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Troubleshooting 101: Replace, or "trash" your InDesign preferences [2009 Outdated & Locked]

LEGEND ,
Nov 18, 2009

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When InDesign starts to behave strangely, the number one suggestion for troubleshooting is to replace (or trash, reset or restore) the application preferences. This will remove corrupt preferences and replace them with a new set of default preferences, and often end bad behavior.

There is a quick and easy method for doing this using the keyboard: close and relaunch InDesign, and IMMEDIATELY hold down Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows) or Cmd + Ctrl + Opt + Shift (Mac), and respond in the affirmative to the dialog asking if you really want to replace the preferences. There are two downsides to this method, however. First, you must be extremely fast on the keyboard (if you don’t see the confirmation prompt, you were too slow), and second, anytime you replace the preferences you will lose most program customizations, and using the keyboard method leaves you with no backup to restore them when the problem turns out to be something else.

My preferred method is to CLOSE INDESIGN and do a “manual” prefs replacement, which consists of finding and renaming the two files which make up the preference set: InDesign Defaults and InDesign SavedData. BOTH of these files should be replaced at the same time. You can delete them, but renaming or moving them will give you the opportunity to copy them back in the event that new prefs doesn’t cure your issue. When you restart ID, the program will look for these two files, and when they are not found, a new default set will be written.

[Defunct link removed by Peter Spier on 11/6/15]

These are normally hidden files, so you will need to set your system to show them. They will be found in various places depending on the OS, and the version of InDesign. (Edit: For Mac users running OSX 10.7 or newer, you can learn how to show hidden files here: Access hidden user library files | Mac OS 10.7 Lion)

PLEASE LOOK AT THESE PATHS CAREFULLY. They look similar, but are two different folders for the two files.

InDesign Defaults:

Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<USER>\Application Data\Adobe\InDesign\<Version #>\<language>\  (Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

Windows Vista or Windows 7 and newer: C:\Users\<USER>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\InDesign\<Version #>\<Language>\ (Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

Macintosh: Hard Drive/Users/<USER>/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign/<Version #>/<Language>/(Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

InDesign SavedData:

Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<USER>\Local Settings\Application Data\Adobe\InDesign\<Version #>\<Language>\Caches\ (Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

Windows Vista or Windows 7 and newer: C:\Users\<USER>\AppData\Local\Adobe\InDesign\<Version #>\<Language>\Caches\  (Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

Macintosh: Hard Drive/Users/<USER>/Library/Caches/Adobe InDesign/<Version #>/<Language>/ (Note: Prior to version 6 [CS4] the language folder is not used).

In some earlier versions of ID, InDesign SavedData may also be found in the first directory.

As mentioned above, when you replace your preferences you will lose customizations beyond those things that are set in the preferences dialogs. These include Document and Print Presets you might have created. If you haven't made backups already, you should go, prior to replacing the preferences, to the "Define" dialogs for printer and document presets and custom stroke styles, and select all of your custom entries, the click the save button and put the file someplace safe. After resetting preferences using the keyboard or by renaming/deleting the old files and restarting InDesign, these customized settings can be re-loaded with a single click once again in the Define dialogs. 
  
PDF presets can be backed up in the same way, but they are stored in a different location and will not be destroyed by a simple preference reset. Other customizations that you should not lose are workspaces, keyboard shortcut sets, and find/change queries.

As a further step I strongly recommend that you make a copy of these two files when you have a working customized set. Store them in a safe place and you can use them to overwrite a corrupt set so no further editing or reloading will be required. Users of InDesign CS4 can use a free script from InTools.com to backup and store multiple sets of preferences: In-Tools Scripts » Preference Manager Script

Edit: Corrected Mac Path per Jongware's post below.

UPDATE: I just ran across a situation in which overwriting the InDesign Defaults and InDesign SavedData files failed to restore functionality to the tools on a single user account on a multiple user system (the other account was fine). This is an absolute first and I've been using the technique for years, including replacing these two files on this system which is used by the student newspaper where I was a professor, in order to customize or restore preferences every semester. What did work was to use the keyboard method first, then close InDesign and manually replace the two files to restore the prefs to the proper settings.  -- Peter

Further update: We have had several reports now in the CC versions of InDesign where using the manual method has failed to solve problems that are normally fixed by replacing preferences. to the best of my knowledge, using the keyboard method has solved the problem for each of those users. -- Peter

Message was edited by: Peter Spier

Message was edited by: Peter Spier

Message was edited by: amxyz

Message was edited by: Peter Spier to add path warnings.

Message was edited by: Peter Spier to add update re: failure of one method and success of other in CC.

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New Here ,
Oct 24, 2017

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Peter, your answer (to hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift in Windows) really solved the problem.

I lost some of my basic settings, but my personal workspace is still active and could be applied.

Thanks to you Peter and all rest of you guys in helping me in this.

Regards,
Jonas

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Community Beginner ,
Dec 19, 2017

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I am having this same problem today on Mac (10.10.5 Yosemite). I tried the quick-and-easy method of clearing my Preferences but it didn't work. I'm going hunting for the "hidden" files.

Does anyone know what is causing this problem? Seems like a bug if so many people are having trouble with it on both platforms for six years now.

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Community Beginner ,
Dec 19, 2017

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I restarted my machine and now it's working ok. WTH????

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Advocate ,
Jan 19, 2018

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Hello BobLevine​ and Peter Spier​,

you two overlords, does that sound usual to you?:

When my InD freezes, some pref get trashed, while other still persist. I reconfigure my client and everything runs fine, starts- and shutdowns. But when I have to kill the app, prefs get lost – that behaviour is kinda new the last 4 days.

Things that stay: PDF-Prefs, keyboard short-cuts, scripts, workspace settings

What gets lost: the main Prefs, default paragraph setting, printer presets
(MacOS 10.13.2/InD CC 2017)

Do you think, the 3rd-company-plugin messes up the preferences? Still most of the InD freezes happen while opening any document. But I even dont get why the prefs trash in the first place – they should be read(-only), while not making changes…

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LEGEND ,
Jan 19, 2018

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I would certainly try uninstalling the 3rd party plugin and see if the problem gets better. Most plugins don't transfer to newer versions, so if this was not specifically updated for your version of ID that could easily be your problem.

If you find that is the case, I would recommend rolling back to the old version until an updated plugin is available.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 19, 2018

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[Off topic]

OMG!

Peter, welcome back! I haven't seen you here for a very long time!

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New Here ,
Apr 11, 2018

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Tried shift+control+alt many times, fast. Never got dialog box to trash In Design Preferences. There must be another way. I have over 100 layers and facing the publisher deadline.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 11, 2018

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Rashida,

You have to be quick

  • Quit InDesign
  • Hover your left hand over Ctrl-Alt-Shift. Linger on the keys, but don't press them yet.
  • Launch InDesign with your mouse
  • You now have 1/10 of a second to press down those three keys your fingers are lingering on. Press and hold as InDesign launches. You will get a dialog box asking if you want to delete Preferences.

And yes, there is another way. Look at the very first post in this thread for instructions.

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Advocate ,
Apr 12, 2018

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Seems that youre on Windows, maybe this works too:

On my mac, I can hold down the keys, but i cant doubleclick/click to open my InDesign. Instead the context-menu opens (because of holding 'control'), but you can choose 'Open' there. The context-menu of Windows shows an 'open'-option too, meybe you can get there while holding the keys. Isnt there a context-key on your windows-keyboard near right-alt?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 12, 2018

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DBLjan

Rashida asked about Windows. On a Mac it's easier.

  • Hold down Cmd+Ctrl+Opt+Shift first
  • Then click the icon in your dock
  • From the shortcut menu, choose open to launch
  • Again, you will get the dialog to delete Preferences.

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Explorer ,
Apr 23, 2018

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I have done these steps but no dialog appears allowing me to delete preferences.

  • Hold down Cmd+Ctrl+Opt+Shift first
  • Then click the icon in your dock
  • From the shortcut menu, choose open to launch
  • Am I missing something?  I end up right in the window where you open a new or recent project, but do not see a dialog asking if I want to delete preferences.

I had also tried the manual method and that did not work.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 23, 2018

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Mary,

Keep holding the keys until you get the dialog box. You may be releasing them too early.

Double-check your fingers. Sometimes people are on the wrong keys.

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Explorer ,
Apr 23, 2018

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Hi, Jane.

Thank you for replying.


I had tried 5 times and had someone watch me. Held those keys for a long time waiting to see if the dialog box would appear, but it did not. So I called Adobe.

I just got off the phone with Adobe technical support.

The customer service rep fixed it manually similar to what the steps some people indicated earlier in the thread. She renamed both the Library folders in Cache and Adobe Indesign by adding a .old.   Then restarted and it worked. 

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New Here ,
Apr 23, 2018

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After a few failed attempts, and with lightening speed of pressing the suggested keys, I was able to see the "Delete Preference" message, but deleting the preference  didn't solve the real problem, that the 100 plus layers of documents were not showing in the layer panel, so I could select and merge them to flatten the document for the printer. Someone said that Preferences are not related to the issue.. A friend  suggested that I didn't need to flatten the document, because it gets flattened when you export it in PDF Print file.  I hope this is correct and I am sending the document to the printer in a day or two. Thanks for your input.

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Apr 23, 2018

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Please start a new thread with details.

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jane-e LATEST
Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 23, 2018

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Bob,

Rashida already has a new thread that was branched from this thread. Instead of starting a second new thread or posting on this thread, I suggest that she instead post here:

Not all Layers are showing

On the other hand, this thread is eight years old and should be locked.

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