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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, the print and interactive page layout application from Adobe, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
The Acrobat PDF file format is without a doubt the most important core technology in the professional creative space today. If you want to send a proof to a client, you will likely send them a PDF. If you want to send a finished document to a printer, you should probably send them a PDF. If you are trying to put documents on the web that can be viewed as well as printed, you are going to use PDF. So it's crucially important that as an InDesign user, you be able to create robust PDF documents. You can make PDF files in two ways from InDesign. First, if you have Acrobat Professional, you could print PostScript to disk from the Print dialog box and then use Acrobat Distiller to turn it into a PDF file.
I do not recommend this method in most cases. Instead, I much prefer to export PDF directly, which you can do by going to the File menu and choosing Export. InDesign offers two different formats for PDF: Interactive or Print. In this movie we are going to focus on Print. When I click Save, InDesign opens the Export Adobe PDF dialog box. I could do a whole Online Training Library title just on these PDF options so I am going to focus just on the ones that you most need to pay attention to.
The first thing most people do in this Export dialog box is choose one of the Adobe PDF Presets. The funny thing is that most people choose High Quality Print, when in fact that may not be the best preset to use at all. Let's talk about these presets. This discussion might seem a little technical at times, but it's probably the most important thing you do when exporting a PDF. The question of PDF/X-1a, X-3, or X-4 pretty much comes down to one thing, compatibility. The Compatibility popup menu lets you choose an Acrobat 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 compatibility.
Why would you care? What's important about that? Well, the answer to that mostly comes down to a question of transparency, transparency in your document. If you are creating a PDF that you are sending to a print house, and if you have used any transparency effects in your document, such as Drop Shadows or importing a Photoshop file with transparent areas, you have to think about flattening. You see transparency has to be flattened before printing on a PostScript printer, because PostScript doesn't understand transparency.
The flattener and how to control it is an advanced topic that I cover in a later title. But what you need to know right now is who is doing the flattening, your copy of InDesign or someone else downstream who is printing from Acrobat or another copy of InDesign? That's important and that's the question that you get to when you talk about compatibility. If you want a PDF that's the lowest common denominator, something that will print on pretty much anything, then you will want to use the Acrobat 4 file format. And for that, I would recommend using the PDF/X-1a:2001 preset.
That's basically a CYMK only Acrobat 4 file. That's what most of America has standardized on and what many magazines and newspapers insist on receiving when you send them ads. Now in Europe, they are more comfortable with the PDF/X-3 format, which is similar to X-1a, but it basically adds some color management options into the mix. On the other hand, if your print house has told you that they are okay handling the transparency flattening themselves, and you trust them, then you might want to send them an Acrobat 5 or 6 file, because those formats support transparency.
You basically give them the responsibility for printing it right. PDF/X-4 is a new standard and it's basically an Acrobat 5 file. It supports transparency. If your printer says go ahead and send PDF/X-4, then they probably know what they are doing. If I trust the printer I am working with, I would much rather send them a PDF/X-4 file and let them handle all the flattening. But if I am not sure who is going to print it, then I usually just make a flattened PDF/X-1a file. Again, that's the Acrobat 4 compatibility.
On the other hand, if I am just making a proof PDF to send to a client or someone, or if you are making a document for web download, then go ahead and choose Acrobat 6, 7, or 8. In these cases, you don't have to worry about flattening at all. Okay. Let's take a look at some of the other options in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box. Pages and Page Range is pretty obvious. But some of these options are not so obvious. For example, Create Tagged PDF. The Create Tagged PDF option is very important if you are creating an Acrobat 6 or later file that you are going to be putting up on the web.
It adds a number of important features to your PDF, including a rudimentary ability for people with visual disabilities to use a screen reader. So I like turning that on for on-screen PDFs. If you have used layers in your document and you want people in Acrobat to see those layers, you can turn on the Create Acrobat Layers checkbox. Again, that's appropriate for an Acrobat 6 or later file. You certainly don't need that for when you are making a PDF for print. And if I am making a PDF for Web viewing, I will definitely turn on the Optimize for Fast Web View checkbox, as well as the Embed Page Thumbnails.
Also, if I have Bookmarks and Hyperlinks, I can turn those on. On the other hand, at this point we are getting dangerously close to the definition of an interactive PDF document. And if I am making an Interactive PDF, I am going to use the Export Interactive PDF dialog box, which I cover in a later movie. Let's move on to compression. If you have used large images, like pixel images from Photoshop, you probably want to down sample them to something reasonable for your PDF. The Compression pane lets you do that automatically.
In most cases, the settings here, the 300 pixels per inch, that's pretty reasonable, although you definitely want to talk to your printer to find out what they would recommend. Another place that you want to talk to your printer, if you are making a PDF for print, is the Marks and Bleeds section. Some printers definitely want all the printer marks and some don't want any at all. They will handle the printer marks when they print from Acrobat or whatever software they are using to print your PDF. So talk with them and get their recommendation. On the other hand, you definitely need to turn on the Bleed and Slug settings if you have anything bleeding off the side of your page.
That's going to be important. Otherwise InDesign will actually crop it down to the page edge. The Output pane of the Export PDF dialog box lets you control what happens to your colors when you make the PDF. When you make a PDF/X-1a document, you will find that the Color Conversion pop-up menu is set to Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers). That means any RGB images that happen to be in your document will get converted to CMYK. That's great! Preserve Numbers means any CMYK files that are in your document will stay CMYK, and InDesign will simply pass the numbers through. That's great too.
This feature, Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers), is why I feel comfortable using RGB images in my document, because InDesign will convert them to CMYK when I make my PDF file, and it does just as good a job as Photoshop could do. In fact, it's based on exactly the same color engine, so I will get exactly the same results. The Advanced pane has a feature that you absolutely must check every time you make a PDF, and that is your Transparency Flattener. As I have said before, you really want to use the High Resolution Transparency Flattener preset.
You don't want to be using Low or Medium when you are making a PDF. Now, there is one other thing you might want to change and that is your Font sub-setting. By default, InDesign always puts your fonts into the PDF. You can't turn that off, but what it does is it subsets them. That is, if you have only used 20 characters from a font, it will only put those 20 characters into your PDF. This usually works just fine, but in some situations you might have font problems. In those cases, go ahead and set this to 0% instead.
If you set that to 0, InDesign puts the entire font in your PDF. And some printers find that more reliable. The last pane you should pay attention to is Security. You can't secure a PDF/X-1a file or a PDF/X-4 that you will be sending to a printer but if you set this to Acrobat 6 or later, you can require a document password. This would be fine if you are sending a PDF to a client and you don't want anyone else to open it except for them, but please do yourself and everyone around you a favor. You don't want to send a password- protected document to your printer anyway.
Finally, when you are done, click Export. Notice this little animation up in the application bar. That means it's downloading in the background. InDesign CS5 actually saves PDFs in the background, so you can actually keep working while it's saving. As you can see, making PDF files isn't difficult at all from InDesign. What is sometimes difficult is making the right decisions for the best quality output.
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