Creating Running Heads with Text Variables


This "how to" is very handy for books and other long documents. I was delighted once I learned how to use text variables to automatically generate running heads and maybe you will be too. So much time saved. So many master pages eliminated. No more worrying if I remembered to change the running heads when the chapter title was revised. I'm sure I've only just touched the surface of text variable capabilities and I'm looking forward to exploring more. Here's how to use text variable to create running heads:

  1. Open your book or long document in InDesign.

  2. In my example, I have a paragraph style called "chapter number" applied to the chapter number and a paragraph style called "chapter title" applied to the chapter title. Make sure your document has a paragraph style(s) applied to the text you want to use to generate the running head.

  3. Select Type > Text Variables > Define. You can either modify the available options or click the "New" button. In this example, I clicked New.

  4. To create the chapter number text variable: I named my text variable "Chapter Numbers" and chose Type: Running Header (Paragraph Style), Style: the paragraph style named chapter number, Use: First on Page. I inserted a colon and and space in the Text After field. Click OK. Click Done.

  5. To create the chapter title text variable: I named my text variable "Chapter Title" and chose Type: Running Header (Paragraph Style), Style: the paragraph style named chapter title, Use: First on Page. Click OK. Click Done.

  6. Go to your master pages and create a new text box for your running heads. Select Type > Text Variables > Insert Variable and choose Chapter Numbers. Select Type > Text Variables > Insert Variable and choose Chapter Title. Apply paragraph and character styles to format your text as desired. Make sure the width of the text box is large enough to fit your longest chapter title.

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