Work with files and templates in InDesign

You can improve performance and prevent many problems by establishing a good workflow to use with Adobe InDesign.

Maintain a clean computer system

Over time, changes occur to software and hardware that can lead to performance loss and system problems. Defragmenting the hard disk, removing older versions of software, updating device drivers, optimizing memory, running virus protection utilities, and performing other maintenance tasks can prevent applications and files from becoming damaged. Performing these tasks regularly helps ensure that InDesign opens, displays, and prints documents as expected.

Create a project folder

Before you begin a project, determine which files you’ll need and how you’ll store them. If you’ve experienced problems with broken links, consider storing your linked files in the same folder as your document. InDesign maintains links to files you place in a document, but if a link is broken, InDesign looks for the file in the document’s folder. Storing a document and its linked files in the same folder makes it easy to move them from one computer to another. Storing files in one folder also ensures that InDesign finds the original graphics when printing a document. If InDesign cannot locate a linked graphic, it won’t reflect changes you make to the original graphic, and it may print the graphic poorly or not at all.

If your project consists of multiple documents (for example, chapters in a book), you may find it useful to create a project folder that contains a folder for each document and its linked files.

Consider using a template

Use a template if you frequently create similar projects. Templates let you create consistent documents more quickly while protecting the original file. For example, if you create a monthly newsletter, your template might include ruler guides, page numbers, the newsletter masthead, and styles you want to use in each issue. (See Use document templates.)

Open documents locally

Before you open a document stored on a network volume or on removable media, copy the document and any linked graphics to your local hard disk. The slower access time and data transfer rate of a network volume or removable media can cause data to become lost or corrupted, possibly damaging the document. However, be aware of overriding someone else’s work if you copy the local files back to a network server.

Solve problems before converting a file

Damaged Adobe PageMaker or QuarkXPress® files usually remain damaged when opened in InDesign. If an error or other unexpected behavior occurs with a converted file, open the original file in the source application and troubleshoot it for damage.

If the converted file has problems, export it to IDML format, and then open the IDML file and save it as an InDesign document.

Save documents

Save documents frequently, and create backup copies of important files. You can clear unnecessary data from a document by using the Save As command. When you use the Save command, InDesign appends new information to the document but doesn’t remove outdated data, such as information about a deleted graphic. When you use the Save As command, however, InDesign completely rewrites the document, including only information about objects and pages currently in the document. A document that contains only necessary data occupies less hard drive space and redraws and prints more quickly.

Practice good design habits

  • Create styles in a document. Creating styles with no documents open can cause duplicate styles to appear when you create a new document. To share styles in documents, save the styles and load them.

  • Use appropriate fonts. When choosing fonts for a document, consider how you intend to format and print the text. InDesign works well with OpenType®, Type 1 (also called PostScript), and TrueType fonts. Damaged or poorly constructed fonts can damage an InDesign document or cause it to print with unexpected results, so use reliable fonts created by established font vendors. If you work with a service bureau, find out its font requirements.

  • Avoid using too many text frames. Use as few text frames as possible to keep the document file size smaller and the layout easier to manipulate.

Be smart with art

  • Use the appropriate graphics file format. When you create graphics for a project, consider how you plan to print the document. If you intend to print the document at a service bureau, ask the service bureau which graphic formats work best with the output device it uses. The service bureau can also advise you on the optimal resolution for images.

  • Store graphics externally. When you import a graphic file, InDesign creates a link to the graphic by default. Linking helps minimize the file size of the document and improves the performance of InDesign. When you print the document, the original graphic file must be available and linked. If InDesign can’t find the original, the graphic may print as a low resolution preview or as a gray box.

Verify links and fonts before you print

To ensure that a document prints correctly, verify that all links are intact and all fonts are available. A link becomes broken if you delete, move, or rename the original graphic. Use the Preflight and Package features before handing off files to a service bureau.

Open InDesign documents

In general, you open document and template files the same way you do in other programs. When you open an InDesign template, it opens as a new, untitled document by default. Document files use the extension .indd, template files use the extension .indt, snippet files use the extension .idms, library files use the extension .indl, interchange files use the extension .inx, markup files use the extension .idml, and book files use the extension .indb.

You can also use the File > Open command to open files from earlier versions of InDesign, InDesign Interchange (.inx) files, InDesign Markup (.idml) files, Adobe PageMaker 6.0 and later, QuarkXPress 3.3 and 4.1, and QuarkXPress Passport 4.1 files. In addition, other software vendors may make plug‑in software that lets you open other file formats.


To view additional information about an InDesign document, hold down Ctrl and choose Help > About InDesign (Windows) or hold down Command and choose InDesign > About InDesign (Mac OS).

Use the Open command

  1. Choose File > Open and select one or more documents.

  2. Do one of the following, and then click Open:

    • Select Normal (Windows) or Open Normal (Mac OS) to open the original document or a copy of a template.

    • Select Original (Windows) or Open Original (Mac OS) to open an original document or template.

    • Select Copy (Windows) or Open Copy (Mac OS) to open a copy of a document or template.

When you open an InDesign document, you may encounter any of the following messages:

Message indicating newer version of InDesign

In InDesign CS6 and CC, you can send documents to anyone using older versions of InDesign without extra steps like manually exporting to IDML. Compatibility is built right in, ensuring that your documents always open just as you would expect.

If you open a document created in a newer version of InDesign, a message is displayed indicating the different version. To convert the document to the current version of InDesign, do the following:

  1. To convert the document to the current version of InDesign, click Convert.

    The document is uploaded to the Adobe Creative Cloud and then converted to the current version of InDesign.


    You need to be connected to the Internet to perform the conversion.

  2. After the document is successfully converted to the current version, the Save As dialog box prompts you to save the document.

Message indicating document color settings different from application

If a warning message appears telling you that the color settings in the document are different from the color settings in the application, select an option, and click OK.


Color warning messages are off by default, but you can show warnings if you change the default settings in the Color Settings dialog box (Edit >Color Settings.)

If a warning message appears telling you that the document contains missing or modified links, use the Links panel to fix the links. See Update, restore, and replace links.

Message indicating missing fonts

If a warning message appears telling you that the document contains missing fonts, do one of the following:

  • Click OK. InDesign will automatically format the text with a substitute.

  • Click Find Font to search for and list fonts used throughout your document.

    For more information on finding missing fonts, see Find and change fonts.

Open recent document

  1. Choose File > Open Recent, and select one of the documents you saved recently.

To specify how many recent documents are displayed, choose Edit > Preferences > File Handling (Windows), or InDesign > Preferences > File Handling, and then specify a number for Number Of Recent Items To Display. The maximum number is 30.

Choosing word lists when opening documents

When opening a document, you may see an alert message asking if you want to use the word list in the document or an exception word list in the user dictionary. An exception word list includes words that were added to the User Dictionary while the document was worked on. If you know which exception word list you use, click its button. If you’re not sure, click either button, choose Edit > Spelling > Dictionary to inspect the word lists, and then, if necessary, choose Edit > Preferences > Dictionary (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Dictionary (Mac OS) to reset the word list used for composition. See Hyphenation and spelling dictionaries.

Convert earlier versions of InDesign documents

  1. To convert previous versions of InDesign documents to the current version, choose File > Open and open the file.

    Keep in mind the following points:

    • If you used third-party plug-ins to create an earlier version of a document, check with the manufacturer to make sure that they are installed correctly for and are compatible with InDesign CS5 before you convert the document.

    • When you convert a document, you may see an alert message asking if you want to use the exception word list in the user dictionary or the one in the document. For information about this alert message, see Choosing word lists when opening documents.

    • Library files created in earlier versions of InDesign will open and convert in InDesign CS5, even if the library is locked. You have to specify a name and location for the converted library files; the default naming convention is filename‑X.indl.

    • Previous versions of InDesign can’t open latest InDesign documents directly. For example, to open an InDesign CS5 document in InDesign CS4, you must do two things. First, choose File > Export in InDesign CS5 to save the document in IDML format. Second, update InDesign CS4 with special plug‑ins that let you open the IDML file. (See Save backwards to the previous InDesign version.)


If you’re experiencing problems with a document that was created in a previous version of InDesign, use the Export dialog box in InDesign CS5 to save the document in InDesign Markup (IDML) format. Then open the IDML file and save it as an InDesign document.

Use Adobe Bridge with InDesign

Adobe Bridge is a cross-platform application included with AdobeCreative Suite components that helps you locate, organize, and browse the assets you need to create print, web, video, and audio content. You can start Adobe Bridge from any Creative Suitecomponent (except Adobe Acrobat®), and use it to access both Adobe and non-Adobe asset types.

From Adobe Bridge, you can:

  • Manage image, footage, and audio files: Preview, search, sort, and process files in Adobe Bridge without opening individual applications. You can also edit metadata for files, and use Adobe Bridge to place files into your documents, projects, or compositions.

  • View the links inside an InDesign document as thumbnails while in Adobe Bridge, without actually having to open the InDesign document in InDesign.

  • Drag assets from Adobe Bridge into the InDesign document window, or drag assets from the document window into Adobe Bridge to create snippets. See Use snippets.

  • Perform automated tasks, such as batch commands.

  • Synchronize color settings across color-managed Creative Suite components.

  • Start a real-time web conference to share your desktop and review documents.

Use document templates

Templates are useful starting points for standard documents because you can preset them with layout, graphics, and text. For example, if you prepare a monthly magazine, you can create a template that contains the layout of a typical issue, including ruler guides, grids, master pages, custom styles and swatches, placeholder frames, layers, and any standard graphics or text. That way you can simply open the template each month and import new content.

You create a template the same way you create a regular document; the only difference occurs when you save the document. When you prepare a template for others to use, you may want to add a layer containing instructions about the template; hide or delete the layer before printing the document. See Layers.


For Chinese versions of InDesign, you can open specially designed templates that include custom mojikumi sets.

Save a document as a template

  1. Choose File > Save As, and specify a location and filename.
  2. Choose InDesign 2019 document in Save as type (Windows) or Format (Mac OS), and then click Save.

Start a new document from a template

  1. Choose File > Open.
  2. Locate and select a template.
  3. Select Normal (Windows) or Open Normal (Mac OS), and then click Open.
  4. Save the new document with its own name.

Edit an existing template

  1. Choose File > Open.
  2. Locate and select a template.
  3. Select Original (Windows) or Open Original (Mac OS), and then click Open.

Review InDesign documents

Adobe offers several methods for reviewing InDesign documents.

Tracking editing changes

As you or another person edits text, InDesign highlights added text and strikes through deleted text when Track Changes is turned on. Use the Story Editor to view changes. The document owner can go through the edits and accept or reject changes. See Tracking and reviewing changes.

Using Acrobat to review a PDF file

You can export the InDesign document to PDF and use Adobe Acrobat to set up an email review or a shared review on or another server. Reviewers can add comments using the Sticky Note tool and other markup methods. The document owner can then go through the PDF review comments and edit the original InDesign document. For more information, see Acrobat Help.

Using CS Review

CS Review is an online subscription service that lets you share your designs on the web so that others can provide immediate feedback. When you create a review using the CS Review panel, you upload one or more snapshots of the file to the workspace. Reviewers can then add comments.

When you create a review, you can divide the review into parts that offer separate areas for review commenting. A review can consist of parts from different files and applications. As the review progresses, you can add and remove review parts as part of a dynamic review process.

Design calendars and business cards from templates

One way to create a calendars, business cards, resumes or CVs, and other specialized documents is to use templates.

Adobe provides several templates at the Adobe Marketplace and Exchange site:

Use search to locate additional resources for specialty documents.