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PDF Places in InDesign Smaller Than Expected

David F. wrote:

I was experimenting with putting a PDF into InDesign and I noticed a peculiarity. While the PDF size is 8.5 x 11, that?s not what gets placed in InDesign. The size is a bit smaller.

This is a case for “Super Import Options Man!”

In this situation, the PDF you’re importing isn’t getting shrunk on the InDesign page. Instead, InDesign is using the wrong cropping rectangle. If you turn on the Show Import Options checkbox in the Place dialog box, you can tell InDesign what cropping rectangle to use. By default, it’s Bounding Box, which is usually the smallest rectangle that will fit all the artwork on the page.

However, if you change the Crop To popup menu to Media, you’ll get the whole PDF page. (Media means “the paper size of the PDF.”) That’s probably what you want. Fortunately, this setting is “sticky,” so InDesign should remember it the next time you need to import a PDF file.

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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18 Comments on “PDF Places in InDesign Smaller Than Expected

  1. I find the ‘stickiness’ of this setting annoying. It’s one of a few global settings which can ONLY be configured when a document is open. This is counter to the standard behavior of preferences being document-specific when a document is open, and global when no document is open.

  2. Caleb,

    Super Script Man to the rescue! The following script (which might be garbled by this interface) can be downloaded from:

    //DESCRIPTION: Allows user to change PDF-import cropping preference

    ©Copyright 2006 PDS Associates

    This script must not be distributed without first obtaining written permission of:

    Dave Saunders, proprietor
    PDS Associates
    P.O. Box 127
    Allenhurst, NJ 07711-0127


    // Destroy any existing dialogs
    if (app.dialogs.length > 0) app.dialogs.everyItem().destroy();
    curSetting = app.pdfPlacePreferences.pdfCrop;
    userChooses = askUser(curSetting);
    app.pdfPlacePreferences.pdfCrop = userChooses

    // +++++++ Functions Start Here +++++++++++++++++++++++

    function interactWithAll() {
    if (app.version == 3) {
    app.userInteractionLevel = UserInteractionLevels.interactWithAll;
    } else {
    app.scriptPreferences.userInteractionLevel = UserInteractionLevels.interactWithAll;

    function askUser(curValue){
    var cropChoices = [“Art”, “Bleed”, “Content”, “Media”, “PDF”, “Trim”];
    var cropValues = [1131573313, 1131573314, 1131573315, 1131573325, 1131573328, 1131573332];
    cv = -1;
    for (var j = cropValues.length – 1; j >= 0; j–) {
    if (curValue == cropValues[j]) {
    cv = j;
    if (cv == -1) errorExit(“Current value of crop preference not recognized”);
    with (app.dialogs.add({name:”Place PDF Crop Preference”})) {
    with (dialogColumns.add()) {
    with (dialogRows.add()) {
    staticTexts.add({staticLabel:”Choose preference:”});
    uchoose = dropdowns.add({stringList:cropChoices, selectedIndex:cv})
    if (!show()) {
    // User canceled;
    } else {
    value = cropValues[uchoose.selectedIndex];
    return value

    function errorExit(message) {
    if (arguments.length > 0) {
    if (app.version != 3) { beep() } // CS2 includes beep() function.
    exit(); // CS exits with a beep; CS2 exits silently.

  3. Thank you, Dave! Very cool way to set the previously-unsettable preference. However, this may cause unintended problems. For example, I used the script to set the preference to Trim and suddenly could no longer import my PDF file. I assume the reason is that there was no Trim setting specified in the PDF.

    When you use Import Options, I think InDesign actually looks at the PDF file and will only let you use crop types that work with each PDF file.

    That said, if you just use the script to choose Artwork (a.k.a. bounding box) or Media, it should be fine.

  4. Ah, that would explain it being hidden in the UI. Yet, if the option is sticky in the UI … Hmm. I’ll do some digging.

    Hmm, perhaps the “PDF” option is the same as Bounding Box in the UI.


  5. The fact that we cannot get to the PDFoptiona after the file as been place is a real pain. I have complain about it since a long time.

    Dave, you script is interesting, but i already use one “ShowPDF Options” freely available at Adobe Exchange. You get the exact PDF options as when you place the PDF. Save us numerous hours.

    Download it here:

  6. J-C,

    Nice little script. It’s a pity that that import options panel always defaults to page 1, but there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about that. While the crop and transparency settings can be picked up from the existing PDF, the page number just won’t budge.

    I’ve just spent a fruitless few minutes trying to persuade it to, but no luck. The same thing happens in the UI, so I guess it’s no surprise.


  7. I like to just draw a quick bounding box myself which I make 8.5 x 11 and then place my PDF in it. I used it show often I finally saved it as a template, also makes it easier to work with the PDF once placed.

  8. How do you import an autocad drawing into in-Design?

    I have tried exporting it as a PDF and importing it into In-Design and also importing it as a TIFF file, copy and pasting and they all seem to pixelate the image??? HELP!


    I’m a Designer and have supplied an ad PDF to a newspaper. I slightly cropped the PDF and resaved before I emailed. They are saying that the negative space that I cropped is showing when they import into In Design although it’s not visible if you open the artwork in Acrobat.
    Driving me insane and I have no experience with In Design, so I can’t make sense of it. Can anyone help as I now have heaps of ads they want me to re do and I think it;s really something the newspapers can fix themselves argh!! PLEASE HELP

  10. @Pepper: Perhaps it is a matter of the Import Options they’re using? They may be importing Bleed, when you want them to use Trim? Have them read the blog post here.

  11. Hi D, Yes, I have been told by another printer that they are not using the right Import Options. I found out how they are supposed to do it, but they still refuse to. I HATE PUBLISHERS!! Thanks for your help though. It’s nice to know there is support out there in this frustrating industry.

  12. Pepper, I get that with print/publishing places, they won’t touch the PDF that you’ve sent in, even if you tell them to. (The odd time that I need changes made in a hurry, it’s always needed in a hurry, isn’t it :) )

    I accidentally left a spot colour in a pdf and they wouldn’t even map it to cmyk. I had to resend it, and it took a while to (-FTP-). It would have been quicker for them to make the change. But the point of a PDF is that it’s print-ready so they can’t touch it. The fact remains it would have been quicker had I spotted the spot colour before I sent it.

    I know it’s not helpful, but it might give you an understanding of why they won’t change the pdf import options – simply because if the job is botched you could easily blame it on them for the mistake, and printers won’t like to be blamed for something that a customer told them to do – trust me I’ve heard it happens.

    I’ve even made phone-calls, sent email confirmation etc., of changes that I would allow them to do, but they will never touch a print-ready pdf to change anything. They print it the way they get it, because if they don’t they could be in trouble if there are any mistakes.

    In saying that, I had an A4 sized pdf print job come back printed at A6 size today, so who knows what they’re thinking or doing at print/publishing places :)

  13. Hello folks… I have been looking around this forum for a long while but I don’t typically post. Yet, I possess a query that I sense is best if it is answered by persons who are far more well-informed than I am about the web. I am launching my own firm and I want a web page. Much of the success of the business will be determined by the quality of the website. I am considering two options…

  14. So I’ve been banging my head against this issue for a couple weeks now, and I’m afraid it’s about to come to a head for our next print run. We had a lot of client templates set up in CS3 to import art to Trim; now that we’ve converted to CS4, “import to Trim” is greyed out on ALL of the templates (over 100). If the art needs to be relinked, it comes in at the wrong size.

    Kind of defeats the purpose of a template.

    I don’t know where I need to go to make Acrobat, InDesign, WHOMEVER give me the Trim option. I can import PDFs from a client just fine, but when *I* make the PDF (via Distiller) of that PDF and then try to re-import it (process, not my idea), the size goes all bonkers and I have to futz with it.

    Can anyone help me troubleshoot this issue? I saw on another thread on this forum that this is a known bug, and that there was a fix in the 6.0.4 update; however, we have 6.0.4 and it’s not fixed, and I have no idea when we’re going to get 6.0.5. There has to be a setting somewhere that I can tell to keep the Trim import option; but WHERE?

    Thanks for your help/patience… :)

  15. Let’s see if I can get a response to this 8 years after the last post by the author.

    So I actually have been importing my PDFs for a certain project with cropping to the bounding box. However, I recently learned that when I have text that would define the bounding box, InDesign (or maybe Illustrator) adds a ton of buffer room to the right of the text (in this case. It also appears to add some to the bottom). If the text is converted to outlines instead, it correctly bounds to the actual text itself, but I have found this affects the end, printed product, so I’d rather not do that.

    Any idea how to get it to crop to the actual text (or at least the text box) instead of adding a lot of buffer?


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