The problems with laying out long books as one file

I’m posting about these problems because I wasn’t able to find anyone else on the internet mentioning them, or their solutions. Of course, I wasn’t able to replicate the problems for a screenshot, but I’ll be more on top of that in the future.

For reference, I’m using InDesign CS5 on a MacBook Pro from 2008 with 2gigs of RAM.

InDesign has a “book” feature that lets you reference multiple indesign files to come together as a book. I never mess with it. There never seemed to be any reason to: with the pages palette, navigation isn’t really a problem, and since you can set section starts to redo page number, etc., it just didn’t seem worth the effort.

But I’d also never done lay out on an 800+ page book before, either. This past month I’ve been laying out Property Is Theft!, a gigantic Proudhon reader. It’s a monster of a file, with 500+ footnotes, dozens of sections, lots of subheads that are set to “keep with next line” etc. Still, I didn’t run into problems for the first 700 pages or so. And then, eventually, InDesign got kind of buggy. The first thing that happened is that a few random pages near the end decided to take forever to render… so whether I was working on them, or whether I was skipping past them, my whole system choked for ten seconds or so. Makes making any changes pretty aggravating.

A few saves and a few restarts later, those pages weren’t causing problems anymore. But then as I started to go through and do widow and orphan control (making sure each page is pretty, with no straggler single lines or words places they shouldn’t be), I found that I simply couldn’t select text in certain, random, pages. Saving, quitting, and restarting did nothing.

The solution that I found was to do a search for a string of text within an affected paragraph. The search dialogue was able to highlight text, and with the window open, I was able to select text freely. It also seemed to “break” the curse that was upon any given page.

The other problem I ran across was that my eyedropper tool would act funny. Specifically, when I used it to pick up the style of certain paragraphs, the entire page would turn black, some sort of screen error, but one that could only be solved by undoing the action. I never found a way around this, and simply applied paragraph styles the slower way by using the paragraph styles palette.

In the future, I guess I’ll start using the “book” feature, though honestly it still seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

Leave a Reply