Page Numbering on a Single Spread Page

Have you ever wanted to create page numbering (such as “Pages 4-5″) on one page of the spread? Me, neither. But there must be some trendy new design style that puts both spread numbers on a single page. That’s the only way I can account for the number of times this issue has come up in the forums.


The good news is that it’s relatively easy to do in InDesign CS5. The bad news is that a bug prevents it from working smoothly in InDesign CS4. But the good news is that there’s a fairly simple workaround. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s Good-2, Bad-1.

Here’s how to create this quirky page numbering technique.

Step 1. In the Pages panel, open the master page where you want to add the page numbering, and create a text frame. In my case, I’m putting the numbering on the right master. Type any text that’ll go along with the page numbering, and format the text.

For example, you may want to use a paragraph style that right-aligns the text and applies a font style used for headers.

Step 2. Choose Type > Insert Special Characters > Markers > Previous Page Number to insert the page number from the left-hand page. Insert a hyphen (or en dash), and then choose Type > Insert Special Characters > Markers > Current Page Number.


Of course, if you’re adding the page numbering to the left master, you’ll want to insert the current page number first and then insert the Next Page Number character after the hyphen.

In a perfect world, you’d be done. But there’s a catch — and we haven’t even gotten to the real bug yet. You have to thread the text frame on the right-hand page to a text frame on the left-hand page. You need to do this because the Previous Page Number and Next Page Number work on a story level, not on a document level.

Step 3. Create a text frame on the left master page, and thread it to the text frame on the right master page (click the out port, and then click the other text frame). Then place the insertion point at the beginning of the text that belongs in the next frame and choose Type > Insert Break Character > Frame Break.

In InDesign CS5, it works. On the document pages to which the master is applied, you’ll see “2-3″ and “4-5.” But in InDesign CS4, you’ll see “3-3″ and “5-5″ — the Previous Page Number is the same as the Current Page Number.


Unfortunately, InDesign CS4 stumbles on the Previous Page Number if it’s in a text frame that’s based on a master page. You need to override the master page item on every page where it appears. Ouch.

Step 4 (CS4 only). On each document page to which the master is applied, hold down Ctrl/Command+Shift and click the text frame with the page numbering.


Now that I’ve written out the steps, I think a more accurate score is Good-2, Bad-2.

21 Responses to Page Numbering on a Single Spread Page

  1. Aristarco says:

    In CS3 you can do this by making a text frame that will take the previous number in the left page and inserting the page marker, then stretching the frame to the other page. In CS4 however, it doesn’t work. Adobe says the bug is fixed as of july 06, ’09.

  2. Bob Bringhurst says:

    I don’t think it’s fixed yet in CS4. I think you still need to override the master page item to update the numbering.

  3. Pavel says:

    I created my document in CS3 where it was working seamlesly as in all later versions. After conversion into CS4 I noticed this „little“ fault very late. It is September 15 and it still doesnt work. „Till the end of summer“ you ment September 23?Pavel.

  4. m44 says:

    there are any news about that bug?

  5. Nope. It’s still broken in the newest update.

  6. John Hawkinson says:

    I wrote a script to solve this problem. I’m not sure how to format long scripts in MovableType, so I found a similar question on the Adobe InDesign Forums and posted the answer and script there.I hope it’s useful for someone!

  7. veryangryuser says:

    since this issue seems to be of no importance to the developers the question that comes to mind is: are you deliberately testing out what it takes to make all print producers return the competitions product, or do it in Tex right away?

  8. Maria Rogal says:

    To put the numbers on the left page – omit the step “Type > Insert Break Character > Frame Break.”

  9. zoe says:

    I have a document booklet set up as A5 facing pages however the first 16 pages are conventially numbered from then on the spread needs to be treated as one page rather than 2 and the page numbers need to reflect this and also be able to be updated in the contents automatically can anyone help? I have CS4 on the Mac

    • Bob Bringhurst says:

      You can’t use page numbering that way. Instead, you’ll need to use paragraph numbers. Define a numbering style so that the numbering doesn’t interfere with any other paragraph numbering.

  10. Alissa says:

    Thank you! Exactly what I was looking for!!!

  11. Mikey P says:

    is there a video anywhere?

    obviously i’m 1/2 retarded

  12. Anna says:

    Can someone help me with this problem – I need to add multiple page numbers to one page. 4 to be exact. I have 4 small invoices up on one page in InDesign and they need to be numbered, for example 1,2,3,4 then the next page 5,6,7,8. How do I do this? I’ve been trying to find the answer on google search with zero luck. I need to do this at work, so it’s important. Thanks!

    • Bob Bringhurst says:

      Use paragraph numbering instead of page numbering. You’ll want to create separate numbering styles for each “page.”

      • Anna says:

        Thank you so much! I will try that.

      • Anna says:

        I’m sorry, I am new with this program and I’m not having any luck. Do you have a link/video you can direct me to that describes how to ‘paragraph number’ in detail? It would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Erik says:

    GEAT excaly what i was loking for :)))

  14. Lucien says:

    Now that we have that stylish page numbering, is there any way to start numbering at an arbitray number (in my case 2, because the designer of my brochure put the cover in an outside file for some obscure reason). I know that I could insert 2 blank pages and ignoring those when exporting.

    Second question: How do I format the page number to get a 2 digit number with a leading 0 for the numbers from 2-9?

  15. alia khairat says:


  16. HARI says:

    I am using mac, with In Design 5, but this option not understood, I will trying 10 more, progress is not success. what I do now ? Pls any reasons