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Allow Your Frames to Resize with Your Text

It’s often the little features which I appreciate the most. InDesign CS6 added a few of these that can improve your productivity, and one of my favorites is called Text Frame Auto Sizing. This feature solves one of the little annoying problems that occur  as your layout proceeds when the text gets edited and re-edited. While we have had to ability to fit a frame to text for some time, the amount of text within the frame can continue to shrink or grow. When it grows we see the dreaded red plus sign of overset text. In the past, this has meant manually sizing and resizing frames.

Overset Text Problem

Overset Text Problem

InDesign CS6 solves this problem by adding another tab to the Text Frame Options dialog (Object > Text Frame Options) called Auto Size. When you click on this tab, you see an interface that allows the frame to resize smaller or larger as text is removed or added.

This feature shouldn’t be used on your main text flows that thread from frame to frame. But it works especially well on all the supporting players on the spread: sidebars like the one above, pull quotes, figure captions, picture credits, and so on. You have options to let a frame resize with Height Only, Width Only, both Height and Width, and Height and Width while maintaining proportions. Best of all, you can lock the position of one part of the frame, and let the frame grow or shrink from that part.

Auto Size Options

Auto Size Options

In fact the widget that lets you control what part of the frame gets locked looks almost identical to an old friend: Adobe Photoshop’s Canvas Size dialog box.

Similar to Canvas Size

Similar to Canvas Size

The result is that the selected frame automatically adjusts—eliminating any overset, and exactly fitting the frame to the new text. In this example, I selected the text is set to grow only in height, and I picked the center of the frame to lock to the layout. The result is always clean and neat!

Frame Resizes

Frame Resizes

Here’s another good use: Fitting a figure caption whose text changes. This time the Auto-Sizing is set to Width Only. You can also specify a minimum width (but no maximum!), and you can restrict line breaks.

Captions and Credits

Captions and Credits

Finally, the Auto Size feature is also integrated into object styles. Once you’ve created your frame the way you like, save it into an object style, and you’re set to go as you continue with your layout.

Object Styles

Object Styles

Steve Werner

Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
Steve Werner

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27 Comments on “Allow Your Frames to Resize with Your Text

  1. Great roundup of this feature, Steve; thanks! You mention in passing that there is “no maximum.” That is a big problem in many cases, and I’m hoping that Adobe will fix it someday. We need maximum height and widths. One current issue is that if you let a frame grow in height, it will keep growing all the way to the edge of the pasteboard!

  2. I was really excited to see this feature added to CS6 but I find that using it at all makes InDesign very crash-prone. Disappointing.

  3. Oh. My God. That’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in quite a while. Real timesaver. Glad I finally learned about this. Thanks Steve!

  4. We really like this feature as we do catalogs where the content in text boxes changes frequently and the auto-size function works great so we have it as our default setting for all documents. However, we just noticed an issue where this setting conflicts with the Type on a Path tool. If the setting is set to Height, InDesign will crash anytime we try to set type on a path.

    • Beth: I’m not sure what the problem is; I can successfully use type on a path on a frame that has Auto Size in InDesign CC. I suggest posting this on the Forums (where more people will see it). Be sure to include your version, and more details about how or when it crashes.

    • Thank-you! I have been trying to figure out why my Type on a Path tool keeps crashing the program and you solved it for me.

      • I can confirm the same thing. Beth, if you post on the forms, can you post a link here to the thread, so those of us experiencing the same issues can join in on that thread. Thanks.

  5. Is there any way to have a second text box shift vertically in relation to an auto-sizing text box? If Box A was set for vertical auto-size and Box B was placed directly under Box A, is there any way to make Box B shift down the page along with the base of Box A?

    • If you set Box A with text wrapping and Box B with vertical auto-size as well, then the text in Box A should push the text in Box B downwards, and Box B will expand accordingly.

  6. Great feature!
    Does someone knows how to apply those Auto-Size settings to a text frame with Applescript?
    I’m stuck on it for hours and can’t find a way :-(

    • I used these lines succesfully in a larger script:
      tell application “Adobe InDesign CC 2014”
      set auto sizing type of text frame preferences of text frame 1 of layer “descriptive_text” of document 1 to off
      end tell

  7. Hi,

    Its “Allow Your Frames to Resize with Your Text”. is it possible to “Allow Your Frames to Resize with Your Image”? i have in javascript with textframe autoresite preferences set. I want to resize the textframe when image size is changed or vice versa. Is it possible?

  8. Cindy: I’m afraid not. The closest you can get is to put text in a table (even a one-col/one-row table) and set a 0 width to the cell strokes. Cells automatically increase in height, and editors can use their type tool to drag left/right boundaries around.

    If InCopy users edit the content of text frames that are set to auto-size, they’ll still get overset text in InCopy. Once the story is updated in InDesign, the frame will auto-expand there.

  9. Great feature! However does this work with linked text boxes? I’m finding it doesn’t within Indesign CC… Any advice? Thanks!

  10. Wow! I had overset text in three places at the end of a large book InDesign file and could not find anything whatsoever – the text frames were entirely empty. I was contemplating beginning from scratch again. Tried your suggestion and now all is well.

  11. Hi! I have problem… I’d like to add long description captions to images, but the text doesn’t breaking lines in the text box, instead it’s like if it was kerned on each other. I’m on windows 8, indesign cc, and I used the default paragraph and object styles, and can’t solve this. Can somebody help?

  12. A fellow designer had tried to apply auto-size to a set of linked/threaded text frames so I thought I’d mention that the auto-size feature won’t work in such cases. The idea of auto-sizing is to keep the text within a frame that expands accordingly, whereas linked text frames spill text from one frame to another. Enjoy!

  13. Thanks for the article on this. I am having an issue with using an auto-expanding text box with Section Markers and wondered if anyone might be able to help…

    I currently have a booklet set up and have a text box with a coloured background and white text set up on a master page. Within the text box on the master page is a ‘section marker’ and have added an auto-size width to the text box. So what I’m trying to achieve is when you create section names throughout the booklet, these names are automatically added to every page in the section and the text box auto-sizes to the character length of the section name.

    However, I do all these steps, but on the actual pages the text box has a 0mm width and the text is all squashed up and not readable. It’s as if the auto-size feature doesn’t recognise there is text in there so is auto-sizing to 0mm.

    Does that make sense? Can anyone help? Thanks

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