Adobe InDesign 2021 Troubleshooting How-to Guide
How to reset preferences as well as a step-by-step checklist strategy of what to do when your InDesign app crashes or your document becomes corrupted. What do you do when InDesign 2021 (and past versions) is crashing? Here is a checklist of ideas:
Isolate the source problem
Is the problem the InDesign application, or something wrong with your file? InDesign won’t start, or file won’t open, or file opens and crashes, or crashes on same page?
Do you have enough RAM?
You need at least 16GB of RAM to run effectively.
Restart your computer
Quit InDesign, restart your computer, and try to start it again, with no other programs running.
Run your Mac or Windows Utilities
Before you start any programs, try running housekeeping operating system utilities like DiskWarrior or CCleaner before starting InDesign again. Some Windows 10 users manually empty the Temp folder on a regular basis.
Force a screen redraw
Sometimes the screen is not redrawing. Try: Shift-F5 to force a redraw. What looks like a bug will often vanish. Cmd+Opt+/ (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+/ (Win) will force InDesign to recompose the text and also refreshes the screen.
Windows 10: Required Fonts
See Font Settings. There is a Check Box to “Hide fonts based on language settings.” Also “Restore default font settings” will help in case you delete fonts you needed.
Round up the usual font suspects
Font Doctor can diagnose and repair fonts, a common reason for crashing.
Same problem in a new file?
Do you get the same problem in a new file, or does it only happen in one problem file? This can help you determine if its the InDesign application or a corrupt file.
Move from network to hard drive
Working on a network server drive can work OK. But, if you are having trouble, try packaging the InDesign file (File > Package) to a folder on your local hard drive, and work local. Network problems can cause crashing. InDesign 2017 and newer is better at network drives.
Keyboard shortcuts not working
Usually caused by a 3rd-party software, possibly a browser plug-in. Try rebooting and loading InDesign. If it works, then load the browser and see if it breaks.
Missing File Info dialog
Missing the File Info dialog? Locate and delete the DVADialogPrefs.xml file and restart InDesign 2021.
Component Information dialog
Hold down the Cmd key while you choose InDesign > About InDesign (Mac), or the Ctrl key while you choose Help > About InDesign (Win). The Component Information dialog can tell you potentially useful info about the history of your file.
User cannot start InDesign
With admin privileges, create a new user and launch InDesign. This will tell you whether or not the user account is corrupted.
Updating to InDesign 2021
While installing, Import previous settings and preferences seems to trigger many operational issues. Turn this off.
Reset (aka trashing) preferences
Custom preferences are written to file each time you quit InDesign, but can get corrupted if it crashes.
Simply delete them (or move them elsewhere) and restart. InDesign will write a new set of preferences. Press modifier keys immediately as/after you click on the InDesign icon. Press Cmd+Opt+Ctrl+Shift (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Win). Click Yes to this message:
Startup Alert: Delete InDesign Preference files?
If you want to to protect a backup copy, do this:
Start InDesign 2021 (or your older version)
Open Scripts panel (Window > Utilities > Scripts)
Right-click on the User folder, and choose Reveal in Finder (Mac) or Reveal in Explorer (Win)
This is a folder named Scripts Panel in the Mac Finder or Win Explorer. Go one level above this folder to the preferences file named InDesign Defaults. If you make a backup copy of this file, you can restore it (copy it back) if the original file becomes corrupt.
To reset manually, delete InDesign Defaults and InDesign SavedData files, and restart InDesign.
Here is the folder location for the InDesign Defaults:
macOS: Home > Library > Preferences > Adobe InDesign > Version 16 > en_US > InDesign Defaults
Windows 10: Users > UserName > AppData > Roaming > Adobe > InDesign > Version 16 > en_US > InDesign Defaults
Here is the folder location for the InDesign SavedData:
macOS: Home > Library > Caches > Adobe InDesign > Version 16 > en_US >
Windows 10: Users > AppData > Local > Adobe > InDesign > Version 16 > en_US > Caches >
I usually visit this Caches folder to delete the InDesign SavedData file (when I manually reset preferences by finding and deleting InDesign Defaults and InDesign SavedData), but you might need to go into the InDesign Recovery sub-folder and delete all the files inside if you are caught in a restart/crash loop.
Some say the keyboard method works better than the manual file delete method. In worst cases, some users delete all files under these two folder locations.
InDesign is crashing
Turn off Type Contextual Controls
Preferences > Advanced Type > Type Contextual Controls. This is a new feature that shows you alternate glyphs. In CC 2017, this feature proved to be buggy. Try turning these features off.
Turn off GPU Performance
If you are using InDesign CC 2015.4 (or later) on a GPU-equipped Mac with Retina display, disable the GPU Performance feature in Preferences > GPU Performance or View > Preview on CPU and see if your problem stops.
Close docked and floating panels
Sometimes files crash with certain panels open, but when the panels are closed, the file doesn’t crash. A quick way to temporarily hide all panels on the screen is to press the Tab key (when you don’t have text selected), or Shift-Tab to hide all panels except the Tools panel.
Remove third-party plug-ins, if any
The most common problem is font activation plug-ins, since they rely on the OS, InDesign, and the plug-in all to work well together. Try shutting down font management software. Look in the Plug-ins folder in the InDesign folder in Applications (Mac) or Program Files (Windows) to remove (or move to another location) plug-ins from InDesign.
Crash on Print or Export to PDF
First, try the export to IDML trick. Next, try the Divide and Conquer technique. If you isolate a page, move half the objects to the pasteboard and test again.
If it is a graphic, open the graphic file and re-save to a new filename and different format. Place it back onto the page. If it is a textframe, copy the text out to a text editor to remove all formatting. Try to replace back in.
Reinstall InDesign 2021
You might try to uninstall and then reinstall InDesign using the Creative Cloud app. Some run the Adobe cleaner utility before reinstalling:
InDesign Auto Recovery crashing
InDesign temporarily saves, or caches, information about the documents you are working on, to be recovered if InDesign crashes. When you restart, InDesign attempts to recover and reopen the problem file, causing it to crash again. The solution to this is to delete the cache files:
macOS: Home > Library > Caches > Adobe InDesign > Version 16 > en_US > InDesign Recovery > RecoveryData (or even the whole folder)
Windows 10: Users > Username > AppData > Local > Adobe > InDesign > Version 16 > en_US > Caches > InDesign Recovery > RecoveryData (or whole folder)
Win 10: Recent Files
Right-click on the InDesign icon in the taskbar. Under “Recent” there were files that InDesign kept looking for. Right-click on the file and “Remove from this list.” Shut down InDesign with Task Manager and then restart.
Finding Hidden files
macOS: show Library folder
Make the user Library folder visible in macOS:
Method 1: In the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder. In the Go To Folder dialog box, type ~/Library. Click Go.
Method 2: Hold down the Opt key when using the Go menu. The Library folder shows. Note: drag the Library icon to the Dock, sidebar, or toolbar, making it accessible.
Method 3: Launch Terminal, type the following:
chflags nohidden ~/Library
and press Return. Enter the password, and press Return. Close Terminal. The Library folder is now visible in Finder.
macOS: Reset permissions in Terminal
Launch Terminal, and type the following:
sudo chmod -R 777 /Users/<user>/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign
sudo chmod -R 777 /Users/<user>/Library/Caches/Adobe InDesign
sudo chmod -R 777 /Users/<user>/Library/Application Support
Win 10: AppData folder is hidden
In Windows, open File Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options > View Tab, and then scroll down and check the radio button to show hidden files and folders.
Salvage the document
Export to IDML
IDML (File > Export > InDesign Markup IDML) is a way to write an InDesign document to XML code. Export to IDML, then close the original file, and open the IDML to a new file sometimes cleans the file of corruption.
Divide and conquer
Delete half the pages, and see if the problem goes away. If so, now you know which half of the file is the problem. Return to the original file, and remove half of the section you previously removed. Keep deleting segments of the file to narrow the problem to a single page or pages. Rebuild those pages to heal the problem.
Push damaged pages into a new file
Use the Move Pages command in the Pages panel menu to push pages from a damaged document into a new document with the same page setup.
Delete a text frame
A single corrupt story can be the source of the problem. Try exporting all the text, then deleting one or more of the text frames and see if the problem clears. If so, replace the exported text into new text frames.
Delete a graphics frame
Actually, any frame object can be the source of crashing. Try deleting a frame object to resolve crashing.
Delete styles and swatches
Try deleting (first the unused) paragraph, character, object, table, and cell styles, and color swatches, and see if the problem clears.
Export text to recover assets
Sometimes you need to get the text out of the file so that you can rebuild the project. Try exporting the text (File > Export > Text Only), or try ExportAllStories.jsx script.
Convert a PDF to a new InDesign file
Try exporting to PDF, and using PDF2ID to convert back to InDesign.
Acrobat DC’s Export To command
Acrobat’s File > Export To command can extract to a Word .docx or PowerPoint .pptx so that you can rebuild.
DTP File Recovery Service
Markzware offers a File Recovery Service. You pay the larger fee only if they are able to recover your file.
InDesign files are databases of all objects you’ve ever placed on your page, even those that you’ve deleted. Occasionally do a File > Save As and to save over the original file. This will compact and clean up the file, keeping the database smaller, and less prone to corruption.
Keep a chain of version backups
Practice saving named backups. If the document corrupts, you can go back to a workable version without much loss. Files saved in Dropbox have backups. A free plug-in called Radish can save versions for you. Mac Time Machine could be a resource to retrieve an older version.
Don’t build in a single document
Some say it is better to break the large project into smaller files, and use the Book feature (File > New > Book) to help manage the individual document files.
Don’t fill pasteboard with objects
Don’t store objects on the pasteboard, the area beyond the page. It makes the file larger, and printing slows down. Instead, use Libraries (File > New > Library) and/or CC Libraries (Window > CC Libraries) to store extras. Or make XML Snippets (File > Export > InDesign Snippet) for storing objects that you might re-use later.
macOS: reset font caches
A frequent cause of app crashing. Use FontNuke utility to remove and reset macOS font caches:
PostScript Type 1 fonts
Old PostScript Type 1 fonts will not be supported beginning January 2023.
macOS: avoid system dfonts
macOS: Avoid using system .dfonts in documents.
General font advice
Remove old PostScript Type 1 fonts. Use only OpenType versions of fonts. Don’t have multiple versions installed. Even having a sub-folder of “Document fonts” can potentially cause multiple font confusion, so trying renaming or moving/removing that sub-folder when troubleshooting missing font confusion.
Use linked graphics
Don’t copy and paste artwork from Illustrator and other programs into InDesign. This makes the file more prone to corruption. Instead, always use File > Place to place .ai and .psd graphics. If InDesign always crashes on a particular page, it might be that placed graphic that is corrupt; therefore replacing the placed (not pasted) graphic can be an easier operation.
Adobe help documentation
Recover damaged InDesign documents:
New with InDesign 2021 is an automatic checking for damage as you open the file. If it detects corruption, InDesign 2021 automatically repairs it.
Adobe InDesign user forums
Research your questions on these two public forums:
Other outside help
No guarantees, but Adobe might be able to help: email or link your file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try searching for “fixed” or “known issues”. Bear in mind that InDesign does not run well on M1-chipped Macs.
Thanks to all
This list was compiled with the help of all the expert InDesign people on this forum ■
I have bookmarked this page for future reference.
Thank you Mike!
You are welcome, Bevi. Thanks for your contribution to this evolving list!
Thanks, Mike! This will surely help other community members.
Thank-you, Mike! As an 'intermediate' user/learner your list is invaluable!! So far, the only real problems I have experienced with InDesign docs are ones that I have created myself. Hoping to get some 'real-world' work soon, and expect that I will run into issues where your list of trouble-shoots and preventative suggestions will save large parts of my anatomy and brain! 😉
You are welcome! It is important to conserve both anatomy and brain!