InDesign Secrets: Creating automatic running footers with a text variable

Published by | Thursday, March 1st, 2012

In this week’s free InDesign Secrets movie, David Blatner shows you how to create running headers (or in this example, footers) that are automatically based on a variable you define. These footers are often used to help book readers get their bearings about which chapter, section, or subsection they might be reading. They’re also very handy and add a nice bit of navigational context for your readers, but let me tell you from my experience in book publishing, creating them can really be a quality-control project all by itself if you don’t use the right tools. For example, if the text upon which the running header or footer was created gets changed, or a new subhead is inserted during the editing cycle, the running footer information often gets separated from its parent text.

But as David demonstrates, telling InDesign that you want that footer to be based on a variable (for example, the last subhead that precedes it) means you never have to worry about updating the footer text if the subhead in question gets edited. You create these automatic running headers and footers by creating a text variable that basically tells InDesign: “Create this text based on the last subsection head you find and automatically plop it right here at the bottom of the right-hand page.” Once you learn InDesign’s language for doing this, your running headers or footers know what to do automatically. (The free tutorial video reveals a trick for getting InDesign to reflect your updated edits in the footer as well.)

Meanwhile, for members of, David’s co-consipirator in InDesign secrecy, Anne-Marie Concepcion, has an exclusive video called Live Caption tips and tricks that discusses using InDesign’s Live Captions feature to automatically populate your caption fields with information directly from your image metadata.

You know, sometimes I’m wary of abdicating my work to the InDesign robots, but these two features are much better at overseeing tedious tasks in a consistent way than I am.

See you back here in two weeks with another InDesign Secrets tutorial from David and Anne-Marie.

Interested in more?
• Every movie from the InDesign Secrets bi-weekly series
• Courses by David Blatner on
• Courses by Anne-Marie Concepcion on
• All InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
Creating Long Documents with InDesign
• InDesign Styles in Depth
InDesign CS4: 10 Habits of Highly Effective Pros

Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter7Share on Google+1Pin on Pinterest0Share on LinkedIn1 - start learning today

Tags: , ,

One Response to “InDesign Secrets: Creating automatic running footers with a text variable”

  1. kiMM Ford says:

    Hi there,

    I’m desperately trying to figure out how to create a running header in indesign that automatically picks up the heading you’ve created and updates itself when the heading changes. Your website looks like it might be the solution to my problem but the video won’t play it says ‘this is private’ when I try play it.

Leave a Reply