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The Frame that Tries to Steal Your Text (Why You Can Click Through Some Frames and Not Others)

Leonard wrote:

I create the “guts” of the document and then draw a nice 2 pt black box around the page to give it a frame. But when I try to edit one of the text frames on the page, it selects the border frame instead of the object underneath — even though it’s filled with None. In PageMaker, the assumption was that the frame was empty.

Leonard, this is because the border frame is topmost in the stacking order on the page. Because you “hit” it first when you click on the pile of objects on the page, it prevents you from clicking through to the frames beneath. You can Command-click (PC: Control-click) repeatedly to drill down through stacking order until you select the correct frame, but you will still encounter some frustration if you’re not careful. Because any empty frame in InDesign will accept text entry (regardless of its original species), you’ll often find yourself typing in the wrong frame. It’s also easy to inadvertently drop a graphic into an unintended frame, just because you encounter the frame first in stacking order.

There are three types of frames: text, graphics, and “unassigned.” Create text frames with the Type tool, create graphics frames with the Rectangle Frame tool (the one with the “x” through it), and create empty, stroked frames with the Rectangle tool (plain old rectangle icon). You can put a stroke on any species of frame, as you’ve discovered. The unassigned frames automatically carry a 1-point black stroke, and this is indeed reminiscent of PageMaker. But while the unassigned frames are initially completely hollow (disembodied, floating keylines), it’s much too easy to accidentally click in one of these rascals and place text or graphics when you didn’t mean to.

Regardless of what kind of frame you use to carry the stroke, I’d suggest that you create your stroked frame on a separate layer, all by itself, and lock the layer in the Layers panel. Position this layer above or below the rest of your layers (depending on the design). Because it’s quarantined on a locked layer, you won’t inadvertently put content in it, and it won’t get in the way when you intend to select other content.

Additionally, to prevent accidentally typing in an empty frame, you might change your preferences. Launch Preferences: InDesign > Preferences > Type (PC: Edit > Preferences > Type), and UNcheck the “Type Tool Converts Frames to Text Frames” option. However, if you then want to convert, say, a graphics frame or unassigned frame to a text frame, you’ll have to first select the frame and choose Object > Content > Text. Then you’ll be able to type in it.

Hope this helps!

Claudia McCue

Claudia McCue

Claudia McCue incorporates more than 20 years of traditional and digital prepress production experience in her current incarnation as a consultant, trainer, and author devoted to the graphic arts industry. Claudia's company, Practicalia LLC, provides custom onsite training for a national client base of design firms, printing companies and marketing professionals. She is the author of Real World Print Production With Adobe Creative Cloud (Peachpit Press, 2013), and a frequent presenter at industry conferences. She is also the presenter for several Lynda.com titles, including "Acrobat X: Creating Forms," "Print Production Fundamentals," and "Up & Running With Acrobat XI Pro." When not chained to the computer, she can be found riding her motorcycle on country roads. She swears it’s the cure for writer’s block.
Claudia McCue

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25 Comments on “The Frame that Tries to Steal Your Text (Why You Can Click Through Some Frames and Not Others)

  1. Yes, this confuses so many people. Frames made with the Type tool or the Rectangle Frame tool (or any tool with an X in it) makes “solid” frames — even if they’re filled with None, you can’t click in the middle of them to click through them. Unassigned frames made with the Rectangle tool (or Ellipse tool or Polygon tool) are “empty” and you can click right through them!

    But Claudia’s idea of putting them on layers is likely the best in either case.

  2. I can’t say I really understand the difference between the Rectangle Frame and the Rectangle tools. In the end, you can put anything into either of them. They even look alike, except for the fact that the former is entirely clickable when there’s no fill.

  3. The Rectangle tool makes an Unassigned frame; the Rectangle Frame tool creates a Graphic frame.

    Unfortunately, the unassigned frame gets the Default Graphic Frame object style applied to it in the Object Styles panel, and the graphic frame does not. That’s frustrating and non-intuitive.

  4. “can?t say I really understand the difference between the Rectangle Frame and the Rectangle tools.”
    You’re not alone in that! All we really need is the Rectangle Frame tool (which I call the Graphic Frame tool as a subliminal message) and the Type tool. The plain-old-frame tool is redundant and annoying. I actually hate it; it’s a vestige of PageMaker-think. But I tell people that it’s there because otherwise there would be an empty spot on the Toolbox, and that would bother people :-) I advise new users to just ignore it and avoid using it. Put some electrical tape over it on your monitor.

  5. FWIW, don’t forget to keep type on top (on the same or a separate layer) if you don’t want problems with rasterizing. That prompts a question…are master page items above or below other items that you add to pages?

  6. Alternatively if you have it selected and it’s the wrong frame you could always just send the frame backwards OR to the back

    CTRL +[

    or

    CTRL + Shift [

    respectively.

    Pity there isn’t a shortcut for sending something up and down layers? Or is there? I can’t find it anyway.

  7. Eugene, I don’t know of a keyboard shortcut but you can always select the item(s) and then move the little icon at the right of that layer (layers panel) up or down to another layer.

  8. Jennie, according to my experience, all master page stuff is on its own special bottom layer, sort of — despite that also master page items can be placed on the regular layers. So there is no way, AFAIK, to get any master page items to magically hover above items on ordinary pages — which would have been useful now and then. David? Anne-Marie? Agree?

  9. Master page items are at the bottom of the layer they occupy on the Master page.

    For example, an object in Layer 2 on a Master page would be above everything in Layer 1, whether those Layer 1 objects are from the Master page or not. But that Master frame in Layer 2 would be BELOW everything in Layer 2 on the document page.

    If you unlock a Master object on a document page, it then rises above *other master objects* in stacking order *within its layer*, but not above document page objects.

    (Confused yet?)

  10. Sorry, I’m not good with the acronyms. What is AFAIK? In any event, I always put master page items on separate layers so that some go in front and some go in back of the items on the actual page. For example on my master page, I have a background tint on the bottom layer so text on my page will be on top of it. And I have my folio on the top layer so I can have a full page photo bleed and still have the folio showing on top of it. I hope this makes sense.

  11. Well (AFAIK ;) layers work globally so if you want all the masterpage items to “magically hover above items on ordinary pages” I guess you just put them a seperate top-most layer.
    In general I like to work on separate layers to keep the stacking order visually clear to me – less hustle with sending to front-back when I place something.

    Take care.

  12. An even easier way to avoid the wrong-frame-clicking problem would be to put the stroke on the text frame itself. No need for another frame.

  13. Gfx-Dzine, your “guessing” doesn’t square with my actual tests — which is that objects on master page layers which are on top STILL end up underneath objects on normal pages. I’d love to be wrong in this, though,so if anyone has a happy workaround . . . ?

  14. Klaus,
    As I mentioned earlier, master page items are behind document page items UNTIL THEY ARE UNLOCKED.
    When a master item is unlocked, it moves in front of *other master items,* but NOT in front of plain old items created in the document page.

    To force a master item in front of all other items (master and document items) on a page, unlock it and either bring it to front in the stacking order (which only brings it to the top of the layer it’s in, not above ALL layers), or move the item to the topmost stacking order of the topmost layer.

    Hope that clarifies.

  15. While it seems to get slightly off topic?master page items are all fundamentally “underneath” other items at the same level.

    So, all master page items on “Bottom Layer” will be below all other items on “Bottom Layer.”

    All master page items on “Top Layer” will be below all other items on “Top Layer” but will be ABOVE items on “Bottom Layer.”

    Example

  16. Daniel has it right, and that’s the important point: I like to make two layers in a document: Master Background (which sits at the bottom of the layers panel list) and Master Top (which is at the top). Background graphics or objects that are supposed to be behind everything go on the lower layer; page numbers, headers, and that kind of thing go on Master Top. I do not put any document page items on either of these layers to be safe; I have other layers (“text,” “graphics,” and so on) that are sandwiched between the two master layers.

  17. I do the same thing, keep separate layers just for master items. Wow, what was a simple question in the beginning has turned into quite a beginner’s learning experience in layers and master pages!

  18. So, I’m actually wrong — it IS possible to have Master Page items stacked on top of Plain Page items — and I’m happy to stand refuted! (I must have done something stupid when I tested this earlier.)

    But David, you can’t have one sentence with two colons. It just isn’t done.

  19. This blog rocks!
    Found the answer to why my folios were not showing up and learned a few new things too!

  20. Thanks for this post, I found the answer in it that had been bugging me for ages – how to change frames back to unassigned when you accidentally click into them and make them a text frame.

    Really appreciate you sharing your knowledge!

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