22) to some of my pages.

I have five page masters: front matter without folio, normal front matter, end matter, regular pages, and chapter titles. I can assign the front and end matter masters easily enough by hand. Most of the remaining pages will have the regular master style, but I want to do these things:

  1. assign the Chapter Title master page, and
  2. set Start Section

for each page that either

  1. contains a “Chapter Title” paragraph style element, or
  2. is a blank page preceding a page containing a “Chapter Title” style element.

Whenever I add or delete a page, I have to riffle manually through my 300-page book again, clicking several times per page for several pages.

Is this the kind of thing that I should be able to automate in InDesign CC?

  • Interesting question. I guess it has to be a 'watch' feature that enables and disables chapter title master pages as the text flows. If there is no quick solution maybe have each chapter contained with it's own text thread and deal with half-empty pages when the project is finished.
    – HaraldCFS
    Dec 9, 2017 at 13:27
  • Well, and I don’t mind adding a “run this script” step to my workflow. That would be a radical improvement over what I have to do now. Dec 9, 2017 at 18:25
  • If you work with the Book feature, you should have noticed than each Document/Chapter starts as a new section. Are you saying that you have to restart footnotes numbering within Chapters?
    – Vinny
    Dec 11, 2017 at 10:40
  • Yes, I began the book as separate documents in an InDesign “Book,” but the problems introduced by trying to keep up with style synchronization were worse than this “start section” problem I’m having now. Dec 14, 2017 at 1:20
  • @Vinny, I just realized that you probably didn't see my response to your comment because I didn't tag you. To clarify, I don't use the “Book” feature. I tried it, and the style synchronization problems were worse than the problems of having to manually select where running headers appear and where section boundaries begin. Feb 14, 2019 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


It can't be done natively with InDesign. InDesign has no way of linking master pages or document sections to paragraph styles. There are a few ways of applying master pages in InDesign: Dragging a master page onto another page in the pages panel. Or, from the flyout menu of the pages panel, choosing "Apply Master". However, there is no built-in way of applying master pages to live document pages in InDesign based on the paragraph styles applied to the text on those live pages. Ditto with sections. To apply a section to a page in InDesign, right-click on the page in the pages panel, and click on "Numbering & Sections Options". But again, no way to link a new section to document page based on the style applied to paragraphs on that page. On the other hand, InDesign comes with massive scripting and automation capabilities. And with scripting, this can be done. For instance, you could set up a text search for a specific paragraph style:

app.findTextPreferences.appliedParagraphStyle = document.paragraphStyles.itemByName("MyStyle");

At this point, you can get a collection of all found instances:

myFinds = document.findText();

... and then loop through myFinds to find the page they're on:

myPage = myFinds[i].parentTextFrames[0].parentPage;

At this point, you have a handle to the page you're after, and you can apply any master page you'd like to it. However, it's not really quite so simple. Not every text paragraph in a document has a parent text frame (for instance, overset text), and not every text frame has a parent page (for instance, text frames on the pasteboard). However, the above code should help to get you started, if you know how to script InDesign. That is the only "native" (or semi-native) way of linking paragraph styles to master pages, and sections to paragraph style in InDesign. So, not so simple. However, there are commercial add-ons for InDesign that do this all for you, and if you are not a programmer, you may consider investing in such an add-on, as it can save loads of time. I, naturally, would recommend my own, as it is the most sophisticated such product out there, and used by top world publishers: [Mastermatic][1]. [1]: https://www.id-extras.com/products/mastermatic/

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