Get Adobe Flash player

InDesign Tips

Here’s a quick tip demonstrating how to hyphenate words the way you want them hyphenated in InDesign. Click on the icon at the bottom right of the video to view it full screen. Hit escape to return to the video in the smaller format.


Enjoy! If you’ve got a problem with an InDesign projects, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll help you troubleshoot it to get the look you’re after.

OK, so far in this series we’ve properly prepared and set up our document, and we’ve constructed our file with the utmost of care. So we’re out of the woods, right? We just copy the file and send it off to the printer, right?

Wrong. There’s still a couple of major steps that needs to be accomplished before it’s Miller time. You need to “pre-flight” and “package” your document for your print shop.

All airplane pilots have a detailed pre-flight checklist they go through before they fly. It’s best to find any errors while you’re still on the ground, instead of when you’re in the air. Your commercial printer is fully capable of finding any technical errors in your InDesign document and taking care of them for you, but generally corrections made by the printer carry a hefty price tag. It’s far better to troubleshoot your document yourself and pass on to your printer a document that’s ready to go without any expensive intervention of their part.

InDesign has come a long way in being able to detect and report these technical glitches to you, making it easy for you to address the issues before the file is printed. It can generate a pre-flight “report card” showing actual and potential problems with your file that may cause printing problems. There are a couple of ways to access this pre-flight report. The easiest is to go to the very bottom border of your InDesign window.

In the bottom left corner you’ll find a number in a drop-down box that is so subtle you might not have ever noticed it. That’s your current page number. (Open the drop-down box and click on any other page number to jump there immediately. Free tip! You’re welcome.)

InDesign Status Bar

To the right of the page number drop-down box is the pre-flight drop-down box. If you see a green dot there, all is well — you’re ready to rock. But if you see a red dot, it will also have a number showing the number of problems that InDesign is tracking for you. Click on the drop-down arrow to open the pre-flight menu and then select Preflight Panel. While you’re here (and before you select Preflight Panel), it would be a good idea to make sure that both boxes for “Preflight Document” and “Enable Preflight for All Documents” are checked. An alternate way of accessing the Preflight Panel if you can’t find the drop-down box I’ve described is to press Ctrl-Shift-Alt-F.

There are a lot of possible types of errors that could creep into your InDesign file, but the most common ones fall into four categories: links, graphics, fonts, and overset text. InDesign (and your commercial printer) are fussy about these things. If they can’t be found where they’re expected to be, you have a problem.

Links After you’ve placed a graphic in your InDesign file you might have moved it to a different folder (or sub-directory), or maybe you renamed it at some point during the time that you were constructing your document. Either of those situations creates a broken link between InDesign and your placed graphic. You need to tell InDesign where to find the file to repair the link.

Graphics There are a number of different ways to display the spectrum of colors used in creating a document. The “color model” used by computer and projector screens is called RGB. It builds every color of the rainbow out of some combination of the colors Red, Green, and Blue. If you are creating a document that will only be displayed on monitors or from a projector, your graphics should all be defined as RGB files. But if your file is going to be printed in color, either by a commercial print shop or by a color laser or inkjet printer, the graphics should be set up as CMYK graphics. This color model builds colors from a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (designated by a K because B was already taken by blue in RGB). These color models aren’t fully compatible. You should convert your files to the proper color model for the final output that your document has been created for. This isn’t absolutely necessary, because the software that files are printed from will try to compensate for either color model, but your colors might not come out quite like you were hoping. Some color correction in Photoshop will likely be required after conversion to get the colors to look right in the new color model. A rich and vibrant blue, for example, might come out looking faded and muddy after conversion and need to be tweaked to bring it back to its original condition. Since this is a series of blogs about making your final product look the way you were expecting, we need to address these kinds of issues so there are no expensive surprises for you when the document is printed.

Fonts Just as placed graphics can get moved and the links between InDesign and the graphic file get broken, fonts can get lost, too. The most common way these errors creep in is when a document is worked on from different workstations within a computer network. Mary creates the file on her computer and Tom does some edits to it on his. If Tom doesn’t have all the fonts installed on his computer that Mary used in the document, it will create an error condition. Needless to say, if your commercial print shop doesn’t have one of the fonts used in your file, that will create a problem, too. Pre-flighting will identify these issues and give you the opportunity to correct them before you send the file off to your printer.

Overset Text InDesign puts your text in “frames” that can be reshaped and resized at will. That’s a good thing. It makes your documents flexible and fluid. But if your frame isn’t big enough to hold all the contents you’ve placed in it, that creates a situation call “overset” text. Your frame is overflowing. How can you tell? Well, besides the fact that not all of your text is displaying, when you select your text frame with the Selection (pointer) tool, near the bottom right corner of your frame you’ll see a red plus sign.

InDesign Overset Text Symbol

That indicates the contents of your frame is greater than the size of your frame. You can resize the frame or edit your text to get the overflowing text to display, or you can click on the red plus sign to load up your cursor and click and drag a new text frame that will be linked to your existing frame and will continue to flow the overset text into the new frame. However you fix it, it has to be fixed so that all of your text prints and doesn’t get clipped off.

Pre-flighting your file is Step #1 in prepping your file for the printer. At this point we’re assured that your InDesign file is cohesive and well-behaved.

Step #2 is to revisit a step taken at the very beginning of the document set-up process: Communicate with your print shop to see how they want your files prepared for their equipment and software. If you need to make any changes, make sure that your pre-flight status stays green — no errors.

OK, final pre-flighting is finished and InDesign has given you the green light. What’s next?

Step #3 is that you need to “package” your files for your print shop. Packaging assembles all of the bits and pieces that make up your document and copies them to a new folder in an orderly fashion that will make sense to your print shop. The new folder will have sub-folders for linked graphics and for fonts, and will include a fresh copy of your InDesign file with all of the graphics and fonts relinked to it. Three cautions here:

  • InDesign will only package the graphics that are linked to your InDesign file. For example, if you use CorelDRAW to create a graphic, it creates a native .CDR file that you will export as an .EPS, .TIF or .JPG for importing into your InDesign file. The .EPS (or whatever) that you have linked would become part of your new Links folder when InDesign packages your files for the print shop. The native .CDR file that the .EPS was created from doesn’t get included. You’ll have to copy that file into your packaged folders yourself.
  • InDesign will not include in the package any graphics that you’ve placed on the pasteboard, so if you moved something off your page but don’t want to lose it, you’ll need to copy that image file into the packaged folders.
  • The file that is open and displaying on your screen after packaging is NOT the packaged InDesign file — it is the file you packaged from. So always close that file, open the InDesign file in the packaged subdirectory and take all future actions from there. Otherwise, you are likely to encounter what we call “version control” problems — you have multiple copies of a file on your system and you make some changes to one file and other changes to another. At that point, any file you open holds only some of your desired changes. Always immediately close the file you packaged from and open the newly packaged file so that should you find even the smallest error you want to correct, it gets corrected in the file you’re going to be providing to your printer, archiving and using in the future.

Once your files are packaged, they’re ready to go! Your commercial print shop will know exactly what to do because you’ve communicated with them at the start of the process and confirmed all expectations near the end of the process. You’ve pro-flighted the daylights out of your file and ensured that there aren’t any glaring errors with how the document it set up. You’ve packaged all the bits and pieces in a way that will be very familiar to your print shop and sent the entire package (including any native graphics files) on their way.

Now, my friend, it’s Miller time.

Creating an InDesign document that prints right the first time every time doesn’t happen. It requires up-front planning and ongoing attention to detail. Two weeks I identified 8.5 steps to creating such a document. Last week we expanded on the first phase – preparation and document setup. This week’s topic is things to do right while creating your document.

Use “best practices” while creating your file. There are probably hundreds of best practices associated with creating a document, but here are just a few to keep in mind:

  • Don’t have extraneous frames on the page (even if they don’t have anything in them, delete them).
  • Size your frames to fit their content.
  • Place individual items being printed on separate pages.
  • Place repeating elements on master pages.
  • Use tabs to align text, not spaces.
  • Clean up your Word documents after you bring them into InDesign. We covered that in this blog.

Use CMYK colors, not RGB colors.

When you ask technology to convert from one color model to another, you may not get the results you want. For images, make the conversion from RGB to CMYK yourself before placing the images into your document. When creating color swatches, creating them in CMYK, not RGB.

Use high resolution graphics. Most of the time, when a document won’t print, there is a problem with your graphics. When a printed document looks bad, the problem is usually with your graphics.

Best choices:

  • TIF files (for images) at resolutions of 300dpi or greater
  • EPS files (for vector-based graphics)
  • PSD (Adobe Photoshop)
  • AI (Adobe Illustrator)

Acceptable – if their resolution is 300dpi or greater:

  • JPG
  • PDF

Do Not Use:

  • PNG
  • BMP
  • Any other old or obscure format

Make good font choices. The second most common reason your document doesn’t print properly is that there are font issues.

  • Where possible, use OpenType or PostScript fonts. They are the least likely fonts to cause problems when printing.
  • Provide the fonts you used in your document to the printer.

Oh – and while it won’t affect how well your document prints, please honor copyrights on images and fonts.

Next week we’ll cover the last of the 8.5 steps – those that fall under the category of prepping your files for print.

Let us know your tips for preparing a document so it’ll print right the first time every time by adding your comments below.

We’ve launched our first online training course – a 6-week webinar course on Adobe InDesign CS5. To introduce the course, we conducted a free webinar that was jam-packed full of tips and best practices while we taught how to create a single-page brochure. Click here to view a recording of the webinar. Among other things, you’ll learn about paragraph and character styles, text and image frames, the Selection and Direct Selection tools, how to flow text manually and automatically, how to align and distribute objects…and a whole lot more.

Click here to view a recording of the webinar. Click here for info about our 6-week course. Adobe Indesign Basics & Beyond Click here to register for the 6-week course*.

* This link will register you for the first of six videos; you will be registered to receive the remaining five videos automatically. Register today – the course begins on June 29. All webinars will be recorded and posted so that you can watch at your convenience and view them as many times as you. We will invoice you for the entire course when you register.

Give us a call if you have any questions.


Last week we provided a list of  8.5 steps to creating an InDesign file that prints perfectly on the first try. We promised to elaborate on the 8.5 steps. Here’s more detail on the first three steps.

1. Identify and talk to your printer early. The sooner you can identify the printer and create your documents with that printer in mind, the less likely you are to run into issues at print time. Get answers to questions like this:

  • What is the final paper size? (An 8.5″x11″ catalog may not really be 8.5″x11″.)
  • What is the minimum internal margin that is acceptable for the printer? Most printers like a minimum of 3/8” internal margins.
  • What kind of files does the printer want to receive – the original InDesign/Quark/whatever files, Postscript files, or PDF files?
  • How does the printer want those files prepared – if Postscript, what printer profile would they like the Postscript file printed from; if PDF, what preferences (aka job options) would they like to be used (better yet, can they provide the job option they’ve prepared for their equipment)?
  • If your document has a spine, ask about the size of the spine (it will vary depending not only on the number of pages in your document, but also on the type and weight of paper used).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

2. Use the proper page size.

  • Depending on how the document is printed, the printer may be trimming the paper – create your document for the size the printer tells you the final document will be.
  • Don’t create a 4.25″x5.5″ document on an 8.5″x11″ paper size or a 4-page 8.5″ x 11″ newsletter on an 11″x17″ paper size. Sure, it’s quick & easy to set it up that way, but you’ll pay for it in the end when you have to reformat it for printing. You can set your document up for any paper size and still make the layout portrait or landscape and still use double-page spreads.

3. Create bleeds if you have elements that you want to print to the edge of the page.

Your document size will still be the size of the finished document (see above), but create a bleed in your document setup menu. When you place those elements that you want to go to the edge of the page (which is called bleeding off the page), extend them beyond the edge of the page. Most printers like a 3/8″ bleed, but ask to be sure. Again, that means your images should go over the edge of your page by 3/8″ – don’t stop at the edge of the page or you may have a white edge after the paper is cut. At the very least, you’re making your printer’s job harder and you may incur extra setup charges.

Next week’s blog will address things to do while creating the document to ensure it prints. In the meantime, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call or comment below. (If it’s an immediate need, give us a call.) If you have tips of your own, please – share them with others by commenting below.

This is the quick & dirty version of our 8.5 steps. Over the next three weeks, we’ll provide more details about each step. If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address, post a comment. If you have a question that you need the answer to now, send me a quick email –

Preparation & Setup

1. Identify and talk to your printer early. The sooner you can identify the printer and create your documents with that printer in mind, the less likely you are to run into issues at print time.

2. Use the proper page size (i.e., don’t create a 5″x7″ document on an 8.5″x11″ page size).

3. Create bleeds if you have elements that you want to print to the edge of the page.

Document Creation

4. Use best practices while creating your file.

5. Use CMYK colors, not RGB colors.

6. Use high resolution graphics. Most of the time, when a document won’t print, there is a problem with your graphics. When a printed document looks bad, the problem is usually with your graphics.

7. Make good font choices. The second most common reason your document doesn’t print properly is that there are font issues.

Prepping Your Print Files

8. Preflight your document.

8.5  Create your files for the printer using the approach the printer identified. Yes, this is a repeat, but it bears repeating. Ask the printer how he wants you to prepare the files, then prepare the files that way.

Data Designs  Publishing will be conducting an InDesign Basics free webinar on June 19, 2012 at 9am. We will follow it up with a 6-week Basics and Beyond webinar series over the summer. Click here for info on the free webinar. Registration closes June 14, so check it out today. If you’re interested in the webinar training series but cannot attend the free webinar, contact me –

We are strong advocates of keyboard commands. Studies consistently show that using keyboard commands is more efficient than selecting  menus and options with a mouse. Learning keyboard commands can take some practice. Welcome, TIPCards. We’re creating a series of TIPCards that will help you find the keyboard command you need for basic functions. The following TIPCards are currently available:

  • Special Characters – providing keyboard commands for things like registered trademarks, copyright symbol, the diameter symbol, typographical quotes and other commonly used special characters. These keyboard commands can be used in most Windows programs.
  • InDesign Navigation – keyboard commands that help you move from one open document to the next, from page to page, and around the current page. On its flip side, the TIPCard identifies common keyboard commands related to viewing the document – changing magnification and toggling guides and special characters on and off.
  • Excel Tips for Beginners – provides basic navigation keyboard shortcuts and commonly used cell editing commands.

Why TIPCards?
Because they make life so easy. Even though we use special characters in InDesign and Excel every day, there are some common commands that we don’t use often. Then we find ourselves in the middle of a project that would benefit from repeated use of some of the commands. It’s
so much easier to pull the TIPCard out of a top drawer and check a command than hunt through program menus or help screens to find what we’re looking for.

TIPCards are available for free download from our DDP Resources/TIPCards page.

Is there a program you’d like a TIPCard for? Or perhaps a series of related commands that it’d be helpful to have at your fingertips. Let us know. Add a comment below or email us at We’ll add your request to our production list for future TIPCards.

Microsoft Word (or any other word processing software) is great for composing text that will be poured into InDesign for professional desktop publishing. But Word and InDesign are very different programs made by different companies for very different purposes. They don’t always play well with each other.

Some common practices that are OK for a word processor document aren’t appropriate for a professionally desktop published document. Also, text imported from word processors often have hidden codes that control the formatting in the word processing program. These hidden word processing codes can show up in a lot of unexpected and unwanted ways in your InDesign document. It’s up to you (or if you prefer, us) to find and fix them. Fortunately, many can be fixed using InDesign’s Find/Change feature.

To open the Find/Change dialog box, go to the Edit menu and select Find/Change. The Dialog box that opens will have several tabs at the top. The one you’ll use the most is the Text tab. We’ll save a discussion of the other tabs for another blog. (Powerful stuff. Stay tuned.)

Here are some fixes for the most common problems you’ll encounter.

Replace a hyphen with an en dash
Find: [space]-[space] (hyphen with a space before and after it)
Change to: [space]–[space] (the keyboard code for creating an en dash is to hold down the Alt key and then type on your numeric keypad 0150)

Replace two hyphens with an em dash
Find: — (two hyphens)
Change to: — (em dash: Alt-0151)

Replace two consecutive tabs with one tab
Find: ^t^t (two tabs in a row — the carat symbol that you will need for this and many other commands is Shift-6)
Change to: ^t (one tab)

Delete an extraneous tab before a paragraph return
Find: ^t^p (tab before a paragraph return – why do you care? Because a tab before a paragraph return can add an unwanted blank line between your paragraphs)
Change to: ^p (paragraph return)

Use an indented paragraph style instead of a tab stop at the start of a new paragraph
Find: ^p^t (tab at the beginning of a paragraph – use paragraph indent instead of a tab to indent the first line of a paragraph)
Change to: ^p (paragraph return)

Use a properly defined paragraph style with space above or below instead of two carriage returns to separate paragraphs
Find: ^p^p (double paragraph return)
Change to: ^p (single paragraph return – use space above instead of double paragraph returns)

Delete unwanted line breaks
Find: ^n (line break)
Change to:  (space)

They taught you to use two spaces after a period in typing class, but it’s never used in professional typesetting. Delete the extraneous space.
Find: [space][space] (two spaces)
Change to:  [space] (a single space – two spaces are never used in professional typesetting)

Use an ellipsis character (yes, it really is just one special character) instead of three periods
Find: … (three periods)
Change to: … (ellipsis, Alt-0133)

…if you don’t understand this nuance!

We frequently package a project and keep on working. While packaging is typically an “end of the project” kind of activity, here are two reasons that you might want to package in the middle of the development process:

  • To ensure that all images remain with the document. If you find yourself pulling images from other projects, this is particularly important.
  • To separate all pieces associated with a specific document if you’ve been working on similar documents in the same folder.

For basics of packaging, see this blog.

We’ve found, though, that InDesign’s package feature has a nuance that can lead to errors if not managed properly. When you use the package feature, InDesign creates a copy of the InDesign file and all it’s linked files and places them in a new folder that you create. The file that remains open on your screen, however, is the original InDesign file, not the newly created packaged InDesign file. That means any changes you make after packaging will be made to your original file, not to your new packaged file. If you want to work on the InDesign file that is part of the package you just created, you must close the currently open file and then open the file in your package folder. Make this a habit to ensure that all changes you make to a file are reflected in your final printed document.

To our way of thinking, when we package a file, it’s because the project is reaching near-completion and we want to ensure that it will print properly and that all images are located with the file. It’s the “package” that we will eventually send off to the printer. So if you think the same way we do, and after packaging the file you notice something wrong on the page on your screen and quickly make the correction…that correction won’t appear in the packaged file you send off to the printer. Again, after packaging a project, ALWAYS close the open file then open the packaged file before hitting another key. You’ll be glad you did.

Desktop publishing is the process of combining many pieces and parts into a single finished product. To finish even the smallest project, you’ll have text files, photos or other images, perhaps some line drawings and even a spreadsheet. You might have mulitple drafts each with slightly different photos or other graphic elements. And at some point you’ll want to get all the final files associated with your project to a printer.

Packaging is the answer! InDesign’s packaging feature does a great job of finding all your pieces and parts and putting them in one place. It also goes through a process of evaluating your file to look for problems that might be encountered when printing. We’ll save that discussion for another tip.

Here’s how to package a document:

With your file open, do the following:

  • From the file menu, select “Package…” (or use the keyboard command Ctrl-Alt-Shift-P)
  • A “Printing Instructions” dialog box will appear. This will create a small TXT file from the information you provide.

> For the “Filename”, enter the name you want for the TXT file, not the name of your InDesign file (unless of course you want them to have the same name).

> Enter your contact name and information.

> Provide any instructions you might have for the printer. We typically want to communicate instructions via e-mail or using the printer’s forms, so we use this area to provide the very basics along with information about where to find more complete instructions.

> Click on “Continue” after completing your Printing Instructions form.

  • InDesign is now going to “package” your InDesign file and all linked files into a single subdirectory. The first dialog box will allow you to identify a location and provide a name for the new folder (subdirectory) the files will be placed in. You can navigate to anywhere on your computer or network as you would when saving any file.

Options to Select:

We always recommend selecting the following options when packaging unless there is a compelling reason not to:

> Copy Fonts (you’re allowed to provide your document’s fonts to your printer, but please don’t violate font copyright laws by making free copies for all your friends)

> Copy Linked Graphics (that’s the primary purpose of the exercise, right?)

> Update Graphics Links in Package (this means that when you open your InDesign file from the package folder, the pieces and parts will be linked to the graphics in the newly created “links” folder under your package folder)

Two Cautions:

  • The packaging process does not copy/save images that are on the pasteboard. If you need to keep an image on the pasteboard, you will need to temporarily place the image on a page of the document or manually copy it to the newly created subdirectory.
  • Be careful. Packaging can lead to a version control nightmare if not used properly. Read this tip for more info. You can thank me later.