I often get questions with regards to scaling text. For example, some users are looking to scale their text frames, but find that the text within the frame becomes scaled as well. Much like in InDesign, the user is looking to simply resize the frame, allowing the text within to simply reflow. The reason why I get questions about this stems from the fact that it often seems that sometimes it DOES work as the user wants it to, while other times, it doesn't -- which leads to frustration and other acts of computer violence.
The first thing to understand is that Illustrator has two types of text objects -- one called Point Type and one called Area Type. Point Type is used most often for random text objects that appear in your document and aren't bound by any shape or frame. Area Type is used for larger blocks of text where lines flow from one line to the next and are encompassed within a shape or a frame (just a note here -- I'm using the term "frame" here only because it's a familiar term for InDesign users, but Illustrator really has no concept of a frame at all).
Normally, it's pretty easy to make a distinction between Point and Area Type simply by looking at it when it is selected. Point Type (lower left) shows a single point on the first line and other lines are underlined. Note that the line endings shown here are manual, using hard or soft returns. Area Type (lower right) also appears underlined, but is also enclosed within a shape that contains small boxes on the upper left and lower right sides (those boxes are called "ports" and we'll talk about them in detail in a moment). The text within the Area Type object shown below has no specified line breaks -- the text simply reflows on its own to fit within its frame.
However, when you have the Bounding Box option turned on (View > Show Bounding Box), and you use the Selection tool to select your text object, both Point Type and Area Type appear nearly alike when selected.
The trick is, you have to pay attention to the ports -- those are the boxes we spoke about before. It's really the only way to differentiate a Point Type object from an Area Type object. The bounding box gives the Point Type an appearance that makes it look like Area Type.
These ports are used with Area Text to help manage "threads" of text, or text that is linked from one frame to another. It works just like InDesign, and different icons in the in or out ports will indicate functionality.
Now that you know how to identify the two kinds of Type objects, we can understand how to scale them and get the results we expect.
Point Type has no frame or shape that holds it. Therefore, scaling Point Type will always result in the text becoming distorted -- after all, you are scaling the text.
However, if you use the Selection tool to scale an Area Type object, the object itself will scale, but the text within the object will NOT scale, and will simply reflow to fit within the new shape.
As a nice little feature, you'll even notice that while you're scaling an Area Type object, Illustrator will preview live how the text will reflow (InDesign can do that if you click, hold for a second or two, and then start dragging).
However, if you're like me, you'll also want to use the Transform panel (or the Control panel) to resize Area Type frames numerically, to fit a specific dimension. But in doing so, you'll notice that the text within the Area Type object will also becomes scaled. Is there no way to scale an Area Type frame numerically without scaling the text within it?
There are two ways:
1. Double click on the Area Type object to select all the text. Copy. Apply your scale numerically, then select all, and paste. Silly, right? That's why there's option 2...
2. Use the Direct Selection tool to select JUST the side of the frame (see figure below). Now when you apply a numerical scale via the Transform or Control panel the scale will apply to the frame and the text within will reflow as expected.