Add headers and footers | InDesign

InDesign is a powerful, layout design program, that you can use to create professional publications. InDesign does not demarcate any fixed space for headers and footers, but lets you decide where to place content. Based on your layout design requirements, you can place content anywhere on the page. This flexibility is good, but can leave beginners a little confused.

In this blog post, we’ll take a quick look at how to add content that we want on pages across the document: such as headers, footers, and page numbers. It is fairly easy, but  some theory first.

Master pages

The secret ingredient, (if it ever was a secret), is placing content on master pages.

You may consider a master page to be a background that you can quickly apply to many pages. Any objects placed on a master appear on all pages to which that master is applied. In Design, objects on master pages that appear on document pages are surrounded by a dotted border. All changes you make to a master are automatically applied to associated pages. Masters commonly contain repeating logos, page numbers, headers, and footers. They can also contain empty text or graphic frames that serve as placeholders on document pages. You can’t normally select a master item on a document page.

For more information, see Master Pages in InDesign.

Special characters and text variables

The other ingredient is variables. InDesign provides a large array of  variables that you can use. Variables are placeholders whose value depends on the context. InDesign also provides some commonly used variables, called Markers, so that you don’t have to take the trouble to define them. For example, the Current Page Number marker displays the current page number. As you navigate to other pages, the marker is updated accordingly.

For more information, see Text Variables.

Adding Headers and Footers

You must have figured out the rest. Add a variable on the master page and you’ve created running headers and footers. To add headers and footers, we need to place content on the master pages. InDesign does not care where you place this content on the master page. The software lets you decide and gives you complete freedom on placement of content. Headers and footers

For the sake of this example, let’s place page numbers in the footer, and a title on the header.

  1. In InDesign, create a new document (File > New > Document ) or open an existing document.
  2. Open the Pages panel (Window > Pages). The Pages panel displays a list of existing pages, as well as master pages in a document. See Pages and Spreads.

    Pages panel in InDesign

    Pages panel in InDesign

  3. Double-click a master page to open it. The selected master page is highlighted as shown above.
  4. Select the Text tool and draw a text frame(s) on the page, and let the blinking text cursor be inside the frame.
  5. To add content:
    • Choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number.
    • Choose Type > Text Variables > Insert Variable > File Name

      Page number marker on master page (left), and page number on document page

      Tip: You can use a combination of Markers and Variables to get effects like Page x of y.

  6. Move the text frames on the page, and format text, or apply styles change the visual appearance of the text.
  7. In the Pages panel, double-click a document page. The items you placed and styled, will appear on all the document pages, to which the master page is applied. (In the above image, the letter A displaying on the top-right of page 1 thumbnail, shows that master page A is applied to document page 1.

 More Reading

That covers the basics of adding headers and footers. See Add basic page numbering, to see an overview adding page numbers. Links from the help article also point you to other advanced topics.

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  1. #1 by bla bla bla on December 3, 2012 - 9:03 pm

    Adobe Flash installer not working on Windows 8 – Opera
    no help an
    no contact on
    I think somebody read this if not… not
    the shit is shit

  2. #2 by Monika on March 13, 2013 - 7:56 am

    Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter
    and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

    • #3 by Vladimir on October 25, 2013 - 3:43 am

      this is cool :)

    • #4 by da9els on January 6, 2014 - 12:42 pm

      Best off topic EVER! You saved my day.

    • #5 by Yvonne on November 24, 2014 - 8:30 am

      Wow, I bet your little girl will never put a shell to her ear again :) She was only four but she will probably always remember.

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