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When you go to all the trouble to design and build a great long document, you want all that work to show up in your printed output, and you definitely don't want any errors at the printer, which can be very costly. InDesign's Preflight functions can help you find and remove potential errors before they become big problems. So let's take a look. With CS4, InDesign's Preflight functions got significantly upgraded with the addition of a Preflight panel, where errors in your documents are flagged and you can quickly navigate to them and fix them. Even better, you can enable Live Preflight at the bottom of every document window and have InDesign automatically check a document according to criteria that you set up, so you can nip problems in the bud before they spread through documents and your workflow.
The key to making Live Preflight actually useful is to use a customized preflight profile that suits your needs. The default profile only checks for a few simple things, like missing and modified graphics, missing fonts, and overset text. So to create a custom preflight profile, go to the bottom of your document window and if Preflight is currently off, select it from the Preflight menu-- this makes the Preflight panel open--and click On. Then from the panel menu, you can choose Define Profiles. You can't edit the Basic profile, but you can click the plus button to create a new Preflight Profile. You can give it a name.
I am going to call this one LongDocuments. And you can go through the options to set them the way you want them. So there are several categories that you can tip open and see all the different options to select. I am just going to click a few simple things, like Overprinting Applied to White or Paper, the registration color being applied, and say Non-Proportional Scaling of an Object. Certainly this isn't a full preflight, but it will get us started. When I am done, I will click OK.
Then for the new profile to actually become active, you have to pick it from the list of profiles here in the menu. I'm still using Basic at the moment. So I'll pick my LongDocuments profile. And right away, I can see InDesign found an error in the IMAGES and OBJECTS category. So I will tip that open. The error is Non-proportional scaling, and I can tip that open, and here's this specific instance. And if I double-click on it, it will highlight where the error is in my document.
So it's this photo; it's been scaled non- proportionally. And if I look up in the control panel, I can see is just a little bit off, 100% and 98.2%. So I can go fix that later. Now to make your custom preflight profile the default, choose Preflight Options from the panel menu. Now where it says Working Profile, switch from Basic to your custom one. You can also decide whether to embed this profile into all new documents and when you open documents, should the embedded profiles override your custom profile or do you want to use your profile? And you also have options for what to include, which kind of layers: Visible & Printable, only Visible, or every layer.
And lastly, should you preflight objects that are off the page, outside on the pasteboard, and nonprinting objects? I will click OK, and now my custom profile is the active profile. Now I want to point out something about the importance of backing up your preflight profiles. The custom preflight profiles you make are stored inside InDesign's preferences. They're not a separate file until you export them. So if you don't export them and you delete InDesign's preferences, you will be deleting your custom preflight profiles too.
So to export a profile to save it, choose Define Profiles from the panel menu and over here on the left there is a small menu where you can choose Export Profile. So make sure you have the one selected that you want to export and click on Export. We will give it a name. We will call it LongDocuments. And the extension is IDPP, InDesign Preflight Profile. And click Save. Now if I reset my InDesign Preferences, I won't lose my custom preflight profiles.
Now some users believe that Live Preflight seems to slow down their machines when they're working on very long or complex documents, but the word from Adobe is that Live Preflight is a background process that pauses the moment you do something. Your actions take precedence over Live Preflight. So if InDesign seems to be laboring or lagging, they say it's not Live Preflight that's behind it. Of course, the real test for you is to just turn off Live Preflight by unchecking it here in the panel menu and then see if that makes any difference for you. Another thing you can do that's not quite so extreme is to limit the pages that InDesign checks.
So when Live Preflight is on, you can click down here to select a specific range of pages to Preflight. It's also important to note what the Preflight features can't do. For example, it can't flag something like rich black type as an error. Usually rich black type is a big prepress no-no because it can come out very poorly on press. Preflight also can't find things like ICC profiles and colorspace problems or images in placed PDF or placed InDesign files. And of course we are still talking about preflighting the InDesign file here.
If your final output is a PDF, you may still need to check that PDF too. Also, preflighting doesn't customize to your specific needs. You can set up a preflight profile to check the bleed amount, but InDesign has no idea what the correct amount of bleed for your specific printer is. So if you know the printer who is going to be outputting your documents, it might be worth contacting them to see if they have a preflight profile they recommend you use. You might also be able to just download it from their web site. At times you won't be able to get a preflight profile from your printer. And you can of course create your own, or you can make use of a fantastic free resource that provides free top-notch InDesign preflight profiles.
I will switch over to my web browser, and it's over at vigc.org. This is the Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication, and from their web site, you can download a whole set of preflight profiles for various products and output conditions. They will also give you a spreadsheet showing the profiles and what settings they use so you can compare them and choose the one that's right for your job. They also give you tutorial files to play with and test the profiles. It's really a wonderful free resource and if you're at all interested in using Live Preflight, I recommend you check it out.
Lastly, you may have preflight needs they can't fully be addressed with InDesign's tools. If you find yourself having to manually check a lot of things that the built-in preflight functions can't do, you might look into some third-party tools. One option is Markzware's FlightCheck, which is a stand-alone prepress application that can be used to check files from InDesign, as well as other applications. Another choice is DTP Tools' Blatner tools, which has an excellent quality-assurance function. And while they may never be a full substitute for careful preflighting by an experienced professional, InDesign's preflight functions can still save you a lot of time, hassle, and potentially money when it comes to the press-worthiness of your long documents.
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