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Place Multiple Pages of a PDF In a Grid in InDesign

When you turn on the Import Options checkbox in InDesign’s Place dialog box, you get more options for placing your files, right? One option you get when you place a PDF, INDD, or AI file is to import more than one page at a time. For example, you might choose to import pages 1-8 of a 20-page document. When you click OK, InDesign loads up the Place cursor with the PDF and each time you click with it, another page is imported.

To place all eight of those pages, you’d need to click eight times, right? That’s going to be tiresome, especially if what you’re trying to do is create a grid, like a contact sheet. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could import all the pages quickly?

The answer, clearly, is the Gridify feature… except for one problem: It doesn’t work. Once you load the place cursor with the pages and start dragging, you ought to be able to press the up or right arrow keys on the keyboard to gridify the place — that is, create a grid of frames instead of just one. That’s how it works if you import two or more different images or text frames! Or you can hold down Cmd/Ctrl and Shift while you drag and get a grid. But this does not work when importing two or more pages from a single file. Drat.

But you can do it if you’re clever. The secret was spilled by ex-prod. mgr. Michael Ninness at the recent Print and ePublishing Conference: Turn on the Create Static Captions checkbox in the Place dialog box.

placeWcaption1.pngWhen you click OK, you get the opportunity to choose your pages:


Then, when you click OK, InDesign loads a Place cursor that looks like it actually has two different files:

placeWcaption3.pngNow you can use the Gridify shortcuts to create your grid while you drag. Make sure the number of frames in the grid equals the number of pages you’re importing, if possible:


When you let go of the cursor, the pages are all placed into the frames, and InDesign loads up all the captions to be placed into different frames.


In this case, we don’t want the captions — we were just using them as a ruse to fool InDesign into giving us the gridify features — so we press V or switch to any other tool to dump the Place cursor and get on with our work.

Why does this work? Michael answers, “Luck. This was a ‘free’ feature. It just fell out of the work that was done for the Live and Static Captions combined with the existing multi-place feature. When placing multiple pages from a document, the pages were loaded into the cursor one at a time; the next page would not be loaded until the previous page had been placed on the page?. However, in order to generate the captions for all the files (pages) in the Place cursor, InDesign has to load all of the images (pages) first.”

Cool, eh?

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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  • - November 30, -0001
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14 Comments on “Place Multiple Pages of a PDF In a Grid in InDesign

  1. That’s a great tip from Michael, and thanks for publishing that one. I had forgotten it after the conference.

    But I experimented a little this morning, and found that this tip also works with other “multi-page documents” as well. In particular, I was also able to create a grid of an InDesign (.indd) file with multiple pages. And an Adobe Illustrator CS4 or CS5 file with multiple artboards!

  2. Thanks for pointing that out, Steve. I was trying to imply that in the opening paragraph, but I can see that I didn’t follow it up explicitly later in the article.

  3. Yes, you did imply that, but all I read was the headline about PDFs! I shouldn’t reply too early in the morning before I’m waked up!

  4. Great Tip. Thanks for pointing this out. Usually when importing PDF, no one think of making static caption enabled, only people like you who hawks Indesign always should explore this kind of tricks! I really like this.

    Also, I wanna to point out one small thing which may be very obvious to all, but I mention even though, when gridify, sometimes we needed to fit within margins, in that case, press SHIFT while dragging with arrow keys create expected number of columns and rows.

    Here, Shift works as unproportional.

  5. Eh this is nothing to do with a trick with Live Captions – at least I don’t think so. Yes it’s true that this behaviour is invoked by clicking on live captions, but all you have to do is load anything that can be gridified.

    So you can take a PDF with twenty pages and then select a JPG to come along for the ride. You don’t need to select the captions. Then you place you still need the exact same amount of squares in your grid for the place, then just dump the jpg out of the loaded gun.

    Although it is Genius, and I would never have found that caveat without this post.

  6. ?But you can do it if you?re clever.?
    So this is normal now… ID making us try some complicated solutions because the obvious way wont work as it should have… Thanks to adobe for incorporating such tests. Rather expensive tests, by the way…

  7. Just tried this in CS4 and it works fine – load a jpg into the cursor and you can place multiple pages of a pdf too.

  8. Hi. I am wondering if it is possible to somehow keep proportions of the frame while using the gridify tool. Because it is difficult to built the grid so that the image fits exactly the frames…

  9. It is possible to print thumbnails from InDesign if you save as a postscript file. You can then convert the .ps file to a PDF with either Distiller, or even the free Preview app.

    I’ve found that it only works on letter-size pages; if you try to do tabloid pages they get cropped in the PDF for some reason. But, if you just want to make a quick thumbnail pdf for a book map, printing to postscript and converting to PDF is much faster than the above method.

  10. How about importing the PDF in order to make it fill the document’s PAGES? Gridify would work for “thumbnails”, but I need to place one PDF page per InDesign page. Any tips? Much appreciated!

  11. looking for a solution for my problem. I have a 350 page document with dimensions 8.5×3.5 that I need to place 3up. It’s a data merged file. Any good solutions besides using this feature 116 times, will take a while.

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