Use Numbered Lists Instead of Auto Page Numbering

Yes, InDesign has an automatic page number feature — just use the Current Page Number special character and it shows up properly on every document page. That’s great for simple documents, but sometimes people have special page numbering needs that require a different technique. For example, perhaps you want both page numbers on a spread to be on the same page; or you want the same page to be labeled with two different numbers (like one based on position in the document and another based on the position in the section).

Or, here’s another example: PN wrote,

We’re doing a prayer book that has one side in Hebrew and the other side in English. The facing page numbers need to be the same (as a spread). Is there a trick for this??

In all of these, you want sequential numbering, but you can’t get exactly what you want by using the current page number character. So instead, use a different form of numbering: Automatic numbered lists.

First, create one or more custom lists, as discussed in this post. Then, use that list in a paragraph style that turns on automatic numbering:

numbered para style

Finally, assign that paragraph to a blank line (there must be at least one space or a paragraph return to make the number appear). In the following image, the “left page folio” paragraph style has been assigned to a paragraph in a text frame on the left page. Note that I inserted the word “Left-” just for the sake of this demo. You could remove that in the Number field above. Another paragraph style (based on the first, but aligned right, using a different numbering List, and a different Number format) was assigned to the paragraph in the frame on the right.

leftpage2.png

Note that there is one problem with setting up a long document like this: These text frames cannot be on the master page. Or, if they are master page items, you have to manually override them (Command-Shift-click/Ctrl-Shift-click) to make the document page items. Otherwise, InDesign won’t update their numbers properly from page to page. (When they’re still master page items, they’re frozen, like text in ice. You need to unfreeze them to make them update.)

Nevertheless, even with that restriction, using numbered lists for page numbering can be a huge time-saver. Of course, there are other “automatic numbering systems” built into InDesign, too. For example, you could, in theory even use footnotes, a la this post. It’s all about thinking outside the box!

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