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IDCS4 Bug: Text Formatting Lost in Empty Cells and Frames On Export

Thanks to Jochen Uebel for telling us about this rather unfortunate InDesign CS4 bug: If you change the text formatting inside an empty text frame or table cell, then export to IDML, a snippet, or a library, InDesign forgets all about the formatting.

For example, let’s say you’re making a template for someone else to use. You create a text frame in which they are supposed to type a heading. While the cursor is flashing inside the frame, you change the text formatting (font, size, paragraph style, or whatever). It’s an empty frame, but it still retains text formatting — that is, if you click in it and start typing, the text is formatted properly.

But then, if you export the file as IDML to send it to your colleague, when they open it, the formatting is forgotten. Or, if you export the frame as a snippet or drag it into a library file to be used later, InDesign forgets the formatting. The same thing happens to empty cells inside a table. Grrr. (Exporting as INX appears to still work, by the way.)

Until Adobe fixes this annoying (and potentially dangerous) bug, there is only one remedy I can think of: Add some text to the frame or cell — even just a space character. Actually, I would recommend not using a space character, because it’s too easy for someone to overlook it. Instead, type “delete this text” or something like that.

According to Uebel, the bug was apparently first reported at the hilfdirselbst InDesign forum. (I’ve tried three times… I can’t even pronounce that. Whew.)

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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6 Comments on “IDCS4 Bug: Text Formatting Lost in Empty Cells and Frames On Export

  1. Try adding a space after hilf to make it easier to start trying to pronounce it :)

    As for the bug: I don’t share my files, but if I had to, I’d add “header”, “body” and whatnot in the appropriate frames anyway as to make them easier to identify. Then again, if it’s a multi-page document that could end up taking quite a while, so simply sending an INDD file would be what I’d probably end up doing.

  2. It’s not just a problem when sharing documents. For my jobs I need a plenty of small tables which I’m keeping in a library to place them in the documents when needed.

    Switching my workflow finally to CS4 about 10 days ago let me discover this bug.

    There’s one more workaround than just putting some text in all the cells of a table: Prepare tables and other elements in CS3, put them in a library and open this library in CS4. Works out fine.

    Btw, “hilf dir selbst” means “help yourself” and is the biggest prepress forum in the German speaking area.

  3. I just received this helpful idea from Uwe Laubender: Because you can avoid the problem by using INX, why not force InDesign to use INX instead of IDML! This was discussed in some detail in the comments section of this post. But Uwe offers another script here (his comments are below, with his permission):

    Be aware that IDML export is standard for generating snippets and library elements in InDesign CS4. However InDesign CS3 does not know this bug due to INX as the standard export format. Though it is safe to use InDesign CS3 snippets and library elements in InDesign CS4, every time you add an item to an existing library in CS4 adds IDML.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to force InDesign CS4 to use the old INX instead of IDML for snippets and library elements? Of course, but how could we accomplish that?

    While browsing through the object model viewer of the ExtendScript Toolkit CS4 I came accross a possible solution, an item called “SnippetExportFormats” that showed a specific option, the “INX_TRADITIONAL_FORMAT”! Wow. I discussed that in our learning group “JavaScript for Beginners”. With the help of Ralf Hobirk and Kai Ruebsamen for testing and especially Gerald Singelmann for showing the right way to implement the option, I can present the following line of JavaScript:

    app.snippetExportFormat = SnippetExportFormats.INX_TRADITIONAL_FORMAT;

    Save it as plain text with an “jsx” extension. If you choose the ESTK or your normal Scripts folder for starting the script, InDesign will forget about this line every time you restart. To prevent that drag it to your “Startup Scripts” folder (directory) in your “Scripts” folder (directory) and InDesign CS4 will take INX before IDML on default. If there is no “Startup Scripts” folder just make a new one.

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