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Working with Long Documents in Adobe InDesign CS3: Books

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InDesign performs better with shorter documents. Splitting a large project into smaller parts is generally more efficient, especially when more than one person is working on the project at the same time. The burning question is: if you break up your project into small documents, how can you ensure style consistency and proper page numbering among them? The answer is InDesign’s Book feature.
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What constitutes a long document? Die-hard denizens of the FrameMaker universe insist that if a document isn’t over a thousand pages, it’s not a long document. Poster designers, on the other hand, maintain that folded flyers and newsletters qualify.

We’re not sure what our definition of a “long document” is, but we think that anyone building a book, a magazine, a newspaper, a journal, or a catalog—just about any document, really, of any number of pages—can benefit from the long document features in InDesign.

There are three features in InDesign that relate directly to publishing long documents.

  • Books. You can tie multiple documents together into a book, which appears in the form of a panel in InDesign. From here, you can control page numbering, printing, and synchronize document attributes as styles, colors, and master pages.

  • Table of Contents. If you use paragraph styles regularly, you’re going to love the Table of Contents feature, which can build a table of contents (or a list of figures, or a table of advertisers, or any number of other things) quickly and easily.

  • Indexes. Building an index is a hardship we wouldn’t wish on anyone (we’ve done enough of them ourselves), but InDesign’s indexing features go a long way toward making it bearable.

Again, even if you don’t currently create what you’d consider to be “long documents,” take a gander at these features; they’re flexible enough to be used in documents as small as even a few pages.


Even though an InDesign document can be thousands of pages long, it’s best to split long documents up into smaller parts. InDesign performs better with shorter documents. Splitting a large project into smaller parts is generally more efficient, especially when more than one person is working on the project at the same time. The burning question is: if you break up your project into small documents, how can you ensure style consistency and proper page numbering among them? The answer is InDesign’s Book feature.

Most people think of a book as a collection of chapters bound together to act as a single document. In InDesign, a book is a collection of InDesign documents on your disk or network that are loosely connected with each other via the Book panel. In other words, just because it’s called a “book” doesn’t mean it’s not relevant for magazines, catalogs, or any other set of documents.

There are five benefits to using the Book panel.

  • It’s a good way to organize the documents in a project, and it’s faster to open them using the Book panel than it is to use the Open dialog box.
  • If you use automatic page numbering in your document (see “Numbering Pages” in Chapter 2, “Page Layout”), InDesign manages the page numbering throughout the entire book, so if the first document ends on page 20, the second document starts on page 21, and so on (assuming that the numbering and section options settings in that document agree, of course).
  • You can print, package, or export one or more documents from the Book panel using the same settings without even having the documents open.
  • The Synchronize feature helps you ensure that styles, colors, and other settings are consistent among the documents.
  • By associating files together as a book, you can mix page sizes and page orientations in a publication—which you can’t do in a single InDesign document (without a third-party plug-in).

The more documents there are in your project, and the more pages, styles, colors, and whatnot are used in each document, the more useful the Book feature will be to you. Even if you’re juggling two or three documents, it may be worth the minor inconvenience it takes to build a book.

Building a Book

To build a new book, select Book from the New submenu of the File menu. At this point, InDesign displays the New Book dialog box. Tell the program where to save your new book file (you can put it anywhere you want on your hard drive or network, but you should put it somewhere easy to find—because you’ll be using it a lot).

Book files appear in InDesign as panels. When you’ve saved your new book, InDesign displays a new Book panel (see Figure 8-1).

Adding and Removing Book Documents

To add a document to your Book panel, click the Add Document button in the panel and choose a document from your disk or network (see Figure 8-2). If no documents on the panel are selected when you add a new document, the new document is added at the end of the list. If you select a document first, the new document is added after the selected document. You can also drag files directly from Windows Explorer or from the Mac OS X Finder windows into a book panel; this is often the fastest way to get a folder full of files into a book.

If you accidentally insert a document in the wrong place in a Book panel, don’t worry—you can move a document up and down on the list. To do this, select the book document and drag it to a new location in the list (see Figure 8-3).

Although Adobe’s documentation points out that you can copy a document from one book panel to another by Option-dragging/Alt-dragging, we don’t recommend this in most cases. Having the same document in more than one book can cause pagination problems and general confusion.

To remove a document from a Book panel, select the document and click the Remove Document button. If you want to remove more than one document, select the documents (use Shift for contiguous selections, or Command/Ctrl for discontinuous selections on the list) and then click the Remove Document button (see Figure 8-4). Note that deleting a document from the Book panel does not delete the file from disk; it simply removes it from the list.

To replace a book document, select the document in the Book panel and choose Replace Document from the Book panel menu. InDesign displays the Replace Document dialog box. Locate and select the file you want to replace the document with, then click the OK button to close the dialog box and replace the document.

Converting Books from Past Versions

InDesign CS3 can open and convert books saved in previous versions of InDesign. It’s pretty straightforward—just open the book. There are, however, a couple of options that can help you—or hurt you—during the process of converting the book and the documents in the book.

  • If, after opening the book, you choose Save Book from the Book panel menu, InDesign will over write the InDesign book file with the converted book. Unless you have a backup copy of the book file, we think that you should save the converted book to a new book file by choosing Save Book As. Our experience is that every time we save over a previous version file—in any program—we end up regretting it at some point.
  • After you’ve opened and converted a book from an earlier version of InDesign, you can select the Automatic Document Conversion option from the Book panel menu. While this sounds like a great idea, it will over write every InDesign document in the book with an InDesign CS3 version of the document. Again, unless you have a backup of the previous version files, we think you should avoid this option. If you do not use this option, however, you’ll need to save each document in the book to a new file, which can be tedious if your book contains a large number of documents.

Using a Book As a Navigational Tool

Because there is only a very loose connection among the various documents in the Book panel, you could use this feature as an informal database of documents. For instance, let’s say you’ve built 15 different product data sheets and three small brochures for a client, and the client is forever updating them. Even though the documents may each use very different colors, styles, and so on, you could put them all on one Book panel and save this collection under the client’s name. Next time the client calls for a quick fix, you don’t have to go searching for a document; just open the Book panel and double-click the document name to open it.

However, if you do this, you probably first want to turn off the book panel’s autorenumbering feature (see “Page Numbering and Sections,” later in this chapter).

Editing Your Book

Once you’ve added documents to your Book panel, you can go about your regular routine of editing and preparing the documents. There are, as usual, a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Whenever possible, you should open your book’s documents while the Book panel is open. (The fastest way to open a document is to double-click the document name in the Book panel.) When you open and modify a document while the panel is not open, the panel isn’t smart enough to update itself (see “File Status,” below). If InDesign can’t find your document (perhaps it’s on a server that is not mounted), it’ll ask you where it is.
  • If you want to print more than one document in a book at a time, you should use the Print button on the Book panel (see “Printing and Exporting Books,” later in this section).
  • You should use caution when using the Numbering and Section Options feature to renumber any of the documents in the book (see “Page Numbering and Sections,” later in this section). In general, if you’re going to use automatic page numbering, you should let the Book panel handle your page numbering for you.
  • We use the Save As feature to track revisions of our documents. Each time we use Save As, we change the name slightly (“mydocument1,” “mydocument2,” and so on), so we can always go back to an earlier version if necessary. If you do this, however, note that the Book panel doesn’t catch on to what you’re doing; it just lists and keeps track of the original document. So every time you use Save As, you have to select the original file and select Replace Document from the Book panel’s menu.

Note that you cannot Undo or use Revert to Saved for changes in the Book panels, so be careful what you do in these beasts. Also, the changes you make to your Book panel, including adding, removing, and reordering documents, aren’t saved until you close the panel, quit InDesign, or select Save Book from the panel’s menu.

File Status

As you work with book documents, the Book panel monitors and displays the status of each document in the book. There are five possible icons in the Status column of the panel: Available, Open, Modified, Missing, or In Use (see Figure 8-5).

  • Available. The normal status of a document is Available (no icon). This means that no one has the document open for editing and that the document has not changed since the last time it was open on the computer you’re using.

  • Open. When you have a document open on your system, the status of that file is listed as Open (an open book icon).

  • Modified. When you or anyone else who has access to the file opens and changes a document while the Book panel is not open, the status will be listed as Modified in the Book panel (triangle icon). It’s easy to change the status back to Available: open the file while the Book panel is open, then close the document again. Or, even easier: select Update Numbering from the panel’s menu.

  • Missing. If you move a document after adding it to the Book panel, InDesign won’t be able to find it, and the status is listed as Missing (red stop sign icon). To “find” a file again, double-click the chapter name in the Book panel; InDesign displays the Replace Document dialog box in which you can tell it where the document now resides.

  • In Use. If someone else on your network opens one of the documents in your book via the Book panel, the Status field of the Book panel lists that chapter as in use (padlock icon).

It’s important to pay attention to the Status column readings, because documents must be either Available or Open in order to synchronize, print, or renumber properly.

Books and Networks

People are increasingly working on projects in groups rather than individually. Adobe anticipated this, and if you put your book file and documents on a server, more than one person can open the panel at the same time. (Only one person can open an InDesign document at a time, however.) While this isn’t nearly as powerful as a full-blown document management system, it’s certainly useful if a group of people have to work on different documents in the book at the same time.

We don’t like working on documents when they’re on a server. It makes us nervous, and it’s also really slow. Instead, we prefer to copy the file to our local hard drive, edit it at our leisure, and then return the file to the server when we’re done with it.

There are two problems with this. First, the Book panel doesn’t update properly. Second, other people on your network might not realize that you’ve got the “live” file, so make it clear to them: hide the document on the server, or put it in another folder called “work in progress” or something like that.

Synchronizing Your Book Documents

The more documents you’re working with, the more likely it is that one or more of them contain settings inconsistent with the others in the book. Perhaps you decided to change a style definition in one document out of 20, and then forgot to change it in the other 19. Or perhaps your art director decided to change a Pantone color in a document and you now need to update the color in all of the other documents in the book.

Fortunately, the Synchronize Book button on the Book panel lets you ensure that all styles, color settings, variables, numbered lists, and master pages are consistent throughout the documents in a book. Here’s how it works.

The Master Document

One document on the Book panel is always marked as the master document (by default, it’s the first document you add to the panel; InDesign’s documentation refers to this document as the style source document). The master document—which has a cryptic little icon to the left of it—is the document to which all the other documents will be synchronized. That means that if you add a new color to the master document and click the Synchronize Book button, the color will be added to all of the other documents in the book. If you add a new color to a document that is not the master document, the color won’t be added when you synchronize the documents.

You can always change which document is the master document. To do that, click in the left column of the Book panel next to the document you want to set as the master document.


In order to synchronize your book documents, you must first select which files you want to synchronize in the Book panel; remember that you can Shift-click to select contiguous documents or use Command-click/Ctrl-click to select discontinuous documents. Or, if you want to synchronize all the files, make sure that no documents (or all documents) are selected in the panel.

  • A style, color swatch, variable, numbered list, or master page that is defined in the master document but not in another document gets added to that other document.
  • If a setting is named the same in both the master document and another document, the definition for that setting in the master document overrides the one in the non-master document.
  • If a setting is not defined in the master document but exists in some other document, it’s left alone. (This means you can have “local” settings that exist in one document that don’t have to be copied into all the others.)
  • By selecting Synchronize Options in the Book panel’s menu, you can choose which settings will be synchronized among the documents (see Figure 8-6). However, if the master document contains table of contents styles (which we talk about later in this chapter) and you turn on the TOC Styles check box in the Synchronize Options dialog box, all the character and paragraph styles are synchronized, even if you’ve turned off the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles check boxes.

Synchronizing a document can be a time-consuming process—the more documents and the more settings, the longer it takes.

Page Numbering and Sections

Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the Book feature is that it keeps track of your page numbering for you and updates the page numbers when you add pages to or delete them from a document, or if you add a new document between two other documents in a book. Of course, this only works if you’ve placed automatic page numbers on your document pages (see “Numbering Pages” in Chapter 2).

Let’s say you’ve got one 16-page document in your Book panel already. When you add another document, InDesign automatically sets its first page number of the new document to 17 (provided you had not already specified the first page as a section start in the Numbering and Section Options dialog box). If you later open the first document and add two pages, InDesign automatically renumbers the second document—the next time you open it, you’ll see that it starts on page 19.

If, on the other hand, you use the Numbering and Section Options dialog box (you can jump to this feature quickly by double-clicking on the page numbers in the Book panel) to create a section start, the Book panel respects that. Any subsequent documents in the Book panel continue the page numbering from where the previous document’s page numbering left off.

If you don’t use automatic page numbers, or you have manually specified page numbers for each document in your book, you will probably tire of watching InDesign repaginate your book. Fortunately, you can turn this feature off by selecting Book Page Numbering Options from the Book panel’s menu, and unchecking Automatically Update Page and Section Numbers (see Figure 8-7).

Odd Versus Even Page Numbers

When chapter 2 ends on page 45, what page number does InDesign assign to the first page of chapter 3? If you’re in the book business, you probably want chapter 3 to start on page 47, because it’s a right-hand page. (Olav insists on editing and/or adjusting the layout to avoid a blank left-hand page.) Catalog and magazine publishers would want the third file to begin on page 46, even though it’s a left-hand page. You can specify what you want InDesign to do by choosing Book Page Numbering Options from the Book panel’s menu. You’ve got three choices: Continue from Previous Document, Continue on Next Odd Page, and Continue on Next Even Page.

When you turn on the Insert blank page option, InDesign adds a page to fill any gaps between chapters. For example, if chapter 2 ends on page 45 and you turn on the Continue on Next Odd Page, then InDesign adds a blank page at the end of chapter 2. This page is truly blank—it’s not based on any master page. If you want a running head on that page, you’ll have to apply the master page yourself. (By the way, David once almost drove himself mad trying to figure out why he couldn’t delete the last page from a document. The answer, of course, was that he had forgotten this feature was on.)

Chapter Numbering

If you’d like to number each document in your book, you can let InDesign handle the numbering for you using chapter numbers. To set up chapter numbering, select the first page in the document, then choose Numbering & Section Options from the Layout menu (or from the Pages panel menu). In the Document Chapter Numbering section of the dialog box (see Figure 8-8), choose a numbering Style (such as regular numerals, roman numerals, or letters). Then choose whether you want to specify a chapter number for this book or base the number off the chapter number of the previous document in the book panel. Note that even though a single document can have multiple sections, it can have only one chapter number.

Once you have set up the Numbering & Section Options dialog box, you can “type” the chapter number in a text frame by inserting a chapter number text variable. For more information on text variables, see Chapter 3, “Text”.

Note that when your chapter numbering changes (for example, if you rearrange the order of the documents in the book panel), the chapter numbers in your documents are not updated until you choose Update All Numbers or Update Chapter & Paragraph Numbers from the Update Numbering submenu in the book panel’s menu. If you do this and the number on the screen in front of you still doesn’t update, remember that text variables only change when you force the screen to redraw.

Printing and Exporting Books

Even though we cover printing documents in Chapter 11, “Printing,” we should take this opportunity to mention a few things that are specific to printing, packaging, or exporting books.

First, each chapter in a book must be listed as Open, Available, or Modified on the Book panel in order for the document to print. This is because InDesign invisibly opens each document at print or export time (you don’t see the document open on screen, but it does).

Second, if you only want certain documents in a book to print or be exported, select them in the Book panel. Remember that you can select contiguous documents on the list by holding down the Shift key, and discontinuous documents with Command/Ctrl. If no documents are selected, then they’ll all print. (Click in the blank area at the bottom of the panel to deselect all the documents.)

When you’re ready to print, click the Print Book button in the Book panel or select Print Book (or Print Selected Documents) from the panel’s menu. The settings you choose in the Print dialog box apply to every document in the book.

You can export your book as an Acrobat PDF file by choosing Export Book to PDF (or Export Selected Documents to PDF) from the panel’s menu. If you turn on the Create Acrobat Layers checkbox when you export the PDF, InDesign merges all layers that have the same name into a single PDF layer. However, if you first deselect Merge Identically Name Layers on Export in the book panel’s menu, the PDF will include individual layers for each document.

Similarly, to package all the documents in the book, plus their required fonts and linked images, you can choose Package Book for Print from the panel’s menu. When you package a book, all the linked images are copied into a single Links folder—though if your documents have placed images that are unique but have the same name, InDesign is smart enough to automatically rename them.

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