I'm sure this is an obvious question but after much tinkering all I've managed to do is confuse myself.

I'm typesetting a book. The paper size is 5.5×8.5". I want to apply the canons of page construction to the book. If I calculate 1/9 of 5.5×8.5" I get a fundamental grid size of 0.611×0.944", which leads me to a text width of 6 × 0.611" = 3⅔" and a text height of 6 × 0.944" = 5⅔". To effect this, I need to set the backspace and topspace to one grid unit, so backspace = 0.611" and topspace = 0.944". The first thing that confuses me is that the text area should be 6 × 6 grid units, but the text area computed by the canon does not include the headers and footers (is this correct?). The canon doesn't really tell you what to do about headers and footers. Assuming I pick some random size, what's the right way to configure \setuplayout?

The document Help! The typesetting area is helpful, but I couldn't find the Metapost program mentioned which does the calculations for a given paper size. The paper mentions additionally that ConTeXt would soon provide default page setups based on ninths-division, but I don't know if that ever became true (the document is from 2004) or if it did, where they are and how to use them. Obviously if I can avoid hard-coding these things into my document by using pre-defined setups, or at least, calculations in my own document, it would be better.

Thanks for your help!

  • 4
    Typearea is a simple module doing the calculation and setting up the layout (remember to set the font size before setting up the module). It does not take headers or footers into account.
    – Marco
    Jan 29, 2014 at 21:14
  • Thanks, @Marco! That module seems to do exactly what I need. Jan 29, 2014 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


You can use the typearea module. It is a very simple module and doesn't really have much documentation. You can set up the binding correction using bcor and the alphabets value, which is somehow related to how often the alphabet from a to z fits in one line. For this to work, you have to first set up the font or issue the command \doTypeArea after the font setup. The last option is oneside, if set to yes the module will not assume a double-sided layout for the calculation. Here is an example of how to set it up:


Page headers and footers are not taken into account and are not part of the page construction calculation. If you need more control or fine tuning than what the module provides, you have to set it up manually using \setuplayout.

Here a demonstration how the font size affects the type area.

%% only for demonstration

%% set up font first




  \setupbodyfont [6pt]

  \setupbodyfont [10pt]

  \setupbodyfont [14pt]

result1 result2 result3

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