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You already know that you can change the number of columns on a page, but those columns are just guides. There's another feature in InDesign that actually forces text frames to break into multiple columns. Let me show you how you do it. I've opened the roux_article files from the Exercise Folder and I'm going to jump to the next spread by pressing Option+Page Down or Alt+Page Down, and I'll zoom in at the top part of this page with Command+Spacebar+Drag or Ctrl+Spacebar+Drag on Windows. I can see that I've a text frame here and it's a single column.
The key to making this a multiple column text frame is the Text Frame Options dialog box, which I can get to by going to the Object menu and choosing Text Frame Options. I'm going to move this down so we can see the important part of the dialog box, and the text frame at the same time. The first area of the Text Frame Options dialog box lists the number of Columns. Right now, we only have 1 column, but if I increase this to 2 or more, we can see that the text frame actually splits into columns. The amount of space between each column is called the Gutter, and you can control that in this field.
The third option is the Width. InDesign calculates that automatically, and it tells me that this is 126 points wide, from one edge of the column to the other. If my document were in centimeters or inches, it would show me at centimeters or inches instead of course. Sometimes, when I'm working on a document the design calls for a very specific column width, for example, maybe 12 picas. I can come up here and replace this Width with exactly the amount I want. I'll do 12p and then press Tab to jump out of that field, and you can see that InDesign actually changes the width of the column, infact it changes the width of the whole frame.
I'll move this dialog box up and click OK because I want to show you a problem. I've specified a very specific Width for my column, but if I accidentally come up here and stretch this frame out, InDesign throws that out the window. I still have two columns but they're completely the wrong width now. Fortunately, InDesign has two features that will help with this. I'm going to go back to the Text Frame Options dialog box, but this time I'm going to use a shortcut. You could press Command+B or Ctrl+B on Windows, or my favorite shortcut, simply Option+Double-click or Alt +Double-click on Windows.
When you do that up comes the Text Frame Options dialog box. Move this out of the way a little bit, and I'm going to change the Columns pop-up menu from Fixed Number to Fixed Width. If my design calls for a specific width, I probably want to change this to Fixed Width, and I'm going to choose the Width in here. I think, I said that was 12 Picas, right? Press Tab and you'll see that now the Fixed Width size is 144 points, which is 12 picas. I'll click OK and now we see something different happen when I try and stretch this out.
It won't let me make it anymore narrow. I'm dragging to the left but it does not change the Width because I'll always have a Fixed Width. Now something else happens if I drag to the right. If I drag farther to the right, it forces there to be a third column and it's always exactly the right width. Make this smaller again, I'll drag all the way over here, and it goes down to two columns. Make it wider and it goes to three columns. So maybe that's what you want. Another hand some designs call for it to be a little flexible and how wide that column could be.
So, in that case, I'll Option+Double-click or Alt+Double-click to open the Text Frame Options dialog box and I'll change the Columns pop-up menu to Flexible Width. Flexible Width activates a new field here called Maximum, and now we have a Width and a Maximum width. So I could say I want nominally, the column to be 12 picas, but I'm willing to let it go as high as, now let's say 15 picas. I'll click OK and now I have a slightly different effect. I can make it smaller, smaller, smaller, but as soon as it gets too small it snaps back to a different width.
Make it wider, and I can have actually wider, wider, wider and now, we actually have four columns. The fourth column is a little truncated here because I'm getting text wrap from that image. I'll talk about text wrap in a later chapter. But you get the idea, we actually have a little bit of flexibility and how many columns and how wide those columns could be. As you can see InDesign really tries to help you strike the right balance between creativity, flexibility and a tightly controlled design.
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