Using Mastermatic


Mastermatic is an InDesign add-on that lets you link, or associate, paragraph styles (and object styles) to master pages.

Mastermatic is easy enough to use without reading this guide! But if you’re stuck, this guide should help you get the most out of Mastermatic.

What It Does

Mastermatic lets you link, or associate, master pages with one or more InDesign paragraph styles and object styles. On whichever page a particular paragraph style or object style appears, a user-defined master page will be applied to that page.

This makes it easy to:

(A) Apply the correct master to selected pages throughout the document with a single click.

(b) Reapply master pages correctly if text has reflowed (Mastermatic remembers your settings on a per-document basis, so it only has to be set up once per document).

A special feature of Mastermatic is that it can be set to run in the background, so whenever text reflows or the document changes, the appropriate master pages will always be correctly applied to each page.

Mastermatic‘s many options make it possible to apply master pages to an entire book without ever having to open the pages panel!

The Mastermatic Window

Here’s a screenshot of the UI (user interface) that is displayed when Mastermatic is run. This screenshot is from version 2.0.0. Newer versions have a few more options not shown, that will be discussed below.

Here’s a quick reference to each of these options:

Top Panel

1. Paragraph Styles tab: Click on this tab to set up paragraph-style–master-page pairs, as well as general options (3–6) that are applicable also when using object-style–master-page pairs.

2. Object Styles tab: Click on this tab to set up object-style–master-page pairs. (In the latest Creative Cloud versions of InDesign, these tabs, when selected (as in the screenshot above), become almost invisible, so you may not realize that they’re even clickable – but they are!)

3. Ignore preliminary pages: This option tells Mastermatic to ignore pages at the start of the document. From the dropdown to the right, select a document page. Mastermatic will ignore all pages from the start of the document until the selected page (inclusive), leaving their currently applied master pages unchanged.

Often, the first few pages of a document such as a book have no particular pattern. It can be easier to manually apply the correct master pages to these preliminary pages than to try to do so automatically by setting up paragraph-master or object-master pairs in Mastermatic. But if this is done manually, whenever Mastermatic is run it would override any such manual work. The “ignore preliminary pages” options tells Mastermatic to ignore the first few pages of any document.

4. Ignore pages at end of document: This option (introduced in version 2.0 of Mastermatic) is the same as (3) above, counting from the end of the document instead of from the beginning. From the dropdown to the right, select the number of pages, from the end of the document, that Mastermatic should ignore.

5. Apply this master to all pages: Select the master page to apply to all other pages in the document. The selected, default, master page will be applied to all pages in the document, except for pages that match any of the settings below, and except for pages that Mastermatic has been told to ignore.

6. Apply this master to blank pages: Mastermatic considers a page as blank if it has no live text (text deriving from an applied master that is not overridden doesn’t count). Select a master page from the dropdown to the right to be applied to all blank pages. (A known issue currently exists with pages containing only the continued part of a multi-page table: Mastermatic wrongly considers these to be blank. If a page contains only the continued part of a footnote, though, Mastermatic correctly identifies this as a non-blank page.)

Middle Panel

The middle panel of the Mastermatic UI (the panel labelled “Paragraph-Master Pairs”) is the heart of Mastermatic. Here you can set up as many paragraph-style–master-page pairs as needed. You can select the same master page multiple times, and you can even select the same paragraph style multiple times (see below for one reason you might want to do this).

7. From the dropdown on the left, select a paragraph style. From the dropdown to its right, select a master page. This links up the selected paragraph style with the selected master page. Throughout the document, wherever text with the selected paragraph style appears, this master page will be applied to that page.

8. “Sticky master” feature: Normally, the default master page is applied to all pages (see (5) above), and the selected master pages will only be applied to pages containing one of the selected paragraph styles. But checking this checkbox makes the previously applied master page, whatever it may be, stick. Mastermatic, as it runs through the document from the first page to the last, will continue to apply the last-used master page instead of the default master page (selected in (5) above) until it reaches a page that requires a different master page based on the user’s settings.

This feature is particularly useful for creating a directory with colored sections, for instance. You could create 3 paragraph styles (“red”, “yellow”, and “green,” for example) and three master pages (“red”, “yellow” and “green” again). Apply the paragraph styles to the chapter title of each section of the directory. In Mastermatic, create the necessary style–master pairs, and mark each of those pairs to be “sticky.” Mastermatic will then apply the “red” master page until it hits the “yellow” paragraph style, at which point it will switch to the “yellow” master page until it hits the green, etc.

9. Plus and minus buttons: Use the + and – buttons to add or remove rows. Each time you click a + button, a new row is inserted at that point with all the options needed to set up a new pair. Click the – button to delete the corresponding row. The only limit to the number of rows is the size of your monitor! From version 2.4.0, if the list gets too long for the screen, a scrollbar is added, allowing an unlimited number of paragraph–master-page pairs.

Bottom Section

10. Live Update checkbox: Check this box if you want Mastermatic to continue monitoring and updating the master pages in your document while you work.

There are a few of things to be aware of when using this option:

(a) Mastermatic will update the master pages in your document only when InDesign is idle – i.e., when you have not done anything in InDesign for a few moments. This means that you may need to wait a few seconds until the correct master page is applied after a change has been made to the document – or just carry on working and rely on Mastermatic to update all the master pages as soon as the opportunity arises (when InDesign is idle).

(b) For longer documents, it can take Mastermatic a second or two to update all the master pages, during which time InDesign will seem to pause. If you notice these slight pauses and find them annoying, disable this option.

(c) For reasons beyond our control, it can be difficult to use InDesign’s Find/Change with this option selected. If you find any weirdness occurring while using Find/Change (including the Find or Find All buttons becoming greyed out), disable this option!

11. OK button: Closes this window and applies all master pages according to the settings chosen. Cancel button: Dismisses the window without making any changes, and without storing the settings. About button: Opens a new window which shows the current Mastermatic version, provides an option to add Mastermatic to the optional Id-Extras menu, and includes links to this page, the EULA, and the products page.

Object Styles Tab

Clicking on the “Object Styles” tab (2) allows setting up object-style–master-page pairs:

The options here are identical to the options described above (“Middle Panel”), except that instead of linking up a master page with a paragraph style, you link up a master page with an object style.

What this means is that any page containing an object with one of the selected object styles applied to it will have the corresponding master page applied to it.

Being able to link up object styles and master pages can be very useful in cases where a page contains no text – for instance, a page containing a certain type of graphic item only.

Note that the “Live Update” checkbox here is the same as the one appearing under the “Paragraph Styles” tab. If Live Update is selected, Mastermatic respects all settings under both the Paragraph-Styles and Object-Styles tabs.

Note: All the settings above are stored internally as part of the document, so they only need be set once. They are saved alongside the document, and will be there next time you, or someone else, opens the document.

Tip: If you often create documents with the same paragraph styles and master pages, and want to use the same Mastermatic settings each time, create an InDesign document with the desired styles and masters. Run Mastermatic and set the options as needed. Click OK, and then save the document as an InDesign template. Now, whenever you create a document from that template, the Mastermatic settings will be ready for use!

Note: Someone who does not have Mastermatic installed on their computer will not have any problem opening a document that Mastermatic has been used with. It remains a 100% regular InDesign document.

New Features

The current version at the time of writing (2.2.5, June 2019) has two extra features not discussed above.

  1. “Load Settings” button. As its name implies, clicking on this lets you choose a different InDesign file and transfer Mastermatic settings from that file to the new file. This avoids having to set up Mastermatic for each new file, if the files are similar. Note: When loading settings from another file, Mastermatic tries to match style names. So if the old file has a style called “Chapter Opening” and the new file also has a style called “Chapter Opening” it will presume these refer to the same style even if the styles are in different style groups. For this reason, when using the “Load Settings” option, make sure that all the styles in the file have a unique name – do not use the same name for 2 different styles in different style groups. (In any case, this is something that Adobe officially recommends against doing.)
  2. “Enable pre-2019–style layout adjustment” checkbox. This option will only appear if you’re running Mastermatic in a version of InDesign that does not have the old Layout Adjustment feature. At the time of writing, this means InDesign 2019 only. Previous versions of InDesign have Layout Adjustment (not to be confused with the new Adjust Layout feature! – and yes, it is confusing!) making this option redundant, and so it does not appear.
    A bit of background: For InDesign 2019, Adobe saw fit to remove the old but useful Layout Adjustment feature. They replaced it with the “smarter” but less useful, less accurate, and less predictable Adjust Layout feature. The new Adjust Layout is based on “artificial intelligence” and is mainly intended to assist when adjusting the size of an entire document by rearranging page items “intelligently.” Whether it succeeds or not is a good question.
    But Adobe were mistaken in thinking that Adjust Layout replaces the functionality of Layout Adjustment. The old Layout Adjustment had a useful feature. If you applied a master page to a document page and that master page had margins different to the document page, then any text frame that abutted the margins would be adjusted to fit the new margins.
    This feature was particularly useful (and used in this way by many people I’m aware of) to lower the chapter title on the opening page of a chapter. A special “chapter opening” master page with a wider top margin (and maybe narrower margins altogether – depending on the specifics of the layout) would be applied to the first page of a chapter, and this would cause the text frame on the chapter opening page to adjust appropriately. Very useful for books with many chapter opening pages!
    The new Adjust Layout feature broke this workflow. I think the idea is that we should be using “primary text frames”, another InDesign feature. But in my experience, primary text frames are fiddly, cause problems, and are not very user friendly for long document typesetters.
    For this reason, Mastermatic 2.2.5 introduces a new feature to emulate the old Layout Adjustment feature. Enabling this option will make it possible for Mastermatic users to use the old workflow again, where applying a master page with different margins to a live document page will cause the main text frame on that page to resize to fit the new margins.

Advanced: How Mastermatic Resolves Clashes

What happens if Mastermatic is set to apply Master A wherever paragraph style A appears in the document, and Master B for paragraph style B, and both paragraph styles appear on the same page? How does Mastermatic know which master page to apply in such a case?

The principle is simple: Mastermatic works from top to bottom, and from left (“Paragraph Styles” tab) to right (“Object Styles” tab)!

As you become more familiar with Mastermatic, you will appreciate how to leverage this principle to your benefit.

By way of illustration, if, as in the previous example, both style A and style B appear on page 19 of the document, if Mastermatic is set up as follows, the B-Master page will be applied to page 19:

This is because Mastermatic works from top-down, as noted. So, first, the A-Master is applied to page 19, and then, moving down, the B-Master is applied to page 19, and that is the final result.

If, instead, Mastermatic were set up as follows (with the rows transposed), the A-Master would be applied, because it is the lowest row:

This principle applies also to the settings in the top panel. That is, the general blank-page settings, and default-master settings are overridden by the lower paragraph-master pairs.

And, as mentioned, the object-style–master-page pairs are the most powerful since they are applied last. So the last object-master pair (if used) will override all other settings.

In the next section, we will see how this top-down principle can be used to good effect!

Advanced: How to Set a Special Opening Page for a Section Created with the “Sticky Masters” Feature

When describing the “sticky master” feature (see (8) above), we gave the example of a directory or catalogue consisting of three colored sections, where each section uses a different master page.

Often, though, the first page of a section needs a special master page of its own.

Look at the Pages panel in the following document:

There are three sections: Red, Yellow, and Green.

The Red section is pages 1–6. These all have the A-RED master page applied, except for page 1, the first page of the section, which has the D-RED START master page applied to it.

The Yellow section is pages 7–12. These all have the B-YELLOW master page applied, except for page 7, the first page of the yellow section, which has the E-YELLOW START master page applied to it.

The Green section is pages 13–18. These all have the C-GREEN master page applied, except for pager 13, the first page of the green section, which has the F-GREEN START master page applied to it.

Let us assume that the only text in this document appears on the first page of each section – shown as a black rectangle in the screenshot above. The text on the first page of the red section uses a paragraph style called “Red”. The text on the first page of the yellow, “Yellow”, and the text on the green, “Green.”

Can Mastermatic be set up to apply all these master pages in one go, including the special first-of-section master pages, as shown in the screenshot?

Yes! This is how to do it (but note that this will only work with version 2.0 or higher of Mastermatic):

How does this work?

In the previous section, “How Mastermatic Resolves Clashes,” we saw that Mastermatic works its way down the rows of paragraph-master pairs. The top row is applied first, then the one below it, and so on.

In our case, the first row tells Mastermatic to apply the A-RED master page to the page containing the paragraph style “Red” (page 1 in the document). But because the “sticky master” option has been checked, Mastermatic continues to apply A-RED until the next change (which will be on p. 7, when the yellow master is applied).

Mastermatic then moves down to the second row. Here we have again chosen the “Red” paragraph style. But this time, we’ve told Mastermatic to apply the “D-RED START” master page. This clashes with the previous instruction of the first row, but because it is the second row, this setting supersedes the one above it.

What’s important to note, though, is that the “sticky master” option has not been selected in row 2! This means that the master page D-RED START will only be applied to the page that actually contains text with the paragraph style “Red,” i.e., only to page 1.

To summarize: Row 1 tells Mastermatic to apply the A-RED master page to pages 1–6. Row 2 tells Mastermatic to apply the A-RED START master page to page 1.

The next four rows use this same technique to apply the necessary color sections to the subsequent pages, and to apply a special master page to the first page of each section.

This idea can also be used for a regular book. Often, the prelim section of a book uses a different master page than the main section of the book. And often, the first page of the prelims will need its own special master page. The above technique can be used to achieve this.

Questions? Comments?

Please feel free to write your questions or comments on this tutorial, or on Mastermatic in general, below.

Article Comments

  1. Giovanni

    March 12, 2024 11:26 am Reply

    Hi Ariel….
    I’ve been using the plugin for a while and I absolutely love it. However I was wondering if there is any possibility to add a scrollbar in the popup window when it actually exceeds the screen height ?

    Any help is appreciated :)

    • Ariel

      March 13, 2024 5:58 pm Reply

      Hi Giovanni,
      I’ve added a scrollbar to the paragraph-master list. Please download the latest version (2.4.0) and see how it goes.

  2. Ariel

    October 30, 2022 1:37 am Reply

    Hi Barbara,
    I think you’ll find that this is just how InDesign works. In other words, if you apply the master page manually (without Mastermatic), I’m guessing you’ll find that the same thing happens.
    The question would be, Are you sure you need a text frame on the master page that you’re applying? Very often, it’s easier to work in InDesign without text frames on master pages, except in very specific cases…

  3. Barbara

    August 30, 2022 5:52 am Reply

    Hi — Been using Mastermatic for a while. It’s a lifesaver, but I keep running into an issue with primary text frames and seems like I’m misunderstanding something about how it works. Any advice appreciated…

    What I’m seeing is that where MM first applies a different master page, it’s applying a new text frame over the primary text frame. From that point on, the text is no longer on primary text frame, so the object styles applied to text frames on the master page doesn’t seem to work…until I manually put it back on the primary text frame. But if there is text reflow, it happens again.

    I’ve tried using the Object Styles tab to have MM use the correct object style for the text frame, but that isn’t working for me either. Again, any help appreciated.

  4. Kjetil Waren Johnsen

    March 28, 2022 12:45 am Reply

    Is it possible to have pages with only “blank” characters (space/column-break/frame-break etc.) be ignored and counted as a blank page?

    • Ariel

      March 28, 2022 12:51 am Reply

      No, not at this point. Mainly for reasons of speed. If the script has to go into each frame and read its contents it would just slow things down too much.

      • barbara

        September 27, 2022 9:31 pm Reply

        Not sure if this would work for your situation, but I have used a paragraph style named “blank-page” applied to a non-braking space to make that happen. It’s usually followed by a Heading that has keep options set to some flavor of “next page”, but a forced page break could work, too.

  5. Bill Kersey

    February 17, 2021 10:21 pm Reply

    I recently downloaded the demo version. Mastermatic worked fine in the first InDesign file work. In the second, more complex document where I had used paragraph style groups for the many styles, Mastermatic did not work. Is this a bug or is there another option other than not using the folders? Or is this just a limitation of the demo version?

    • Ariel

      February 17, 2021 10:43 pm Reply

      Hi Bill,
      Thanks for trying out Mastermatic.
      There should not be any problem if the paragraph styles are in style groups, and it’s not a limitation of the demo.
      Could you double check that everything is set up correctly in Mastermatic and that in fact the result you’re getting is not as expected?
      If you’re sure that’s the case, I’ll be interested to see the InDesign file and have a chance to figure out what’s going on.

      • Bill Kersey

        February 18, 2021 10:29 pm Reply

        I did purchase Mastermatic and used it and it worked fine even using the settings i used previously. So whatever was the issue, it no longer seems to be apparent. On thing I noticed that selecting Paragraph-Master Pairs in documents that have paragraph style groups that the options flicker. Not a big deal as I really love this script for the book work I do.

        • Ariel

          February 18, 2021 11:55 pm Reply

          Hi Bill,
          I’m aware of that flicker. Hate to say it, but it’s an Adobe bug. I use the UI widgets they’ve made available to us developers, and some of them are buggy. There’s normally a way to work around that, though, so it’s never a show-stopper. (Here, for instance, it should be possible to use the arrow keys to select the style if the list is super long. Or move the window higher up the screen so there’s more space for the entire list of styles. That sort of thing.)
          Glad you’re loving the script!

  6. Rick Bates

    December 3, 2020 10:50 pm Reply

    I recently noticed that on some of my templates, mastermatic will resize and reposition the frame (good), but the reposition moves it to the right of the page boundaries by 6 spaces. It only happens on the even pages.

    Any ideas?

    Thank you,


    • Ariel

      December 3, 2020 11:09 pm Reply

      Hi Rick,
      Not sure about this. Does it happen if you apply the master page manually as well, or only when running Mastermatic?

      • Rick Bates

        December 12, 2020 10:40 pm Reply

        Yes, it happens both manually or automatically. I can send a screenshot and idml if helpful.

        Thank you,


        • Ariel

          December 12, 2020 10:50 pm Reply

          Hi Rick,
          I had a look at your file. The “blank” master page has different margins than the regular master page. That’s why, when Mastermatic is run, the text frame seems out of alignment.
          I would recommend two things: (1) Make sure your blank master page is also a double-page master. Adobe recommends that any master page applied to a page should have the same number of pages as the spread it is being applied to. Your book is (naturally) laid out in spreads of 2 pages, so the blank master page should also consist of 2 pages.
          (2) Make sure the margins of the blank page are identical to the margins of the regular master page.
          I think that should fix it. Let me know how it goes.

          • Rick

            December 16, 2020 10:57 pm

            I’m okay with blank pages being out of alignment – but the text master pages are the ones that do it also. I can send a screenshot if that helps.

            Thank you,


          • Ariel

            December 17, 2020 12:22 am

            Hi Rick,
            I think you’ll find that if you adjust the margins on the blanks, it will solve the issue.

  7. Rick Bates

    July 15, 2020 6:57 pm Reply

    Working on a 400 page book – suddenly when Mastermatic tries to update the page,s Indesign stops responding. Any ideas?

    Thank you,


    • Ariel

      October 21, 2020 1:00 am Reply

      Hi Rick,
      Sorry for the delay in responding, only just saw this comment.
      If you set Mastermatic to run in the background (auto-update), then there can be short pauses while you work while Mastermatic checks and updates the master pages. If it bothers you, switch off the auto-update feature.
      But if you mean that InDesign properly stops responding for a long time, that shouldn’t happen. I would need to take a look at your file to see what’s going on there.

  8. Jeff

    May 18, 2020 5:30 pm Reply

    Hi Ariel

    I have a book that has different section openers that have a graphic element that gets used in a running header on the left page in that section. On the recto page is a running header with the chapter headings. I have setup different master pages for each section. What I want is no running on the Section Opener, which always runs on a right-hand page, and no running headers on a Chapter Title page (which can be left or right). Also, when a Chapter Title appears on a left-hand page, I don’t want any running headers on that spread (left or right). Can Mastermatic do such a thing? And if so, what’s the best setup?

    Right now I have been manually applying the master pages i setup, but since the book is still in progress and re-lowing with edits, etc., it would be helpful if I could do this automatically. Using ID 2020

    • Ariel

      May 18, 2020 6:34 pm Reply

      Hi Jeff,
      If you’ve been using paragraph styles for the chapter headings (which I presume you have), Mastermatic can indeed do almost all this. The only thing it might not manage is this: “when a Chapter Title appears on a left-hand page, I don’t want any running headers on that spread (left or right)”. Mastermatic will let you set the running head or apply a blank master page on the left page, but not on the right page, unless there is some specific paragraph style or object style that would appear on the right page in such cases.
      For setting it all up, you’ll need to use the “sticky masters” feature: (about halfway down the page).
      You’ll need a separate paragraph style for each chapter heading (they can be duplicated of each other) to trigger the correct master page for that section. Or, if you’ve got a graphic element, you could use a different object style for each section and use that to trigger the correct master page.
      If you still have trouble setting it up, post back or send me an email.

  9. Dan K Thomas

    May 5, 2020 6:42 pm Reply

    Have downloaded your Mastermatic script demo with interest as laying out a 500+ page novel. Just want a different master page used whenever a chapter number appears, but the script is misbehaving and inserting the master page in seemingly random places. Using InDesign 2020 (v15.0.1) — might this new version be causing the issue?

    • Ariel

      May 7, 2020 12:21 am Reply

      Hi Dan,
      No, it’s not a version issue. Mastermatic fully supports the latest version of InDesign, on Windows and Mac.
      It must be something to do with the settings you’ve used, or the paragraph styles you’ve applied (perhaps unknowingly) to the text in the document.
      I’ll be happy to help troubleshoot — get in touch by email.

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