Harness the Power of InDesign's Preflight Panel

Kelley Olmedo
Kelley OlmedoDesigner
InDesign's Preflight Panel

I find myself surprised when I discover that various InDesign features that I use religiously are features unused by other graphic designers. Enter the preflight panel. Combing through your InDesign documents for errors used to be a long and tedious process, but the preflight panel can automate the entire process based on presets that you can create. Starting with InDesign CS4, there has been a somewhat secret, but powerful, preflight panel. It’s usually turned on automatically, (but I tend to turn it off and on as I work and  find with really large files it can drag my workflow as it rechecks for errors with every move) and you can find it through Window > Output > Preflight.

When you first use preflight, it’s set to a “Basic” profile (there is also a preset “Digital Publishing” profile). Every designer you come across has a different set of criteria they like to doublecheck before sending a final document, also many projects have their own mechanical specifications to meet. The real power in this preflight panel stems from your ability to make customized profiles. For instance, I have a profile for digital printing, a profile for standard 300 dpi printing, as well as a few profiles for larger format printing with their own specific settings. Digging in a bit deeper, this set of basic settings have become my holy grail of my file maintenance:


Setting a color standard is an obvious necessity for most print projects, but the color mode options here will change for each profile you make. Checkmark “Color spaces and Modes Not allowed” and mark which ones you want to be flagged, and then with a glance at this palette, it will let you know in seconds if your images are good to go.


Under image Resolution, you can specify the exact Minimum or Maximum you want as your criteria (this is one of the main reasons I have so many different profiles). Under the IMAGES and OBJECTS heading there's a checkbox for “Non-Proportional Scaling of Placed Object.” It is quite common to accidentally stretch an image (or logo design) while sizing things up and down within a layout, and it's really hard to see you have done it sometimes. With this option turned on, you will always be alerted with just a glance at this palette.


Under the TEXT heading the first checkmark is for “Overset Text.” This is a must, no explanation needed! I also like using the “Glyph Missing” feature -- I find that when occasionally when copying and pasting from provided documents that there's strange glyphs in the source document that transfer over once pasted into InDesign (especially in mathematical and electrical source files). It isn't that these characters disappear, they merely aren't available in the font you are using and will just show up as a blank. In a large amount of text it's convenient to find a list of them here, nested in the preflight panel. 

“Non-Proportional Type Scaling” is a great setting to have turned on as well. I have on occasion had to squeeze type 1 or 2 percentage points when working in limited space with large amounts of text -- the problem there is when eyedropping styles you can find yourself referencing the squeezed style of text accidentally and getting that altered version of the font duplicated unnecessarily in the rest of your layout! Turning on "Non-Proportional Type Scaling" can find every instance for you, so you can avoid making such a mistake. 


While Texas Creative is a full-service agency, many of our large and small clients benefit from InDesign templates that they can manage on their own. Carefully built templates can give our clients the freedom to create their own assets while maintaining their brand look and feel. There are a number of settings within InDesign's preflight panel that work perfectly for helping to maintain design criteria when handing off a document to someone that may not be an expert in the program. Besides the previous categories mentioned above, you may consider flagging minimum stroke weight, live area, dynamic spelling, paragraph style and character style overrides, as well as minimum type size.

Do you use one of the other preflight options? Let us know in the comments below.