Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

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:

Auto-Size tab of Text Frame Options

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:

Fixed Width columns

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:

one column

Now here’s the same frame after I just added some additional text:

three columns

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:

too many columns

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.

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

Latest posts by David Blatner (see all)

  • - November 30, -0001
Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *