IndesignTips and Tricks

Write Faster with Smart Text Reflow

photocopied text for booklet
A copy of a copy of a copy is the text that I was given.

Recently I was asked to redesign an employee recruitment booklet that would need reset in Indesign and would include a lengthy history section. The original text files for the booklet had been lost and only a photocopy dated June 1996 was available My best guess was that the original text file had been on a company machine that had long ago been recycled. So how was I going to get this file back into a digital form? My first thought was to use some kind of OCR software which stands for Optical Character Recognition. This software scans an image and attempts to translate your files into workable text.

Now this may make someone say, “Wait a second Julian. I don’t want to shell out more of my hard earned cash for another piece of software that I’ll only use occasionally.” Well that is where you may be in for a pleasant surprise. If you are like me, you have an Adobe Creative Cloud account. With that account you have access to a wide array of Adobe software including Adobe Acrobat Pro. Acrobat in fact has this OCR software built in. I plan on going into where it is and how to use it in a later post so for now, just know that you may have this software and don’t even know it. So I thought, Great, this will be a quick fix and I can go about the rest of the design.”

Unfortunately, the OCR wasn’t 100% accurate. It read some of the poor photocopy marks on the page as stray characters giving some very unusual results. I was definitely having a multiplicity moment. Like the 1996 film starring Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, my copy of a copy of a copy just wasn’t close enough to the original. It looked like I would have to reset the text by hand.

Overflow Warning Smart Text Reflow
With my overflowed text I had to watch for this little red warning box. I knew there had to be an easier way than constantly looking up from the copy to make a new page.

Up till now I had only ever flowed text page to page by drawing multiple text blocks and linking them together by clicking that little box on the lower right of the first box and then clicking in the next box to flow it. So my workflow for this project would be to type it up and then keep adding pages with new text blocks until the error warnings stopped. Stopping for interruptions meant that I could lose my place while typing so I would have to keep an eye on my text boxes as they filled and make a new page when I reached the limit of the current one. How could this be the correct way of doing it? Surely the developers of Indesign had a way to automatically start a new page and continue my story. You don’t have to create a new page when you work in any standard word processor so this software designed with print in mind surely has something that I haven’t discovered yet.

Preferences Smart Text Reflow
Don’t forget to check the box labeled Smart Text Reflow once you get to the type section of the Preferences pane.

That is where Smart Text Reflow comes in. I had to do a little searching but I eventually came across this feature that would solve my problem with only a small amount of planning. The key to using Smart Text Reflow is by utilizing the master page. All I needed to do was create a master text frame on the master page and make sure that my preferences had Smart Text Reflow turned on in the Preferences section. To find this go to Preferences>Type and then near the bottom of the dialog box you’ll see Smart Text Reflow.
Smart Text Reflow Pages Panel
Now that it’s all set up all you have to do is go back to one of your document pages that has your updated master applied and override that document’s text box by either command+shift clicking or ctrl+shift clicking if you’re using a windows machine. Then start typing in that now active text block until the frame over sets. When that happens just wait a second or so and voila, Indesign notices that the frame is overset and you get a new page with your overflowed text. Now you have the functionality of a word processor right here in one of the most powerful publishing software packages available. Hopefully this tip helps someone out there like it did for me. I’ll be back next week with a new post so until then have a great week everyone.