Master InDesign’s Smart Text Reflow

Just how does that Smart Text Reflow work in InDesign, anyway?

For the longest time, people complained that InDesign lacked an automatic text flow feature, similar to the one in Word. When that feature arrived many moons ago, it went practically unnoticed. Still to this day, many people don’t take advantage of InDesign’s Smart Text Reflow. I assume part of that is because it can be a bit clunky to implement and understand. Let’s see if we can fix some of that here, shall we?

Smart Text Reflow adds and/or subtracts pages automatically as text is added or deleted. This makes it ideal for text-heavy longer documents—think page after page of prose, for instance—or if you use conditional text that will change the amount of visible content in the document.


To get Smart Text Reflow to work, you need to make sure a few items are in place. By default, the feature is limited to the Primary Text Frame on your master page. You can toggle this setting off (so Smart Text Reflow will apply to any text frame) in Preferences.

  • Go to InDesign/Edit > Preferences > Type and go to the bottom of the dialog box, under Smart Text Reflow.
  • Check or uncheck the main box to turn the feature entirely on or off.
  • De-select Limit to Primary Text Frames to work across all text frames.


Choosing Which Frames to Use

If you are going to use the feature on non-Primary Text Frames, you’ll also need to:

  • Manually set up at least two text frames and;
  • Those text frames need to be manually threaded across two pages.
  • Once you have set those up, Smart Text Reflow will work automatically.

If you are using it on Primary Text Frames:

  • To use with facing pages, the Primary Text Frames must be on both the left and the right master pages and those frames need to be already threaded.
  • To use on single pages, putting text in a Primary Text Frame on a document page will automatically flow the text from page to page.
  • Override the master frame on the document page where you want to initiate the text and the rest will flow automatically.

Other Settings

  • Choose where the empty pages will be added: End of Story, End of Document, or End of Section.
  • Choose whether or not to delete any empty pages. Pages will only be deleted if the text frame is the only document item on the page. Master page items won’t keep the page from being deleted.
  • Choose Preserve Facing-Page Spreads (used only with facing pages documents, of course) to force InDesign to add 2-page spreads when adding pages automatically. If this is deselected, Smart Text Reflow will add single pages.

Remember, this is a document setting. So the changes you make to preferences only apply to the current document. But if you set this up with no document open, it will become the default for all new documents. And, as with any automatic feature, you should fine-tune the settings to fit with your workflow. It can be a little disconcerting to see pages disappear on you when you delete text. That being said, I find that Smart Text Reflow comes in handy with many of my longer documents where I am cutting, pasting, and re-arranging text constantly.

Posted on: November 21, 2016

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, tech edited How To Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS4, and served as leader of the Denver InDesign User Group. After living as a nomad for almost a year, she recently put down roots in El Paso, Texas, where she hikes and bikes every chance she gets. Check out to see all of Erica's upcoming events, tips and tricks, and workbooks.

1 Comment on Master InDesign’s Smart Text Reflow

  1. Thank you for this. I used to use text reflow all the time, but a few versions ago Adobe changed the way it worked, and I have never been able to make it work the way I wanted it to since that. I wasn’t even aware that there were preferences that I could set-I am hopeful that this will allow me to get back to using the text reflow feature.

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