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Chapter 4. Graphically Speaking > Pesky Placing Problems

Pesky Placing Problems

Place Multiple Images at Once

I'm working on a parts catalog that has an average of twenty images per page. When I choose File > Place, I can only select one image at a time to import into my document. This is going to take forever!

Open a Windows Explorer window or a Macintosh Finder window and navigate to one of the folders on your hard drive that contains some (or all) of the images you want to import. Make sure you can also see a part of your InDesign document window at the same time — you may need to resize and rearrange the windows a bit.

Now you can Shift-click (use Command-click/Ctrl-click for a discontiguous selection) or drag a selection rectangle around multiple image filenames in your Explorer/Finder window, and drag and drop the selection onto the InDesign window (Figure 4-1).

Figure 4-1. Drag the selection over any part of the InDesign document window that's visible. When you see a black outline appear, release the mouse button.

All the images you dragged over are placed onto the active page at the same location. Each is at 100% scale, has its own graphics frame that InDesign creates on the fly, and comes with its own link to the actual image in the Links palette. (In other words, exactly as if you had used the File > Place method and clicked on the page with your loaded graphics cursor, over and over.)

The images overlap each other, so you'll have to drag each one to its correct page position on your own. We're hoping that the next version of InDesign will magically read your mind and position them for you.

What do you lose with this method? You can't access the Import Options dialog box (an optional screen in the Place dialog box) for any of the files. If you need to set up Import Options, turn it on when you place one image of the same type as the others. The next time you use drag-and-drop, InDesign uses those same Import Options.


Mac and Windows users can use the same drag-and-drop technique from Adobe Photoshop's File Browser window or — if you're using CS2 — the Adobe Bridge application. Just Shift- (or Command/Ctrl-) click multiple image thumbnails in the Browser/Bridge, drag the selection out of the Browser/Bridge window and over any portion of your InDesign document window, and drop it.


You can drag a single image directly from the Finder, Explorer, or Adobe Bridge into a frame that already exists on your page as long as the frame is empty.

Which Layer, Which Transparency?

The guy down on the fifth floor is preparing the Photoshop files that I need to place in InDesign. He doesn't know exactly what we need, so he setsup a bunch of extraneous layers in his files for us to turn on or off. But we're getting mighty tired of opening these big files in Photoshop each time we need to make a change.

If you're still using InDesign CS, we don't have a lot of good news for you other than a quick reminder that you can click the Edit Original button in the Links palette (or right-click/Control-click on the image and choose Edit Original from the contextual menu; in CS, this is in the Graphics submenu) to open those Photoshop files quickly. The good part about using Edit Original instead of opening the files from Photoshop or the desktop is that InDesign automatically updates the links as soon as you return to your document.


In InDesign CS2, the Edit Original feature moved to the Edit menu. But we eschew menus whenever possible. Instead, the fastest way to the Edit Original feature is to Option/Alt-double-click on the image with the Selection tool.

But the best solution for handling Photoshop layers is to get InDesign CS2, which lets you control which layers are visible at any time, right from within your InDesign layout. You can control layer visibility when you first import a Photoshop (PSD) or PDF file by turning on the Show Import Options checkbox in the Place dialog box. Or, you can change layer visibility for a selected image at any time by choosing Object > Object Layer Options (Figure 4-2). This feature is also available in the context menu by right-clicking — or Control-clicking on the Macintosh — on the image.

Figure 4-2. You can control which layers are visible in PSD and PDF files from within InDesign CS2.

If you and your Photoshop guy haven't explored Photoshop's Layer Comp feature, we encourage you to do that, too. At its most basic, a layer comp is a named set that remembers which layers are visible and which are not. But a layer comp can also remember where objects are positioned on a layer and which layer effects are applied. That means the guy on the fifth floor can create a bunch of different options—moving text around to different places, turning on the drop shadow effect or turning it off, and so on—and save each one as a layer comp in the same PSD file. Then you can pick the one you like best from within InDesign CS2, because the Object Layer Options can read layer comps as easily as it can read layers. Very slick.

Bring in Microsoft Charts and Graphs

I've got a pie graph embedded in Microsoft Excel worksheet that I want to place in my InDesign document. I can import the Excel data, but the graph doesn't come along for the ride. The same thing happens — err, doesn't happen — with Word files that have charts or graphs. Very frustrating.

You're right, when you place a Word or Excel document, InDesign doesn't include—in fact, it doesn't even recognize — embedded artwork. Even if it did, though, you probably wouldn't want to use the artwork in a professionally printed piece. Microsoft-generated charts and graphs are RGB and low-res, which is fine for on-screen viewing and printing to your local inkjet. It's not fine for high-end, separated process- or spot-color printing.

The key is to isolate the artwork and get it into a “real” graphics program where it stays intact but editable, so you can tweak the paths, fonts and colors as necessary. Then you can save the file in any of the image formats InDesign can deal with and place it in your document.

Select the chart or graph in Excel by clicking on it. Hold down the Shift key and go to Excel's Edit menu. You'll see that the command “Copy” changes to “Copy Picture” when the Shift key is held down. When you select Copy Picture, Excel displays a dialog box asking which appearance and size you want to copy — “as shown on screen” or “as shown when printed.” Choose the latter for both.

Open up Adobe Illustrator (or the vector drawing program of your choice) and choose Edit > Paste. The chart comes in as editable vector shapes — woo-hoo! From there, you can copy it again as paths (with AICB turned on; see “Paste Paths from Illustrator” on page 118) and paste it into InDesign as an editable chart. You can also paste it into Adobe Photoshop, but it comes in as a flattened raster layer, quite difficult to edit. Or, stay in your drawing program and modify the chart there. Save the file and use InDesign's File > Place to import it just like any other image.


Want a quick-and-dirty way to get your chart into InDesign? Copy it as a Picture as described above, but skip the “paste into a drawing program” step. Just paste it right into InDesign as an embedded, low-res RGB graphic. We don't really recommend this method, but it does work — usually.

Place Slides from Microsoft PowerPoint

We're working on our company brochure and need to include some examples of PowerPoint slide presentations we've created for clients. But InDesign's Place dialog box grays out all PowerPoint filenames (the ones that end in .ppt), making them inaccessible.

Convert your presentation to a file format that InDesign understands. From within PowerPoint, you can choose File > Save As and choose the TIFF format. In the same dialog box, click the Options button and choose a higher resolution for the file (the default is 72 ppi) so the TIFFs won't get all pixelated upon output. Microsoft creates one RGB TIFF file for every slide in the presentation and puts them neatly in a folder you specify.

To maintain crisp text outlines and vector shapes, you might consider making a PDF of the presentation, andplacing selected PDF pages/slides into InDesign. PowerPoint has no built-in PDF capabilities, so you'll have to do this “the old fashioned way”: Print the file to PostScript and run it through Distiller, or print directly to “Adobe PDF” which appears as a virtual printer if you've installed Acrobat 6 or 7.

Paste Paths from Illustrator

A couple months ago I went to a seminar on InDesign. The presenter did this one cool trick that for the life of me I can't replicate: He selected a vector path in Adobe Illustrator, copied it to the clipboard, switched to his InDesign document and pasted it. The path came in completely editable. Every time I try the same thing, the path I paste comes in as an uneditable graphic. Lame.

Maybe you were busy at the snack table while the presenter talked about setting Illustrator preferences? That's the key to getting this technique to work.

In Illustrator, open Preferences and go to the File Handling & Clipboard panel. Turn on “AICB (no transparency support)” and the “Preserve Paths” radio buttons (Figure 4-3). Now you can copy Illy's paths and paste them in editable form in InDesign.

Figure 4-3. Set up Illustrator's Clipboard handling preferences as shown if you want to copy and paste editable paths between it and InDesign.


This works in reverse, too, as long as AICB is selected in Illustrator's Clipboard preferences. You can copy InDesign paths and frames and paste them into Illustrator for editing. That's what we call “Suite!”

Place Multiple Pages from PDFs

We have a 64-page PDF that needs to be imported into our InDesign document. The Place dialog box only lets us choose one page at a time, but we need to get all 64 pages in here, one per page.

Importing a multi-page PDF file into InDesign is a major hassle in InDesign CS, but now CS2 speeds up the process. It's still not fully automatic, though: You have to click once for each page in the PDF that you're importing. (You can Option/Alt click to automatically import all the pages at once, butthey all end up on the same page of your document.) Here's another option, if you're on a Macintosh running CS: try the free script by Martin Sretr available for downloading in the InDesign scripts section of the Adobe Studio Exchange site, http://share.studio.adobe.com

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