Inline footnotes

It's not possible in InDesign to do inline footnotes, that is to say, to place two or more footnotes on the same line. But there's a simple workaround, for which you don't even need a script. To my knowledge, David Goodrich described it first in Typophile.

Suppose you have a text with lots of short notes. InDesign places them one after the other, each on a new line, which often results in odd so-called chimney effects:

inline footnotes

Pages like this look better if the notes are placed on one line. To set note 2 after note 1 on the same line, do this:

  1. Place the cursor in note 2 and increase the note's first-line indent until the note has moved far enough to the right.
  2. Select all the text of note 2; then set the selection's leading to zero in the Character panel:

footnote inline

Note 3 can be placed after note 2 in the same way.

A drawback of this method is that everything needs to fit on one line. If you want to set a longer note as an inline note, then you need to set not the whole note to zero leading, but only its first line. An example is shown in the next screenshot:

footnote inline

You could do this manually, too: go to note 2, increase its first-line indent, then select the whole first line and set its leading to zero. But if you change anything in note 1 you'll end up with a mess. The remedy to that is to create a character style with just one setting, zero leading, and use it in a nested line style in the note's paragraph. In that way, zero leading is always applied correctly.

Doing inline notes manually as outlined here is ok if you need to do it once or twice, but it gets really awkward if you have lots of notes to set as inlines. Time for a script.

The script

No need for any preparation, the script creates the two necessary styles mentioned above: (i) a paragraph style for the inline notes, which is based on the paragraph style used for the document's footnotes, and (ii) a character style used in the nested line style in the paragraph style for the inlines. (The paragraph style for the inlines duplicates the footnote style and adds _breakline to its name; the character style uses the footnote style's name.)

To use the script, place the cursor in the note that should be set as an inline and run the script. That's all.

Selecting inline notes

After setting a note as an inline, you'll find that you can't select it. That makes sense: the note (its first line, anyway) has zero leading so there's nothing to select. To get to an inline note, say, note 2, place the cursor in note 1, press Ctrl+End, then hit the right arrow. Now the cursor is in footnote 2 and you can edit it.

Realigning inlines

If you edit a note preceding an inline note, the space between the two notes needs to be adjusted. To do so, simply run the script again. If you had a cluster of inlines, all inlines following the one from which you start the script are adjusted, too. Suppose you started out with this situation:

footnote inline

-- that is, a cluster of one note and two inlines. Text changes in footnotes 1 and 2 lead to the following situation:

footnote inline

To fix the spacing in the whole cluster, place the cursor in note 2 and run the script again. The result should look as follows:

footnote inline

Changing the space between inline notes

The script sets two ems between inline notes by default. To change that, edit line 19 in the script (you can use any text editor):

space: 2 * break_style.pointSize,

To have the script insert three ems between inline footnotes, change the above line as follows:

space: 3 * break_style.pointSize,

and save the script.

Undoing inlines

Inlining can be undone at three levels:

  1. to undo inlining of a single note, simply assign the standard footnote style to that note;
  2. to undo inlining on a single page, select the text frame that contains the notes and run the undo script, linked below;
  3. to undo inlining on a whole document, make no selection at all and run the undo script.

A limitation

The script doesn't work well with tabs as separators of note number and text. Use an en space instead.

A note on CC 2014 and later

From CC 2014, doing inline footnotes is a bit more involved. The main problem introduced in CC 2014 is that there is always 3 points space after a footnote. This additional space below is handled by the script by making the main text frame higher if necessary – or shorter if required after some edits. This extra space is visible when you show frame edges (View > Extras) so that you see that the bottom of the main text frame may not be at the bottom margin, and additional paragraph styles are created to handle different baseline offset requirements.


Version history

20 August 2015: The script now works in InDesign CC and later. The undo script was updated as well.

5 June 2015: Changed the inline undoer's behaviour: to undo inlining on a single page, select the text frame on the page and run the script. To target the whole document, select nothing.

11 April 2013: (1) In documents that use the [Basic Paragraph] (or its localised name, any name that contains [ ] ), that name too is used to create styles for inlines. (2) The script broke if you try to use it on the first footnote of a story; now it warns you and stops without error. (3) The script didn't like inches; now it tolerates them.

4 February 2011: Removed limitation that whole footnotes should fit on the remainder of the line. Added support for right-to-left texts.

May 2010: First posted.


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Undo inlines


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