InDesign tutorial: Working with type in InDesign

What you’ll learn in this InDesign Tutorial:

  • Formatting type
  • Flowing type

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe InDesign panels. It is the first lesson in the Adobe InDesign CC Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe InDesign training options, visit AGI’s InDesign Classes.

Adobe InDesign Tutorial: Working with type in InDesign

You have significant control over the appearance, formatting, and placement of type, and you can save formatting attributes to easily reapply them to other text so you can work efficiently while maintaining a consistent appearance across your documents. In this section, you’ll add the finishing touches to a document by applying formatting to text, thereby completing the layout.

Entering and formatting type

When you add text to an InDesign layout, you will almost always place it inside a frame. Frames are containers that hold text, but they can also hold graphics or even just a color, such as a shape in a design or a background color. In this exercise, you’ll be working with text frames.

1 Choose File > Open. In the Open a File dialog box, navigate to the id01lessons folder and select the id01.indd file. Click Open. You will use this project file for the remainder of the lesson.

2 It’s a good idea to save a working copy of your document. To do this, choose File > Save As. In the Save As dialog box, navigate to the id01lessons folder. In the Name text field, type id01_work.indd, and then click Save. This allows you to work without altering the original file.

3 If necessary, click the Pages button () in the docking area along the right side of the workspace. The Pages panel opens. In the Pages panel, double-click page 1 to center this page in the workspace.

4 In the Tools panel, click to select the Type tool (). You will use the Type tool to create a new text frame. Position your cursor along the left side of the page, where the left margin guide and the first horizontal guide meet. Click and hold, then drag down and to the right, to the location where the right margin guide and the second horizontal guide meet. Release the mouse button. A new text frame is created, and a cursor blinks in the top-left corner of the new frame you have created.

Use the Type tool to create a new text frame. All text in an InDesign
layout is placed within frames.

5 Type Fending off the winter blues with cross-training in the text frame you created in the previous step. The text appears in the default font and size. Keep the cursor within this text frame, and keep the Type tool selected.

6 In the panel docking area along the right side of the workspace, click the Paragraph Styles button () to open the Paragraph Styles panel. Click to select the Heading style from the list of available styles in the Paragraph Styles panel. The Heading style is applied to the paragraph, which includes all the text within this frame. This saved style includes a variety of formatting attributes including font, style, and size. You’ll learn to create your own paragraph styles in Lesson 4, “Using Styles to Save Time.”

Paragraph styles make it easy to save and reapply multiple formatting attributes to text.

7 The top line of the sentence is much longer than the bottom line. To balance the lines, click the panel menu button () in the top-right corner of the Control panel and choose Balance Ragged Lines from the submenu. InDesign automatically balances the lines within the frame.

The headline after using the Balance Ragged Lines command.

Placing and formatting type

You can add text to an InDesign document by typing text onto the InDesign page, or by importing the text from an external file, such as a Microsoft Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. You can import most major text file formats into an InDesign layout.

1 If you’ve closed the Page panel, click the Pages button ( ) in the panel dock to open the Pages panel. Double-click page 2 in the Pages panel. If the Pages panel is covering your work area, click the double-arrows in the upper-right corner of the panel to reduce it to a button, or reposition it so you can see the document page.

2 Continuing to use the Type tool (), click inside the empty text frame that covers the center and right columns, under the headline Caring for Those Wheels. The cursor is inserted into the frame. Next you will import text into your layout that was created using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, and saved as a plain .txt file.


You can import a variety of file types into your InDesign layouts. While this example uses a text file, the format could be a native Microsoft Word or even Microsoft Excel file, along with many other file formats.

3 Choose File > Place. The Place dialog box opens. In the Place dialog box, make certain that Show Import Options is not selected and that Replace Selected Item is selected. These options are explained in more detail in Lesson 3, “Working with and Formatting Text.”

Navigate to the id01lessons folder provided with this book, and then locate and open the Links folder within the id01lessons folder. Choose the file Wheels.txt; then click Open. The text from this file is placed inside your text frame where you had placed the cursor. The text is formatted using InDesign’s Basic Paragraph style. Next you will apply a paragraph style to format the text you imported.

4 Place the cursor at the start of the story. Click the Paragraph Styles button to display the Paragraph Styles panel. Click the paragraph style Body, and the first paragraph is formatted using the Body style. Paragraph styles apply formatting to the paragraph where the cursor is located. You will now apply formatting to multiple paragraphs by selecting them and repeating this process.

5 Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) to select all the type within the current frame. From the Paragraph Styles panel, choose Body. All the selected paragraphs are now formatted using the Body style.

6 Choose Edit > Deselect All to deselect the type.

Flowing type

Stories often continue from one page or column to another. You will set up links between text frames so the story flows into multiple columns.

1 In the lower-left corner of the document window, click the page number drop-down menu, then select page 3 to navigate to this page. You can also use this menu to navigate to different pages in your document.

Use the page drop-down menu to navigate
between pages.

2 Using the Type tool (), click inside the first frame on the left side of the page, underneath the headline Race Calendar.

3 Choose File > Place. In the Place dialog box, navigate to the Links folder within the id01lessons folder. Confirm that Show Import Options is not selected, and then click to select the file Calendar.txt; click Open to place this text file into the frame in your InDesign layout.

4 Click to choose the Selection tool () in the Tools panel. Click to select the text frame where you imported the text if it isn’t still selected from the previous step. You can tell the frame is selected by small, square handles that appear on the corners of the frame and at the center of each side of the frame.

Notice the red plus sign located in the lower-right corner of the text frame. This indicates that there is more text in the story than fits within this text frame. You will link this text to another frame so it continues in another location.

The newly placed text on the page doesn’t fit into the text frame.
InDesign labels this as overset text, displaying a red plus symbol
to identify it.

5 Using the Selection tool, click once on the red plus sign in the lower-right corner of the text frame. After you click the red plus sign, the cursor changes, indicating that you are about to link the text so it continues in a new location. Some of the text to be linked is displayed in the cursor. You will use the cursor to indicate where the story continues.

6 Move the cursor to the center of the middle column. Notice that the cursor changes to also show a linked chain. Click to link the first and second frames together. The overset text from the first frame continues into the second frame. Because this story contains more text than fits into these two frames, a red plus symbol now appears at the bottom of the second column. Next you will link the second frame to the third frame, continuing the story.

Linking text from one frame to another.

7 Click the red plus sign on the lower-right corner of the second frame, then click inside the frame located along the right side of the page. The frames in the second and third columns are now linked together. As text runs out of space in the second column, it will continue into the frame in the third column.

8 Choose File > Save to save your work.

You have worked with some essential skills for linking text, and will work with these skills further in Lesson 3, “Working with and Formatting Text.”

Continue to the next InDesign Tutorial: Using styles in InDesign >