How to Place More Than the First Page of a PDF in InDesign

New users of InDesign often ask me this question. By default, when you place a multi-page PDF in InDesign, only the first page will be placed. So how can you place any other page?

The key is the “Show Import Options” checkbox in the place dialog screen. Go File => Place (or use your keyboard shortcut if you prefer) and look at the screen that comes up. See the checkbox in the lower-left? Turn it on.

The Show Import Options checkbox offers options for various file types when placing. It is particularly useful when importing PDFs and Word files.

The Show Import Options checkbox offers options for various file types when placing. It is particularly useful when importing PDFs and Word files.

Now browse to your multi-page PDF and click OK. Instead of going directly back to your document to place the file, InDesign will show you this options screen:

The Import Options screen for PDF files allows you to select pages, whether to include bleed or slug, and whether to make the background transparent or opaque.

The Import Options screen for PDF files allows you to select pages, whether to include bleed or slug, and whether to make the background transparent or opaque.

This lets you do several things. Not only can you select any page in the PDF you wish, but you can also select a page range. The pages will be loaded into your cursor to be placed one at a time, sequentially, by simply clicking or click-dragging the page repeatedly. You can also choose to include the bleed (as I have done in the sample picture) or other optional areas of the document, or whether the file’s background will be transparent or opaque.

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16 Responses to How to Place More Than the First Page of a PDF in InDesign

  1. Terri Husted January 5, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    I am writing an Algebra book, the sequel to a Geometry book I just published with Critical Thinking Co. A graphic artist in the company recently told me that he cannot import any of my texboxes into inDesign. I am writing the book in iWorks. I then export it to Word and also as pdf before I send the Word and pdf versions to them. This is how the earlier book was written as it was no problem. Apparently because one algebraic expression has more than one textbox, the graphic artist says he cannot import anything to inDesign. I’m baffled after reading your article since it sounds like it’s possible to even go from pdf to inDesign.

    Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

    • Paul Erdman January 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Hmm…The Word file should Work…InDesign doesn’t support iWorks.
      PDFs placed into InDesign are treated as images, not as editable content, and thus are not what your designer would be interested in either.

      If you’ve converted the file to MS Word, theoretically the designer should be able to place the text into InDesign, so this is the direction you should be going. Another option would be RTF.

      I’d need more information as to exactly what happens when they attempt to import the Word document:
      Can Word file be opened in Word (i.e. is it actually a valid Word file)?
      Does it give a specific error message when placed into InDesign? What exactly happens?
      Can the problem be isolated to a specific part of the file? i.e. try removing parts of the Word file, save as, and placing the pieces until the problem is located?

  2. Rebecca January 13, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    Hi Paul,

    I’m sure it is a schoolgirl error but when I place my PDF ebook pages they are not constrained inside the frame I have created in indesign. I am choosing multiple pages from a pdf doc and clicking Layout>Pages>New Page but each page bleeds off the page frame. I also tried placing the original Word doc multiple page doc but after the first page subsequent pages aren’t being ‘placed’. DO I need to resize my pages in Word/PDF to match the indesign frame?

    R

    • Paul Erdman February 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

      PDF pages are treated as images in InDesign. Word files are placed as live text. You will get radically different results when placing PDF vs Word files, and you do so for very different purposes.

      You place PDF files because you do not want to change the appearance of the page at all. It needs to remain exactly as-is, apart from possibily scaling, cropping, etc. –i.e. the types of things you’d do to a placed image. When placing the PDF, enable the “Show import options” checkbox in order to place multiple pages.

      You place a Word file because you want to reformat and/or edit the text using the type tool. You can resize the text frames, flow the text to another text frame, etc. If you are unfamiliar with working with text in InDesign, I’d recommend the InDesign help, starting here:
      http://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/using/threading-text.html

  3. Cecilia Wainright April 7, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Hello Paul,

    How can I import the entire PDF without having to place with the cursor on each page?
    Thank You !

    • Paul Erdman April 28, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      Unfortuantely, I don’t know of a way to avoid placing on each page. However, there are some tricks to make it go quickly. What I usually do if I need to place many pages from a PDF is:

      1. Place 1 page and scale, crop, etc as needed to get it exactly how I want it.
      2. Copy that frame to all the other pages.
      3. Relink the copies to the respective desired pages.

      Hope that helps!

      • Christer September 23, 2014 at 4:58 am #

        Late to the party and all that.

        Anyways, InDesign got a standard script for importing multipage pdfs.
        Its located under “scripts–>samples–>javascript”.

        However, there is a better script available for download:
        Zanellis MultiPageImporter – http://indesignsecrets.com/zanelli-releases-multipageimporter-for-importing-both-pdf-and-indd-files.php
        This script allows you, among other things, to set the scale and position of the pages prior to importing.

        The latest version supposedly runs fine on 6.0 (I´m on 5.5).

      • Tim May 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

        There are multi-page importer scripts available freely on the web that will let you import more than one page of a PDF, and place each page automatically.

  4. Ann J April 9, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    When I update modified links, it wants to default to placing page 1 in all the other locations, rather than remembering what page was placed where. Am I doing something wrong?

    • Paul Erdman April 28, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      The trick is to turn off “show import options” when relinking. then it will relink using the same options when originally placed, rather than asking you.

  5. Anthea May 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Thanks Paul saved a lot of grief. I lost a hardrive and only had a web copy in pdf.

    Anthea

  6. ash June 12, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    thank you for this simple easy to follow post. Saved me pulling my hair out! cheers :)

  7. Dean July 22, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for the info
    My PDFs are being imported as an image. Anyway we can get the raw text?
    I suppose I can save the PDF as a text file and then let it flow naturally and redesign.
    Just wondering.
    Thanks
    Dean

    • Paul Erdman July 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      Yes, InDesign always places PDFs as images. You would have to export the text from the PDF. One way to do this in Acrobat Pro is to File: Save As: MS Word. However, depending on how the file was saved, the text might end up in undesirable order, or with hard line breaks, or other similar problems. It’s really best to obtain the source text rather than working from a PDF, if at all possible.

  8. Ingrid January 26, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    Paul, perfect! thank you!

  9. bryan July 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Exact answer to my question. I knew there was some way to do it. Thank you!

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