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Have Place Cursor Fill the Margins, and Other Placing Tricks

After a decade of using InDesign, you’d think I’d know all its features. But sometimes I knew features but don’t know them now… that is, they fell out of my head somewhere along the line. That’s okay, it’s fun to keep learning (and re-learning).

So when I recently wished aloud that InDesign could fill the whole page — from margin to margin — with a text frame when I place it, Peter Spier gently reminded me that this has been part of InDesign pretty much forever: Just click with the Place cursor in the upper-left corner, where the margin guides meet. When you have a text file loaded in the Place cursor and you click, InDesign creates a frame from that point on the page (vertically) down to the bottom margin, and from the left to the right margin. That is also how it used to work in PageMaker.

I had forgotten this little fact because 99% of the time I click-and-drag with the Place cursor, not just click. Dragging lets you specify the size of the frame. Anyway, I mention all this in hopes that it will help jog the memories of people like me, or instruct beginners who may never have known that a simple click was an option.

Don’t Click a Guide

Peter went on to point out that there’s a potential problem behind the “click” method of placing: Let’s say you already have an empty frame on your page. You use File > Place to load an image or a text file, which loads the Place cursor. You hover the cursor over the empty frame, and click, expecting the image or text to flow into the frame. But sometimes it doesn’t! Sometimes InDesign makes a new frame! Why?

One reason is that there may have been a page or spread guide under your cursor. This is a particular problem in templates that have a lot of guides. If a guide happens to be under your cursor when you click, InDesign makes a new frame.

It’s also possible that the frame is locked, or on a locked layer. Or if you click-and-drag instead of clicking on the empty frame; that will also create a new frame.

Other Place Tricks

There are many other techniques you should know regarding the Place cursor, such as these previous articles:

Okay some of these aren’t really about placing, but they’re good anyway.

What place cursor techniques do you want to share?

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

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6 Comments on “Have Place Cursor Fill the Margins, and Other Placing Tricks

  1. Instead of clicking on the upper left corner, if you click on the left vertical margin, indesign will start the text box at that Y height. Good for if you already have header elements on the top of the page.

    InDesign also uses the margins to determine where to create the text boxes when creating semi-automatic or automatic text threads. If the page is divided into columns, InDesign will automatically create text frames to fit into the columns too.

  2. David, just be proud that you’ve forgotten more about InDesign that most people will ever learn about InDesign!

    Your post made me remember how PageMaker offered one text-related feature that is slightly different that ID: In PageMaker, you could click with the Type tool on an empty page between 2 margin guides, and it would create a text frame, 1 line high, that stretched from margin to margin. In ID you have to drag with the Type tool to create an empty text frame. Because of this, I still sometimes click with the Type tool expecting a frame to be produced…but I’m clearly slow to change!

  3. I’d just like to see a tiny little box with the thumbnails telling me (part of) the filename or which page of a PDF is currently loaded into the place cursor/gun.

  4. Roland: make sure the Links panel is on-screen. The visible thumbnail file is selected in there.

    When placing a multi-page PDF, it only shows the PDF file — unfortunately, you cannot page through a PDF while placing.

  5. Is there any way to force the text frame to start from a guide rather than a margin? I have a layout where there are some text flows that I want to start at a guide which is inset a few cm from the main margin. I’d like to just click the place cursor on that guide and have it flow from the guide to the bottom right margin area. (I know I could create a new master page with new margins, but I’d rather not.)

  6. I have no idea how this works :(… There’s still a lot of empty space in my page and the frame is not loading completely.

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