When Adobe InDesign starts to behave in a weird way, it can be very time consuming to figure out how to solve the issue. I have once spent half a day trying to get my set-up working again. In the end, a colleague fixed it in 5 minutes.
If InDesign is acting up, the first thing to determine is whether that only happens with one particular file or if InDesign acts up with any file. Separate paragraphs on this page deal with file and application related issues.Jump to the next topic if that latter is true. This topic deals with troubleshooting one particular file
How to fix an InDesign file
When a document gets corrupted, there are a few things you can do to clean it up:
As a general rule, the first thing to try is use ‘Save as’ to save that document. This forces InDesign to clean up its file structure. Often a file is also much smaller after it has been resaved using ‘Save as’.
Export as an INX or IDML file and reopen that file
Next to the INDD file format, InDesign can also save files using two additional formats: the INX file format has been available since the release of the original CS version. The IDML format was added in CS4. Exporting a file to INX or IDML and then reopening it again in InDesign is a well known troubleshooting trick. I must admit that I’ve tried this a few times with troublesome files but never had much success with it. Your mileage may vary.
Move all content to a new document
Don’t COPY and PASTE individual frames to a fresh new document. InDesign allows you to move entire pages from one document to another, which can be a very efficient way of cleaning up a file.
Revert to the previous edition
Smart designers will from time to time save their work with a slightly different file name (e.g. by adding a revision number such as _1, _2, _3 at the end). If a document gets corrupted, they can always revert to the previous edition. Really smart designers put the older editions on a different drive. Really really smart designers store those data or that drive at another location. If you don’t do any of this yet, don’t worry: sooner or later you’ll work this way. Most of us have learned about the advantages of back-ups the hard way.
How to solve InDesign application issues
Given its complexity, InDesign is a remarkably solid application. It is not perfect though and sometimes you’ll have to perform some magic to get it working properly again.
Reset the preferences
To reset all InDesign preferences, start the application while holding down the SHIFT, CTRL, OPTION & COMMAND keys (Mac) or SHIFT, CTRL & ALT keys (PC). This will reset all the application preferences and you’ll lose any custom document presets, print presets, transparency flattener presets and custom stroke styles. If you don’t have back-ups up any of these, this is a good time to first make sure that InDesign’s prefs and presets are reconfigured and then to make a back-up of them.
Add another account
I ran into some weird behavior with CS3 and couldn’t get it fixed by reinstalling the application (something which you should only ever do after having tried everything else from this page). A colleague suggested creating another user account on my system. Oddly enough creating an additional account actually fixed the problem for my regular account.
If the problems started after installing a new plug-in..
… then that plug-in might be the cause of your troubles or that plug-in might conflict with another plug-in.
If InDesign keeps crashing
When InDesign crashes each time it is started, this is most likely caused by a recovery file that gets loaded automatically and that causes the application to crash. Locate the folder named ‘InDesign Recovery’ where such files are kept and delete all the files in it.
Other sources of information
I really like the video tutorial on troubleshooting InDesign issues that Anne-Marie Concepcion made for Lynda.com. A search on the InDesignSecrets web site or the Adobe support forums might also be a good idea.