In MadCap Flare, page layouts and master pages are sometimes confused. On the surface, it seems like they’re both accomplishing the same thing: applying content to multiple topics in your output. While there are some similarities between the two, page layouts and master pages are useful in distinctly different circumstances. Let’s start with an analogy, shall we?

Page layouts are to print output as master pages are to online output.


Page layouts are generally recommended for print-based output, and master pages are the best method for automatically adding headers, footers, and breadcrumbs in multiple topics for online output.

Page Layouts

page layout is an element that you can create in your project in order to determine page specifications (like size or margins) and to apply certain content (like headers, footers, page numbers) to many (or all) topics in print-based output.  A key difference between page layouts and master pages is that page layouts can be used for any of the print-based outputs (Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word, Microsoft XPS, XHTML), whereas master pages can be used only for Microsoft Word and FrameMaker when creating print-based output.


Each page layout can consist of several pages. For each page in a page layout, you can designate one of the following types, which determines the behavior of the page.

  • Title
  • First
  • First Left
  • First Right
  • Left
  • Right
  • Normal
  • Empty
  • Empty Left
  • Empty Right

When you add a new page layout to your project, you select a page layout template as the basis for the new layout. Flare lets you choose from various factory templates:

  • ChapterA4
  • ChapterLegal
  • ChapterLetter
  • ChapterResizable
  • Default
  • FrontMatterResizable
  • GlossaryResizable
  • IndexResizable
  • NormalResizable

Many of these layouts already contain multiple page types. And many of the pages already contain content or variables in header or footer frames (like page numbers, Chapter Number variables and Heading variables).

You can also create your own page layout templates, which can be used in the future when you create new page layouts.

Master Pages

A master page is an element that you can create in your project in order to apply certain content to multiple topics. A master page is most useful in online outputs, but can also be used in Microsoft Word and FrameMaker print-based output. However, the benefits are somewhat different for online output than they are for print output. For example, you might use a master page in online output to apply features such as breadcrumbs, mini-TOCs, or footer text to multiple topics, or even all topics in a target. For print-based output, a master page allows you to determine page specifications (such as size or orientation) and to apply certain content (such as header text or page numbers) to many topics in a manual.

master page

You can add a proxy to a master page to let Flare know you want to include a certain type of content in the master page. A proxy acts as a placeholder for the content that you have created elsewhere, and when you generate output, the content takes the place of that proxy. Proxies can be added to regular topics, as well as to master pages. The difference is that a proxy added to a topic will display that information in the output only once (wherever the topic occurs), but if a proxy is added to a master page, the content will show up everywhere that the master page has been applied.

To learn more about page layouts and master pages, visit MadCap Flare’s online help.

About The Author

Jennifer White

About Jennifer White

Jennifer White, a Product Evangelist at MadCap Software, has over 15 years of experience in writing, broadcasting, public speaking, marketing and social media management. Jennifer has also served as a social media manager, blogger, on-air host, writer and content provider for CBS Radio and Fox TV.

Last Modified: October 13, 2014

This entry was posted in MadCap Flare, Tips & Tricks. Bookmark the permalink.


  • Craig Wright November 26, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    One thing I have been trying to do is changing the layout of the Master Page by using DIVs. At the moment, it seems that each snippet or proxy can be moved around, but only vertically i.e you can have a snippet above the body, but not side-by-side with the body.

    If I bypass the skin using the ‘Bomgar method’, output the help, and then apply a style sheet with DIVs for layout to the master page, would it work? Or am I wasting my time even thinking about it?

  • Alessandro Stazi December 9, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Good article. In these days i’m thinking about to improve the basic Page Layout that i’m using now. My first target is always the HTML5 On Line Help that is delivered with our IAG platform, but i need at least the PDF output for some customer that require it. Thanks for this clear overview.

Have Something to Say?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *