How to Define a Custom Text Variable in Adobe InDesign

In Brief...

Text variables are dynamic text content that can change with context. There are some standard text variables in InDesign that can be used for job-tracking, such as File Name and Modification Date. Custom variables can also be created by users. In this example, I'll create a variable based on a paragraph style to be used as a running footer.


  1. In the Type menu, go to Text Variables and choose Define.
    Text Variable in Type Menu

  2. The dialog box shows the standard variables listed on the left. Click Running Header and then click New.
    Text Variable Dialog Box

  3. Running Header is a variable that's already set up to be based on a paragraph style. In the next dialog box, it's simply a matter of naming the variable, selecting the paragraph style, and setting the options. Once you have done so, click OK.
    New Text Variable Dialog Box

  4. The new variable is now listed in the Text Variables dialog box. Click Done.
    Custom Text Variable in Dialog Box

  5. To use the variable, I've created a text frame on a master page with the text cursor inserted. Go to the Type menu, scroll down to Text Variables, then to Insert Variable, and choose the custom variable.
    Insert Variable in File Menu

  6. In the text frame on the master, only the variable name will appear.
    Text Variable on Master Page

  7. On document pages that have text with that paragraph style applied, that text content appears.
    Text Variable on Document Page

Author: Kate Cahill

Kate Cahill is a graphic designer, writer, and creative director who has developed content for print and web. As creative director, she has produced award-winning work for agencies focused on the pharmaceutical, and health and beauty aid industries. She has also served as production manager, with responsibility for the successful fulfillment of long-run print contracts. Kate has been delivering training for Webucator clients since 2010. Her enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology, combined with hands-on practical experience, brings an added benefit to her class. Kate teaches real-world techniques and integration of Adobe software, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint to produce a fully-developed and cohesive brand identity.