Getting the Most from InDesign’s Realtime Preflight

I often get calls and emails from people wondering, “Why is InDesign telling me I have errors?” When asked for more information, they explain that they see a “red light” at the bottom of their document window, followed by how many of these errors they have. They’re a bit mystified as to what it means and what to do about it.

What these people are seeing is InDesign’s realtime preflight, and it is one of the most important, and unfortunately most overlooked, features added to InDesign within the past few years (new in CS 4). It has completely changed the way I work, and has helped to prevent mistakes and reduce production time. In this article I will outline the basic steps for configuring and using this important feature.

Define an Appropriate Preflight Profile for Your Project

click thumbnail to view full screenshot

The first step for properly using InDesign’s realtime preflight is to configure a preflight profile. The default profile will only check for missing fonts and missing links—things that InDesign will tell you about anyway when you open, print, or export a file. It can do so much more, but you must configure it.

In order to set up a custom profile, you must first know the technical requirements of your document: What color modes are allowed? Is there a minimum resolution requirement? Do you need a certain number , or multiple, of pages? Does it bleed off the edges? Do you wish to allow overrides to styles?

Consider the example project featured in the screen snapshot. It’s intended to be a 2-color newsletter with bleed, but it obviously has problems. It’s using process color rather than spot, and the header goes to the page edge rather than extending to the bleed. With a well-defined preflight profile, InDesign will detect these issues.

To define a profile:

  1. Click the down-arrow button next to your preflight error indicator at the bottom of your document window, or click the Preflight Panel’s menu button, and choose “Define Profiles.”
  2. Click the ‘+’ button in the lower-left portion of the Preflight Profiles dialag to add a profile.
  3. Type a name that describes the type of project you’re doing.
  4. Go through the entire list of settings available and choose appropriate selections based on your production requirements. In our example, I paid particular attention to the color (enabled CMY plates not allowed, and a maximum of 1 spot color) and the document (bleed setup) settings.
  5. Click “ok” when finished.

Select and Embed the New Profile

Simply defining a profile does not enable that profile. In addition, profiles are saved locally on your computer and are not embedded in the document by default; this means that if InDesign gets reset or the file goes to a new computer you might lose your profile. I recommend always embedding the profile with the document so that the preflight continues to work as desired even on other computers.

To select the profile to use in preflight:

  1. Open the Preflight panel (via the down-arrow button next to the error indicator at the bottom of the screen, or via the window menu.
  2. Select the profile using the drop-down selector in the upper-right portion of the panel.

To embed the profile, click the embed button to the right of the drop down selector.

To set a profile as the default for all new documents, simply close all documents and then select the profile.

Use the Preflight Panel to Fix Errors

Once you have defined and selected an appropriate profile, InDesign will check your document in real time and will warn you within seconds if you break any of the rules you set in your profile. To view details about errors and their solutions:

  1. Open the Preflight panel (via the down-arrow button next to the error indicator at the bottom of the screen, or via the window menu.
  2. Ensure that the correct profile is selected and that preflight is on.
  3. If the document contains errors they will be listed by category, with a number next to the category name indicating how many of that type exist.
  4. Click the down arrow to the left of an error category to view specific errors.
  5. Click the page number to the right of an error to navigate straight to the problem.
  6. Expand the info portion at the bottom of the panel to view information about the problem, as well as a recommended solution.
  7. Follow the recommended solution to correct the problem.

So what is the first thing I do when I sit down with a client to work on their project with them? I help them define a preflight profile and use it to ensure that they’re doing their job correctly.

Every time I start a new project, I select an appropriate profile to use for it. If one doesn’t exist, I make it. I generally have a list of 4-5 commonly used profiles for different types of work. It really helps me work more effectively, and I rarely get calls from the prepress guys.

Related Resources

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