InDesign Obstacle: When Smart Text Reflow Doesn’t Work

WomanThis is part of a series. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet.

Sigh. When a beginner like me runs into an obstacle, it’s tempting to give up. Obstacles, though—things that don’t work as promised, muddled directions, pointless upgrades that force a new learning curve—are part of the technology territory.

***Click on the images for a larger version. Then use CTRL/COMMAND + + (plus sign) to enlarge them still further.***

When a program gets really complicated, like InDesign or, for that matter, Word, something’s bound to slip out of place somewhere in something’s innards, either your machine’s or the program’s.

So I interrupt my current posts on formatting to address a glitch I ran into, in hopes you will be able to work around that glitch if it pops up for you.

Happy that InDesign is working

When I formatted King of the Roses with InDesign, Smart Text Reflow—the toggle that should allow InDesign to add pages as needed to accommodate long blocks of “placed” text—worked beautifully. I was working chapter by chapter, and when I placed a chapter from my Word files, the text threaded smoothly.

Sometimes pages would inexplicably get jumbled, but I found I could reorder them by dragging them around in the Pages Panel. With this experience behind me, I included Smart Text Reflow as an option in my post on adding text.

I moved on to Blood Lies, expecting a similar experience.

Sure. Sad that InDesign is not working right

This time, STR just sulled up and sneered. Every time I’d place new text, only one page would fill. In the lower left margin of this one page, I’d find the dreaded red “overset” box. Translation: “Text too long for the text frame into which you’ve inserted it.”

InDEsign overset icon

The dreaded “Overset” box

I tried the tricks I mentioned in my earlier post: adding pages beforehand, clicking off the “primary text flow” icons in the masters. No good.

I turned on and off various options in the Preferences>Type screen under “Smart Text Reflow.” Nothing.

Prefernces screen in InDesign

This will be in “Preferences,” which is under the INDD logo, upper left corner, on a MAC, and under “Edit” on a PC.

I pulled out my book. Yep, I was doing what it said.

I searched online for “Smart Text Reflow InDesign doesn’t work.” Surprise, surprise. The search turned up a number of troubleshooting hits on making text flow automatically, including this one from Adobe.

I’ll let you read these and others if you’re interested rather than trying to explain in detail what each said I should do. Suffice it to say, I tried it all.

It could be that your version of Smart Text Reflow works perfectly, as mine did the first time around, or that you find excellent help online or through Adobe. When I have time, I might pursue the help options more aggressively, but at this point, I just wanted to get on with formatting my book.

This post does have a happy ending. Through my usual mish-mash of trial and error, I’ve found several ways around this boulder in my path.

Solution One

With a vague memory of reading about other options for flowing text in my Classroom in a Book, I pulled the textbook out and reviewed.

CiaB did indeed provide what the Adobe help page calls a “semi-automatic option” that, so far, has worked.

Therefore, as the first solution, I humbly present:

Flowing Text Semi-Automatically in InDesign

  • Open the Pages Panel if it’s not open (Window>Pages).
  • If necessary, use Layout>Pages>Add Page to make sure you have a blank page at the appropriate spot in your document. (I’m assuming in all these solutions that you want to add new text at the end, but I see no reason that any of these solutions won’t work on inserted pages as well.)
  • Using Layout>Pages>Insert Pages, make sure you have at least one page, and preferably a spread, in addition to the page where you’ll be adding your new text (just below it in the Pages Panel). This additional page or spread should be visible in your Pages Panel.
  • Place your text where you want the new text to go in (for a discussion of the “Place” command, see my earlier post on adding text in InDesign)
Pages Panel in InDesign

Note that I have opened a spread below the page where I will first place the new text. I’ll move to this additional spread using Option/ALT + Page Down in order to place the overset text.

If STR is working, your text should slide right in, with the program creating as many pages as needed to accommodate it all. (It worked fine in my “Playing Around Demo,” Lord knows why.)

If STR is NOT working, you will get a single page with the “overset” icon on the lower right margin lit up in red.

  • In this case, using your black Selection arrow (top item in the Tools menu on the left), click the overset box. (Sometimes you have to click more than once to get the pointer in exactly the right place.)
Page in InDesign with overset box circled

You may have to click more than once to get the black selection arrow in exactly the right place. If you do, it will “load” the overset text.

  • Your cursor will “load” with the text that wouldn’t fit into your text frame—the “overset” text.
  • Use Option/Alt + Page Down to move to the additional page or spread you added.
  • “Place” the loaded cursor in the upper left hand corner of the additional page. When the text is aligned with the margins and ready for your click, the little arrow will turn white.

If you just click, you’ll get one more page, also overset, and will have to repeat these steps until all the text loads.

  • But if you SHIFT + click, the program will load ALL the overset text, creating pages as needed.

Solution Two

This is a variation on Solution One, but I didn’t make it “Solution One” because I didn’t see it discussed anywhere and assume it’s not an official option. But I swear it worked.

  • When you first place your new text, hold down the Shift Key.
Loaded cursor

This is what a “loaded” cursor looks like. Here, I’m placing text on a new page at a chapter end. If STR is working, the program will “flow” it all, adding pages as needed, and I won’t get an overset box. If STR doesn’t work, try holding the SHIFT key as you click to place.

Solution Three

  • Add at least one hard return at the end of your current text.
  • Go to Type>Insert Break Character>Page Break.
  • A new page will be created.
  • Place your new text on this new page. It should flow, creating new pages as needed.
Celebrating successful text placement in InDesign!


(My best guess is that this solution “threads” your new pages to your old ones, calling SRT out of its sulk. But that’s just my best guess.)

We can all hope that Smart Text Reflow will work for you without any whining. My point, though, is that you can flow your text in any number of ways.

Next Post in InDesign Cheat Sheet series: Back to those Formatting Choices you still need to make.



Filed under book design, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Self-publishing, Tech tips, Writing

2 responses to “InDesign Obstacle: When Smart Text Reflow Doesn’t Work

  1. Pingback: More InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet: Smart Text Reflow sulks! | Virginia S. Anderson

  2. Pingback: InDesign Cheat Sheet! Add Some Text! | Just Can't Help Writing

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