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Locking an InDesign Book File

Matthew asked:

…the chapters in our InDesign book file were rearranged accidentally, resulting in a substantial reprint cost. Is a way to lock the chapter order?

While InDesign has no built-in way to lock a book panel, you can lock the book file on your hard drive. Remember that a book is simply a file on disk, similar to an InDesign file, but it uses the .indb file extension. You can select it and lock it using Get Info on the Mac or Properties on Windows. (Be sure to save and close the book panel inside InDesign before you do this.)

However, this only locks that file—not the files that make up the book. The difference is important. For example, you can still rearrange the chapters in the book panel (by dragging them up or down), or even delete or add new files to the book panel. However, because the book file is now locked, you cannot save your changes.

When you close the book panel, InDesign asks you if you want to save the changes. But even if you click Save, unfortunately the program does not tell you that the book file is locked and your changes will be lost. It just quietly closes the file. Next time you open the book file, the chapters will be back in the same order they were in when you locked it.

But the files themselves may not be the same! The page numbers, in particular, may have gotten messed up. That is, when you “accidentally” rearranged the chapters in the locked book panel, InDesign usually updates the page numbers for you. Behind the scenes, it’s literally opening that file, changing the page numbering, saving it, and then closing the file. So that’s bad. When you next open the book panel, you’ll see that all the page numbers have been modified:

page numbers wrong

If that happens, you’ll need to choose Update Numbering > Update All Numbers from the book panel menu.

Or, even better: If you’re going to lock a book file, you should probably first (before locking the book file), choose Book Page Numbering Options from the open book panel and disable “Automatically Update Page & Section Numbers”:

book page numbering options

That way, if someone does rearrange the book’s chapters in the book panel, InDesign won’t mess up the page numbering in those files.

Ultimately, this method of locking a book file is obviously kind of a hack and not truly locking down your document. It would be better if InDesign implemented a proper way to lock files and books from accidental changes.

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 “Locking an InDesign Book File

  1. Assuming an ID-generated PDF was sent out to be printed, realize that nothing quite beats a careful check of what’s going to the printer. Just because that ID file looked OK yesterday, doesn’t mean the PDF it will generate will be OK today. In my case, I tried doing a few books with book files and concluded they were more trouble that they were worth. Instead, I now do books as one large documents and endure the sometimes sluggish behavior.

    During WWII, RAF air crew blamed “gremlins” created problem with their aircraft. In more recent years, the creatures seem to have turned their attention to anything computer related. Wikipedia has a great article on gremlins:

    And here’s a 1943 cartoon on the theme.

  2. Synchronize every file through book (styles…), then close Book panel and export every file as a PDF document being aware expecially of page numbers, then join them in Acrobat.

  3. I love the book panel. It’s very daunting at the start. But it makes things a billion times easier. Especially if there’s more than one person working on the “book” file. In my case I was doing a Magazine, each article was different so it lent itself to be worked on by different people.

    You can easily reorganise all the articles – generate a TOC – etc.

    In fact, it shouldn’t be called “Book” it should be something more meaningful in today’s standard.

    The “book” feature is a long standing feature that’s been neglected by Adobe for a long time. I certainly hope they improve long document features in the future!

  4. I have existing book files but it is not allowing me to add new InDesign files. It says “.indd is locked and cannot be added to book file!” I do not believe my files are locked. Any ideas?

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