Timesaver: Span and Split Columns in CS5
One of the biggest timesaver features in InDesign CS5 is its new ability to specify a paragraph to span across multiple columns when in a multicolumn frame. (Old time users of Framemaker or other structured document applications call this a “straddle head.”) A bonus in the feature is also the ability to define two or more paragraphs to split into sub-columns, useful when you have a list in the middle of text.
In earlier versions of InDesign, you must create a separate text frame which spans columns. Or you must use tricks like anchoring text frames to achieve this effect. InDesign CS5’s feature is much faster and easier.
You must start with a multicolumn text frame. In the example shown above, to create the first headline which spans the three columns, select the paragraph and choose Span Columns from the Control panel menu (Paragraph mode). This opens the Span Columns dialog. Select Span Columns in the Paragraph Layout menu, and choose to Span All (or you can span a fixed number of columns). You can set the space before and after the span.
There are faster methods: You can select one or more paragraphs and make the basic choices for spanning and splitting using the new Span Columns widget on the Control panel (Paragraph mode). Or you can include all the Span and Split Paragraph options within a paragraph style.
If you set a paragraph within the text to span across multiple columns, the text before the spanning paragraph will become balanced as a result.
If you have a list which occurs with the text, you can select the items in the list, and choose the Split 2, Split 3, or Split 4 options in the Span Columns widget to create two, three or four sub-columns within the column. If you choose Split Column option in the Span Columns dialog, you get extra choices to control the space before, space after, and the inside and outside gutter. (Keith Gilbert pointed out the tip that Option/Alt-clicking on the Span Columns widget opens the Span Columns dialog.)
However, beware that the Span and Split Column feature doesn’t work with footnotes or tables. By the internal rules of how composition is done in InDesign, all footnotes associated with a paragraph will occur above any subsequent spanning column. This is probably not how you want them to occur!