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Force Text Reflow When InDesign Forgets to Flow the Text

I’m sitting here working on a job that has text flowing from page to page. I’m changing the size of text frames and the text just sits there. No text reflow. When I make the frame bigger, there is suddenly a large blank area in the frame where the text should be. Why?

Yes, I know it could be text wrap, or any number of other things. But it’s not. In fact, if I make the text frame smaller, the extra text just hangs outside the frame.

In this case, it’s just InDesign forgetting to reflow the text. You see, it’s really, really early in the morning. I often work far-too-early in the a.m. because it’s quiet and my boys haven’t woken up yet. But obviously, InDesign hasn’t woken up yet either. Pouring coffee onto the keyboard isn’t an option. So how do I get this program to wake up and flow the text properly?

Double-clicking in the text frame generally works as a little goose. If that doesn’t, then typing a letter (like a space) in the text flow should do it. But there’s an even easier way that most people don’t know about: Command-Option-/ (slash) or Ctrl-Alt-slash. That’s the shortcut for “Recompose All Stories” — in other words, “HEY! InDesign! Wake up and do your job!”

You need that sometimes. I don’t know why. But it’s a good shortcut to have in your arsenal on those early mornings (or late evenings, if you’re a night owl).

By the way, just for the sake of completeness, I should mention that in this particular document I’m working on, all kinds of things had stopped working. For example, Undo and Redo were grayed out, no matter what I did. Weird stuff. I’m pretty tolerant, but that got old quick. Fortunately, saving, closing, and re-opening the document got InDesign working properly. Even my text flow seems looser now.

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 Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
David Blatner

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13 Comments on “Force Text Reflow When InDesign Forgets to Flow the Text

  1. I love that shortcut too. I remember it because the slash is on the same key as the question mark, so it’s like I’m saying “Helloooo? InDesign?” Feels like there should be a menu command too, but I don’t think there is one.

    I also wonder if a force redraw (shift+f5) would do the trick if your doc gets sleepy again. Or a Save As.

  2. For those that are interested in the technical side of things…

    The reason this command can sometimes help is like this: (in very simplified terms)

    You can think of InDesign a bit like a body.
    There’s a central “brain” which receives messages from different “limbs” (which can be integral parts of InDesign or third party plug-ins), and forwards messages to other “limbs”. Each “limb” can let the “brain” know that something happened, and can request notification when specific things occur. When a “limb” is notified of a specific “event”, it can react accordingly. If for whatever reason that notification is not sent, the “limb” doesn’t know it’s supposed to react.

    The recompose all story command tells the “brain” that all the stories in the document have been “damaged” and need to be recomposed. This message is usually sent when it’s really damaged, but if for whatever reason the message wasn’t properly received, “recompose” will give the “brain” a wake-up call. Any other “limbs” which respond to recomposition will then respond in turn to the action of the text engine which recomposes the stories.

    I don’t believe a forced redraw would help a “sleepy” document (unless it’s just a display anomaly), since it doesn’t trigger the text engine to do anything. Rather it forces the screen drawing to show what’s already been composed.

    It’s worthy of note that this shortcut is also useful when transferring documents from CS2 to CS3 and CS2/3 to CS4. Since there’s sometimes text reflow across version, it’s advisable to force a recomposition when opening up the old document to make sure the text is composed in the text engine of the current version. This prevents surprises later…

  3. @Lauren, I was using CS4, but I’ve seen it in earlier versions, too. Fortunately, it’s rare.

  4. Little things like that happen to me too. I put it down to a bad startup where protocols were skipped and/or just overusing the system and it gets low on memory. Either way, a fresh boot up sorts it out, before you go prodding.

  5. I’m a new InDesign user and I’m enjoying your posts. I have a question about Text Wrap that I haven’t seen answered. When I apply a Text Wrap to a box, it automatically forces any text on top of it out of the way as well. I had hoped that bringing something to the front would mean that it would not be subjected to the wrap — as in Quark.

    How would I get around that? For example, if I want to put white text on a blue box and then run around that blue box so that other type on the page wraps around that box, how can I circumvent the wrap?

    That was a poorly worded question, but I think you can see what I mean.

  6. David — Thanks, this was exactly the solution I needed to read.
    fyi, I am running CS2. I had no problem on my old Mac, but on a new i7 iMac, this lack of text reflow is driving me buggy.

  7. Thx guys, I found it to be CTRL-ALT-# in indesign CS6 -german- (“Text & Tabellen: Alle Textabschnitte neu umbrechen”).

  8. Sir,
    As i was searching video tutorial for diff. between Text-Flow & Text-ReFlow, unable to find any guide clarifying it. Not even in any article.
    Wikidiff.com says Flow is “To arrange (text in a wordprocessor, etc.) so that it wraps neatly into a designated space; to reflow.” & Reflow is “To modify the layout of text around other objects in a document.”
    Here u may say what the hell exactly r u not understanding. So, yes i m confused, that weather i even know the ans. or not. Will keep on seeking for the tutorial at ur channel on yotube as well as here.
    Thank you.

  9. Hi David – I am wondering if you know if this is ever likely to be fixed at an application level. In some of my more complex documents I am finding I need to force the reflow every time I open/use the document. Can’t Adobe do something to fix its brain so this stop happening. I keep exporting PDFs for clients that have blank pages. It’s not a good look!

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