I'm having several different parts of a publication I'm doing where I'm presenting essentially a list of compound data. Examples are contact specifications (data points are [Name,Phone,Email]), recent and upcoming events (data is [What,When,Where]). These are then enumerated in some way in the document, most often by just having the data entered as text in one text area (possible being linked over several pages) with some paragraph styles to make the items look separated. This feels kind of strange, since the "paragraphs" are not really paragraphs but rather separate entries.

I have tried in some instances to instead have one text area per data entry (ie one box per contact). This feels more natural, and makes it easier to get creative with placement around images etc. On the other hand, it is a major pain to introduce a new item in the middle of the lists, since all subsequent items must then be moved (esp when the layout is columnized), possibly in such a way that it needs to be done manually on every item. Same problem if the boxes are a bit unregular in their size requirements, or if they change.

What are the best practices for this? For instance if you'd be creating a phone directory, how would you do it? Long text areas, or one for every entry? Why?

When using the "single-box style", I have tried using anchoring and auto-resize to have automatic layout help for the changing sizes problem, but this only works when I know that they won't cross a page break (as far as I've come so far, at least). Can this be refined to cover more situations?

EDIT: I've found some mentions of stories in InDesign saying that they are a collection of text boxes. Is this relevant? It sounds like it could join the two above strategies, or am I mistaken?

  • 2
    Any chance you could post an image? I feel like I almost get your question but not quite, and a visual would be really helpful. Sep 24, 2012 at 21:05
  • In Indesign any inline content (text and/or inline images etc) separated by a full carriage return is thought of as a paragraph and controlled via paragraph styles - including list items, headings, footnotes, captions, etc etc, so you're right to format each list item using paragraph styles Mar 24, 2013 at 23:43
  • If you add an sketch of your layout could be easier to understand your problem and see what are you doing.
    – Aradnix
    Sep 5, 2014 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


I believe the "Data Merge" feature within InDesign CS6 is what will work for you. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB754s6zB8A

  • Hi! I use data merge for quite a lot of things, but there are things that it does not quite cut it for. I'm developing some scripts to handle the cases where it doesn't work out, and want to do it properly.
    – carlpett
    Sep 24, 2012 at 16:16

If I'm understanding the question correctly, I believe you can accomplish this my having all of you text boxes threaded together and inserting a "break character" called a "frame break" after each paragraph. The clear our any paragraph returns after the frame breaks and you can have each chunk of text in its own text box that you can move around anywhere. If you have to add or remove text just pick a box to make changes on, and the other text should reflow accordingly. Hope that helps.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.