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Never More Than a Minute

One of the silent features of InDesign is one of its best: When you work in InDesign and the inevitable happens?the power goes out, or some little glitch causes a crash?you usually reopen InDesign to find your files almost intact!

It’s one the features I like to show to a new InDesign class. I’m demoing on my laptop, working on a file that I’ve not saved. Then I’ll purposely use the Mac OS X system Force Quit command to cause InDesign to crash. When I reopen, even my unsaved file is recovered, almost back to where I was working.

But I never knew quite how the feature worked. I credit Adam Pratt, one of the Adobe application engineers, with pointing to what’s really happening in his Adobe blog, Scratch Disk. Adam found an obscure Adobe Support Document which describes the process. Every minute InDesign does a mini-save of all open documents which have changed. It saves this information into temporary files in the InDesign Recovery folder. When you choose File > Save, it deletes the temporary files. When you reopen InDesign, it attempts to use these files to recover your documents.

The first time you start InDesign after it shut down unexpectedly, it begins the document recovery process automatically. It checks the InDesign Recovery folder for information on documents that were open when it shut down, then attempts to open each of these documents and incorporate any mini-saved data into them.

If InDesign successfully opens a document and incorporates mini-saved data into a document, it includes “[Recovered]” in the document’s name (for example, “My File [Recovered]”). The first time you choose File > Save or File > Save As in a recovered document, InDesign asks whether you want to overwrite the original document. If you click Yes, InDesign overwrites the original to incorporate the recovered information, and it removes [Recovered] from the document’s name.

Steve Werner

Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
Steve Werner

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24 Comments on “Never More Than a Minute

  1. Hi Steve,
    you say: “When you choose File > Save, it deletes the temporary files.” This is true for documents that have “never been saved”: upon saving for the first time the temporary data gets lost. On the other hand, if you are working on a document that “has been saved”, the temporary files will disappear only when you Close the InDesign document (and not when you save it). This is why you can cmd-z back even beyond multiple saves. Cool!
    The logic of this is beyond me: why shoud I not be able to cmd-z beyond the first save of a document?
    Also, another suggestion is that users never overwrite original files with the “recovered” one (as it may contain the error that caused the crash); save it with a different name… you never know ;-)

  2. Thanks, Rufus. That’s a good suggestion.

    I don’t know of any other layout application that has this automatic backup feature. QuarkXPress has an AutoSave feature that has to be turned on, and I don’t think it’s as robust as this, from my experience.

  3. I think, I’m not sure… that in some cases Microsoft Word can retrieve the content of a file if it has not been saved before a power failure for instance. I have experienced something like that a few times in Word.

  4. If you want to be sure that there are no crash causing errors in your document save it as an Indesign interchange document and then open that and overwrite your original, I say this as I am not a big fan of multiple versions of one job gathering in its job folder.

  5. Hello I’m having trouble with Indesign Cs when i access the network to get images the application exit unespectly is there a problem with some files without extentions like document text or quark? who i can fix this crash

  6. Hello,

    Recovery files are great but I have been experiencing twice or thrice a strange problem that seems related to this function. Here it goes:

    Johanne creates a document, saves it on a server and closes it. The following day, Mary opens the same document from the server on another Mac, modifies it, does a “save as” and closes it. Later on, Johanne opens it again but the modifications made earlier by Mary don’t show up! What Johanne’s computer seems to be opening, in fact, is the latest version of that she worked on the day before and not the newer version from the server. We are 100% sure that we clicking on the good document.

    A “Log Out” has resolved the problem, but this is frightening as we are many people sharing the same documents on a server. Anyone has a cue?

  7. I think we need more information about your workflow and system configuration. There are many possible issues here.

    I’ve never been a network administrator, but I’ve heard there can be problems saving directly to the server. I’ve alwasy heard it was safer to save locally, then copy the file to the server. How are you doing it? What kind of server are you using, and do you have problems with other applications?

    Also, do all these people need to be editing the same InDesign files. Maybe you need to look into using InCopy for writers, and leaving the layout to layout people in InDesign. Anne-Marie has a lot of experience with that workflow, and may have suggestions.

  8. Here is, briefly, a typical workflow: the designer does the layout in InDesign; then the technician makes some grid adjustements and text corrections, revised line endings, etc. The document can go back and forth between the designer and the technician a few times. No writer has to open the document as we receive the original text in a Word format.

    We are a team of 10 designers and technicians and a document can be opened successively by up to 4 people working in a rush! This is the reason we work directly on the server. It is so easy to forget copying back the latest version…

    We are using a server OSX Panther. We only had this problem in InDesign. Other applications work fine.

    It seems that refreshing the workstation (or the preferences?), by doing a log out or a restart, sets everything back to normal. But we never know when this problem will occur again…

    Many thanks.


  9. Marielle, that’s pretty scary. I’ve not encountered that problem (yet) with my clients who work in ID with documents on the server. Steve, just FYI, about half of the clients I’ve worked with are in similar server-based workflows. (And they can’t understand how other users, who copy files from the server to their local machine before opening them up, can stand the tedium … ;-) ).

    While Adobe has always recommended working locally (afaik), a common ID/IC workflow requires both IC users and ID users to work off the server. I called Adobe about this early on and asked if anything magical was included with the free IC plug-ins that allowed Adobe to safely say in their documentation, “designers should open and edit ID files while they’re on the server.”

    They told me that there’s nothing inherently bad about doing so, even if the ID user isn’t part of an InCopy workflow; they’re aware that it’s pretty common. it’s just that troubleshooting ID problems is very difficult when end users might have hundreds of kinds of server configurations out there. They end up troubleshooting networks instead of ID.


  10. I would like to turn this function off. I don’t want ID to recreate my old (crashed) document. Is this possible???
    Thanks Stefan

  11. Stefan,

    If you don’t want your previously open file(s) recovered, I believe you can prevent it by moving this folder to the Desktop:

    [Home folder] > Library > Preferences > Adobe InDesign > Version 4.0 > InDesign Recovery

    In fact, without doing that, if InDesign crashes on the file a second time, I recall it will ask you if you want to recover the file(s) that caused the crash.

  12. I don’t know any way to do that. A plug-in would be nice but I don’t know of one. Personally, I’ve never found that method useful.

  13. with regards to marrielles problem with the files on a server not reflecting the changes that people have made, assuming that the workstations and servers are all running osx panther, we had this problem, and we found that if you dont use any spaces in the file names, the problem stops. it is to do with the unix side of things not handling characters such as spaces very well. since we have asked all our users to use underscores instead of spaces the problem has vanished completely. hope this helps

  14. Nicky, you mean the UNIX underpinnings of OS X? So if you’re using an OS X server (XServe, right?) then you should adhere to UNIX naming rules? (alphanumeric plus hyphens and underscores, no spaces)? What about case sensitivity?

    I’ve never worked with an XServe but a number of my clients do and this would be great to know.

  15. Here’s a question.
    I have an InDesign file that was modified last week, but doesn’t seem like it was saved with the modifications. I go to the recovery files and see indesign made snapshots from the time I made the modifications. any way to configure the recovery data file to load these snapshots into this non-corrupt indesign file?

  16. David, no, you can’t get any of that old data back into a current InDesign file. You know, often when people say “I made changes, but now the document doesn’t show them,” they find the changes in a different file that they forgot they saved (often in a directory that they didn’t mean to save the file in). Good luck!

  17. Lastly I got crashes in my Indesign CS2 and it says there’s a problem with internet connection disconnected. When I reopen the doc is not recovered to last saved version or last minute automatic minisaved version. It open the first version. Also not recovers my saved version! It goes to the first version of the day! Nothing saved! Any help?

  18. hi,, i need help, a can’t open a document in indesig, and now it said 0kb, i don’t nkow if i can recover the document

  19. I’ve just had the same problem as Pilar (above). A client file that I last touched on 11/2010 now has revisions. But the CS4 file says 0KB….? Yikes! I can’t even open it… may have to completely redo this creative. :( Help?

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