Add or Remove Columns Automatically As You Edit a Story
You may know about InDesign’s Auto-Size feature, which lets you make a text frame grow as you add text to a story — and thereby won’t easily become overset. Normally, people set up frames so that they grow vertically. But the Auto-Size feature (which you can find by choosing Object > Text Frame Options, or by Option/Alt-double-clicking on a text frame with the Selection tool) can also make frame expand in width:
The “Width Only” feature in the Auto-Size tab is usually used for long headlines. But there’s another use that is pretty cool: you can use this to automatically add or remove columns automatically as you edit a story.
The key to making this work is to also set the Columns pop-up menu (in the General pane of the Text Frame Options dialog box) to Fixed Width:
When you have both Auto-Size set to Width and Columns set to Fixed Width, then InDesign will adjust the number of columns for you as you add or remove text. For example, here’s a small text frame:
Now here’s the same frame after I just added some additional text:
You can see that the height of the frame did not change, and the column width did not change… but InDesign did expand the frame and add 2 more columns automatically, so that the columns widths are all the same. Of course, if I removed some of the text, the frame would shrink back down to fewer columns.
Unfortunately, there is no “Max Width” feature in Auto-Size, so as you add more text, the frame goes right off the side of the page:
I really wish Adobe would add a Max Height and Max Width feature to the Auto-Size dialog box!
Nevertheless, this auto-add/remove-columns feature can be very useful in certain templated documents.