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InDesign On Demand: Split and Span Columns

by Katherine Robinette, CPSM, Co-Owner, Go! Strategies, LLC

Welcome to my personal tips for saving time and frustration using one of the essential tools of professional marketers in the A/E/C industry. This column will run on the first of every month.

This month: Split and Span Columns

So there you are, typing along, and it happens: the dreaded list or bullet list at the end of the page that takes another page to complete.

You are certain you could make the entire list fit in the space provided, but the text frame template is set up for one column. Short of making three or four more text frames and trying to line up the lists perfectly across the page, what is there to do?

May I introduce "Span Columns."

With the text selected that you want to split into multiple columns, go to the far upper right and select this button:

Scroll down and select "Span Columns..."

In the new dialogue box, you can select precisely what you want to do: single column (the way it currently is), span column, or split column. Here, I selected "Split Column," and the corresponding options. By clicking the "Preview" check box, I could quickly see the results, and adjust the number of columns to accommodate all of my text.


Now that I have all four columns, I remembered I wanted to add a heading that spanned across the columns. Without missing a beat, I type in my heading, highlight it...

Go back to the button in the upper right and select "Span Columns..." This time, I select the options to SPAN all four columns and I'm done!


Katherine Robinette, CPSM, is co-owner of Go! Strategies, LLC, a business development and marketing consulting firm helping A/E/C companies win more work. She provides the marketing half of the equation, from complete pursuit processes to presentation training and design to collateral creation. Katherine is a passionate team-builder, cultivating individuals' strengths and group dynamics to achieve meaningful collaboration. Her insights into relationships help technical staff get the most from their client and professional interaction. Katherine has been in the A/E/C industry for 12 years, combining elements from her background in theater, advocacy, and non-profit administration to bring creative solutions to professional services marketing.

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  1. Diane

    Jan. 9, 2015

    Thank you!!! This is an awesome tool that I never knew about! What's next???

  2. Sandy Chapin

    Jan. 9, 2015

    This is a great series, Katherine! Thank you!

  3. Polly Woods

    Jan. 9, 2015

    I've been using this InDesign feature for a long time & have always loved it. Users should be aware, however, that it has some bugs. Well—one, that I know of. At least with CS6 (I don't have CC yet at work and haven't heard whether this problem has been addressed in the new version). If you split columns too many times in a document—and I don't know exactly what "too many times" is, but I think it's affected my longer documents for the most part—InDesign will have a hard time repaginating, it seems, and will CRASH. Precipitously, without so much as an annoying error message. My recommendation: if you find InDesign is giving you "crashing headaches" when you've used the Split Columns feature multiple times, try splitting the text into non-threaded text frames wherever possible (at new sections or chapters, for example). A work-around to avoid splitting columns is to insert a paragraph return where you want your list to be, then create a separate multi-column text box (for your list) the width of your column of text. Align the text box how you want it and anchor it in front of the paragraph return you just inserted, then adjust the vertical spacing. Voilà! While it's surely more tedious than the Split/Span Columns feature, I've never experienced any problems with InDesign functionality, no matter how many times I do it in the same document/threaded story. But, of course, if your list text box happens to be placed near the bottom of the page, you'll have page break issues if it doesn't quite fit....Alas, nothing is perfect. I'm hoping CC has fixed this little issue, because I really love to split and span columns. :) Sorry about the novella ;)

  4. Alisa

    Jan. 5, 2015

    Exellent info, please keep these InDesign tips coming! This is so simple, I was creating columuns is such a backwards way. Thank you!


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