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An essential skill of every InDesign professional is the ability to quickly thread a series of text frames and to unthread them, often incorrectly referred to as linking text frames. And in InDesign linking usually refers to this kind of link or a hyperlink. So we call them threaded. Threading text frames, these three frames are unthreaded, you can tell because in the in port is empty and the out port is empty.
That is where you see little triangles that appear if they are threaded. Compare that with this story where the first frame, the in port is empty and the out port has a triangle pointing to the second frame, where both the in port and the out port have a triangle, meaning it's in the middle of a threaded story. This is the last one in a threaded story. Now the point is sometimes you are working with a document with a threaded story and you need to unthread these. You need them to be stand-alone frames, and sometimes you're working with a document that has a bunch of unthreaded frames that you want to stitch together.
Let me show you some tips and tricks and some scripts that you will find very useful. Here is one example of when you might want to thread frames together. It is the beginning of a book, the title page, and we have three frames. As you can tell from the in port and out port, they are unthreaded, they are empty. We need to thread them together because when we the export this to ePub, we want to have the same amount of white space in between these chunks of information. And there's no way that we are going to be able to do that with three separate frames.
It's going to collapse the space. Instead, we want an all-in-one frame, and then we'll use formatting like Space Above or Space After to force this spacing to appear. So how do you thread frames together that are unthreaded? Well, the manual way is simply to select the first frame and then click in the empty out port. Normally, you'd click here if you had overset text that you want to flow somewhere, but you can click it even if it's empty, and it always puts in a preview of the first couple words of the story, pay no mind.
If you have just one other frame that you need this threaded to, you could just go to that frame, and when you see the link icon, you can click here and it will just thread these. But that means that if you also wanted to thread a third frame to the story, as we do here, you would have to repeat that action and click on the out port of the second frame and click here. If you have more than a couple frames that you need to thread, do what I just did for the first frame and then hold down the Option or the Alt key on Windows and click on each other frame that you want to thread together and that will save you a lot of time.
These three frames are threaded, but you see the problem. First of all, let's get rid of view. The problem is that the text got sucked up to the frame above it. So let's undo a few times. The problem is that this frame does not end with a frame-ending special character like a paragraph return or a frame break. Instead, we see the number sign or the hash mark which just means there is no more text in this thread. If you want to make sure that the text does not get moved from its current position, you need to end each frame with a Frame Break character.
So we click right here and then we can right click, go down to Insert Break Character > Frame Break, or we could press Shift+Enter which is the keyboard shortcut. We would do it here as well and Insert Break Character > Frame Break, we don't need to do it to the last one. Now, let's do the same action that we did before. Load the cursor from the first frame's out port and then Option-click, Option-click, and there you go. The text stays where it is. Now what that also means, though, is that if you edit this text, it's not going to flow smoothly because you have this Frame Break character, but the other option that you could do that I sometimes do is instead of a Frame Break, I will put a return in there.
So I'll make sure that there is a return at the end of every frame, and there is one there, is there one here, yes there is, and we don't need to worry about that one. So that will still make sure that this text does not end up in the same line as Art because it's going to be a different paragraph. But if I needed to start editing, then the text would flow smoothly from one frame to the next because I don't have any jumping Frame special characters in there. Here we have a spread of a business report, and for some inexplicable reason, these three frames which obviously belong to one story are not threaded.
So now we know that before we thread, we check the bottom of every frame, zooming in, make sure it ends with a return. And I will do our usual trick of loading the text cursor from the out port of the first frame and then Option-click or Alt-click on each one of these. Now, some of the text got sucked into here because that was a paragraph marker and not a frame break, but that's perfectly fine. This neat little trick of clicking to load the cursor and then Option-click or Alt-click, click, click on other frames is fine if you just have to do it a few times.
But what if you had a huge project that had dozens or hundreds or thousands of frames that needed to be threaded in order for you to do something with it? Or maybe this is something that you have to work with every day that you're constantly dealing with these kinds of publications, and I have talked with people who this is part of their daily task is having to do this threading. Well, there are some scripts that can help you out. So let's look at a couple. Let me revert this one so that we once again have unthreaded frames. There we go.
Zoom in here, see how it added a Frame Break character down here? So if it already ends with a Frame Break, it doesn't add that, which is nice. What I really like about this script is that you have lot of control. You can Shift-click just the frames that you want. Now the problem, though, is that what if the frames extend beyond one spread? You know, that you can't select more than one frame on different spreads, right? So Jongware's script is great as long as everything you need to do is limited to one page or one spread. If you need to thread lots of frames on different pages, then you have to move to more powerful script, and the one that I like is called TextStitcher from Rorohiko, which is a well-known InDesign developer.
Now, this is not a video on how to use this plug-in. It's a very powerful plug-in, but couple of things I should tell you, first of all it's free. Thank you Chris, who is the owner of Rorohiko. Second is that you need to download a couple things. One of them is called the APID ToolAssistant, it's a plug-in. So that means you need to quit out of InDesign, drop this into your Plug-ins folder, and then restart. And then Chris has a lot of free and commercial plug-ins that depend on APID ToolAssistant being there, and as his instructions quite clearly explain, you just drop this file into the same folder as this one.
So on my Macintosh, in the InDesign CS6 folder, in my Plug-ins folder, I made a folder for Rorohiko and then there I put the APID ToolAssistant, and then every time I download another plug-in from his site, I just drop it in here. You can color the folder in both Windows and Macintosh. So it's really easy to tell what came with the program, what didn't come with it. Very useful if you are troubleshooting, so you can remove the things that you installed. But let me just show you back in InDesign that I have installed it, and so that's why I have this API menu at the top, and if I click it, I can say Text Stitch, and under Configure, you visit here first.
This plug-in will work either on the current spread or the entire document, it cares not for your selection. Now if you are okay with it threading every single story in the document or every single unthreaded frame in the current spread, then this is the answer for you. It will show a Confirmation dialog box. If you want it to, it will insert those Frame Break characters while it's stitching. And then it also does Auto Unstitching, which I'll get to in a second. But I am just going to say On the current spread, click OK, and let's check it out, there we go.
Let's say for some reason that we wanted just the first text frame, not this opening frame, but just the first text frame to be by itself. You could select this and then choose BreakFrame. So BreakFrame depends on your selection, you can double-click it and it puts that frame that you had selected all by itself unthreaded, and then for the rest of the threaded frames, it threads them. It just sort of skips by this one. So if I click this, you can see that this is still the first frame in the thread, but it just skipped this guy and went onto the other ones.
Now the reason it pulled the text inside here is because this story actually did start on the left, but part of the formatting for Chapter 1, for this line right here is that it's designed to always start on an odd page which is the right-facing page. Maybe if we look at a simpler example like in the business report, we select this frame right in the middle, double-click on BreakFrame, now it's threaded from the first to the third and it's all by itself. That's what BreakFrame is.
Now SplitStory will split every single frame in the story into a stand-alone frame. Let's go back to Art History and revert and zoom out. Now let's say for some reason that you needed to start moving pages around in this document. Perhaps it wasn't a linear narrative story like this, maybe it's a workbook that you flowed in as one long story but each page is a stand-alone exercise for a class, and now you need to start reorganizing these. If I start dragging these pages around--let's do it to the first chapter--if I start dragging these pages around like here--and I will say I will move this one over here and now we look at the text threads--we start seeing this kind of thing happening.
Well, that would be a nightmare. What you want to do is you want to unthread all these frames so that they are stand-alone, move them around, and then re-thread them. So let's undo, there it is, nice and normal. And now we open up our Scripts panel, double- click on SplitStory, now it makes no difference which frame you have selected, you are just actually telling it which is the story. A story is what's contained in a series of threaded frames, and we double-click SplitStory and make every single frame stand-alone.
Now we can go ahead and move these pages around, move that one over there. We don't have to worry about crossing things. Then we just have to thread these frames back together, doing it manually like I showed you, or using the TextStitcher plug-in. Of course, I did mention that TextStitcher also does this Auto Unstitch, and you can read more about what it does when it auto unstitches. And it auto unstitches the selected story, which is the same as the Break Frame script as well. Again, this script is free, and if it's okay with you to go ahead and install a plug-in, I highly recommend that you work with this wonderful TextStitch, truly great.
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