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Troubleshooting InDesign CS4 Pauses

John wrote:

My tests of xrefs in CS4 made my production editor “dance a jig” because of all the time it would save in proofreading/editing. Now I’m ready to do flamenco on top of my iMac because I get a flashing cursor for a few seconds every time I make any kind of edit, even one not associated with an xref.

That’s an interesting problem, and I post it here partly to see if other users have experienced this. Personally, I have not, and I don’t think cross-references are the problem. Where I have seen some weird slowdowns is in InDesign’s Live Preflight feature. It usually works fine (in the background, without disturbing my work), but sometimes it seems to hiccup, especially when the Preflight panel is open.

(Before anyone at Adobe pounces on me, I need to state that I have not run any official tests on this. It’s more just a sense.)

When a cross-reference is out of date (if the text or the page number changes), the Cross-References panel doesn’t keep checking it. It just flags it as out of date and needing to be fixed. So each individual edit you make to the document shouldn’t slow it down. If it does, I would try quitting-and-restarting InDesign, and possibly rebuilding preferences.

However, you can turn off the Preflight feature while you’re working. I wouldn’t unless you find that it really is slowing you down — after all, the Live Preflight is an awesome feature in CS4 and can help you avoid trouble. If you do want to try turning it off, just click the On checkbox in the Preflight panel (to uncheck it).

Anyone else have other experiences with InDesign slowing down like this? Other solutions you’ve found helpful?

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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44 Comments on “Troubleshooting InDesign CS4 Pauses

  1. My slowdown usually happens when I place lots of graphics and use transparency on them. For example, right now I am repeating a logo as a pattern using step and repeat. When I got around to 100 copies of the logo and I applied transparency to ghost the majority of them back, it was time to get a drink of water while my computer thought long and hard about what I asked of it.

    yes, I could be doing this type of pattern in Illustrator, but while you are in the design mindset I don’t want to jump to another program.

    Maybe it is time for a new computer:)

    And for the record, preflight was off.

  2. @Fritz: I wonder if changing the Transparency slider in the Display Performance pane of the Preferences dialog box would make that job easier… that just tells ID to not try so hard to reproduce the transparency effects.

  3. I tried that, and I have low res preview images on too. I do have a bunch of other apps open too (that probably doesn’t help too much either.)

    Only 2 GB of RAM is not enough these days.

  4. A problem with xrefs I found out is when I have multiple documents combined in a book. If I reference from one document to another all is ok.
    BUT … if I close the “xref-destination document” (e.g. the information where my infos are from [Quellennachweis]) InDesign slows down.

  5. @Martin: Bingo! Keeping all the Book documents open solved the problem. Forgot to mention multiple docs in my original query. Thanks, everyone.

  6. “Only 2 GB of RAM is not enough these days.”

    I prefer to put it this way:

    “These days, it is not good enough for manufacturers of software to expect users to have more than 2GB of RAM”

  7. considering how cheap RAM is, i don’t understand why any professional designer would have less than 4GB. i’ve seen deals for 4GB of desktop RAM (two 2GB sticks) for $15 after rebate ($40 shipped – $25 rebate). generally, though, it’s still only around $40-50 for 4GB of RAM in the US.

  8. I too, have had the dreaded blinking cursor affliction running CS4 under Win XP Home. I did think I had to rebuild the preferences to fix it also.

    And while we are talking about ram…
    While ram may be cheap, it seems I’ll have to just get a newer Mac that handles more than 2GB. Then what? How do I add more ram without violating some Apple warranty? Ever done it to a newer Mini or iMac?
    Scratches his head…

  9. how old is your mac that it won’t handle more than 2GB of RAM (says the non-mac guy)?

    and no, adding RAM will not violate an apple warranty. no, i haven’t added any RAM to a mini or imac, but it shouldn’t be complicated.

  10. My experience with xRefs has led me to believe that Adobe still has a lot of work to do with optimizing them. I’ve seen myself documents which crashed InDesign apparently because of xRefs, and I’ve heard of others with similar issues.

    Yes, cross-refs across book files are even more fragile.

    Be very careful with unresolved cross references as well…

  11. I got the similar problem. My 1000-page book consists of 6 files. Each document has 4 columns of text (6 pt). Plenty of text. Several hundreds of pictures. No transparency is involved. No flight check is turned on. All the book docs are kept open. No other applications are running. 2 Gb of RAM.
    But the book should contain about 1700 cross references (?See Libraries at page 13?). Currently I managed to make ONLY(!) about 200 xRefs in CS4. The InD seemed to have a power nap every few seconds. Each dialog window opened with gnashing of teeth so to say. More than that, I found the dialog was not convenient at all: it lacks the possibility type or paste the name of desired paragraph in the list, but you have to scroll the list up or down till you drop.
    The worst thing is multiple sudden crushes of InD CS4 out of the blue sky during the work with xRefs. I have observed many times that even if I don?t touch my files after opening, the stars in the document tabs appear, shining and begging to press Save!
    Simple Save (Ctrl+S) doesn?t save the situation. The star keeps shining.
    Save As command seems the better potion, but it also doesn?t help in any case.
    Eventually I decided to downgrade to my CS3 which is equipped with plug-in InXRef from Virginia Systems. This is not best solution (it took me about a week to introduce all the XRefs) by at least it works. Not that there?s is anything wrong with CS4 but I’m terribly disappointed.

  12. I find that if I have Live Preflight set up to check graphics (resolution, colour) then it pauses in just this way after each edit while it goes through all the checks again for all the placed images. It’s annoying, as Preflight will give information for PDFs and AI files which doesn’t appear in the Links panel, so I’d like to use it. I end up just running a profile to check for text errors until near the end and then turning on the graphics profile ? but then I have to note down the names of the offending files and change them outwith InDesign, because the lag as I save each linked file means that the list disappears for several seconds so I can’t see which one to go to next!

  13. I found CS4’s responsiveness to be terrible with certain complicated, transparency-intensive documents until I turned off thumbnails in the pages panel. I remember turning them off in CS3 as well.

  14. My macbook pro is 2.5 yrs old. It currently supports up to 3gb (strange), and it would have to throw 1 gb away then put in one 2gb chip.

    The single 2gb are pretty expensive, therefore I am waiting til next year to get a new machine (hopefully).

  15. I’ve experienced a similar type of slowdown but since I never use xrefs I can’t imagine it would be that. Turning off Live Preflight and previews for thumbnails helps tremendously in reducing the number of these incidents but has not eliminated them completely (my typical documents are rather image intensive; a typical document will have 250 to 400 links to large TIFF files of between 30-150MB each). Even quitting from ID and then starting it again does not always cure the problem. Because a majority of my documents started life as ID 1.0 files with appropriate upgrades to every new version of ID over the years one of my suspicions is that in some way they are corrupt. Documents that I’ve exported as INX files and brought back into ID CS4 still exhibit the same behavior. But, the same files brought in ID CS3 NEVER have this issue. I’ve had no opportunity to do much testing with documents that are created as totally new files in ID CS4. I’m working on an 8 core, dual 2.8 GHz Mac Pro (2008) with 24GB of RAM and plenty of drive space so I don’t think the computer is too underpowered to handle this sort of task.

  16. I have this problem in one of my documents, too. Fortunately, it’s only one document that seems to be affected. In the time it takes me to type three sentences, I can go and get a cup of coffee and when I return, what I’ve typed will finally appear on the screen.

    I have a feeling it is the xrefs. This particular document has xrefs that point to several other documents. It frustrated me so much that I did some re-arranging and moved all of my problem-child xref pages into one document. I cringe any time I have to go in and edit that particular document.

  17. Using G5 – 7 gigs ram. OSX 10.5.7… Document InDesign with psd files (5-8)… and this thing is uber slow. Move and wait is not what I signed up for… is it the psd files, something else to look at…

    I have to admit I am a quark guy and can design in quark 3-4 times faster than InDesign, the biggest problem is switching back and forth between direct and selection tools… virtually half the time I try to move something it doesn’t work… grab the selection took, click the pasteboard, click the objet make a move… nothing happens… Theres got to be a way around this.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  18. @Lewis: ID should not be that slow. Something is wrong. Is it all documents? Or just one? As for the Selection vs. Direct Selection tool, it partly just takes getting used to — just like it took getting used to the Item vs. Content tools in ID. You might also consider using the Position tool instead of the Direct Selection tool (might be more intuitive). Check out this guide to InDesign for QuarkXPress users.

  19. I’ve also been having issues with the ‘type a character and wait 1-3 seconds for it to display’ issue. It’s only 1 document in a book usually. Here’s some of the things I’ve found and tried. (I have 9Gb of RAM (and only 3-4 xrefs), so that’s not the issue for me.)

    1. Trash preferences–nothing
    2. ‘Save as’ to another filename and put new file back in book. Helps sometimes.
    3. This one is buried in the Adobe knowledge base and actually helps most of the time. Create a new document file of the correct page size and tile it next to the offending one. Drag the page thumbnails one at a time from your old document into the new one. It recreates the document for you. (You’ll need to import your styles and master pages at the end.)

    I do a lot of leveraging of docs from one book to the next for the similar but not quite the same product. After doing #3 repeatedly to one particular document, I gave up and recreated it. When I was checking side-by-side old and new pdfs, I noticed that my graphics looked better in the newly created one–so I’m assuming there was an underlying structure problem in the doc somewhere.

  20. I am having the same problem with my text. I can move images, text boxes and tables around as much as I want but the second I try to edit the type I get one or two letters down and Indesign pauses for a min. or so. I have 2 PC’s running, one laptop and one tower and both of them are doing it on different files. Both have 3 gb RAM. I do not use books however. I had one doc that was 1 page, another that was 4 pages and another was 16 pages and they all had the problem. I turned pre-flight off and that didnt work, I trashed preferances and that didnt work. I am now re-installing CS4.
    I really dont want to start re-creating all of these documents!
    has anyone else had any more luck fixing this problem?

  21. I’m also having the same problem using In Design CS4 6.0.4… I edit a text field, or even just select a text and I can watch the CPU spike on my quad core windows machine (2GB RAM). I’m working on a large book and other docs in the book seem OK.

  22. I too have the “slow typing” problem. I tried:

    a. turning off auto preflight
    b. turning off thumbnails in the Links/Page tabs
    c. deleting all 150 xRefs
    e. deleting just the outside xRefs

    C definitely worked to get me back to typing in real time again but E also did the trick. I think outside xRefs are the culprit for me.

  23. We to are having these problems.

    We have done all the things suggested, and now it is working, well it is working when one person has all the chapters open on their machine, this however isn’t ideal as we regularly need numerous people working on different chapters of the same book.

    It has only started being a problem since using the xrefs.

    Any other ideas would be most welcome.

  24. I am using Cross References extensively in a 360 pp book publication with 22 chapters. In the larger chapters, any text edit is followed by a large delay. In smaller chapters, any text edit is followed by a smaller delay. The best I can surmise is, InDesign CS4 ‘refreshes’ every cross-reference in a document when you make text changes (as simple as adding a period). The net effect of these delays has added at least a day and a half to my work schedule.

    Just another observation: You cannot create a cross reference to another chapter without that chapter open. With a few chapters open, you can see the effect of adding a cross reference. The saved state of every open document changes to unsaved. You can save them all, and adding a cross reference will make all of them unsaved again.

    The convenience of doing cross reference right in InDesign has been great. The way they bog down my workflow has been heartbreaking. When it comes time to do the French version of this publication, you can be sure I’ll be using a 3rd party plugin for generating cross references.

  25. I was discussing this slow-down issue with the folks at and they think that creating the x-refs with their cross-references plug-in should not cause these kinds of slowdowns, even with thousands of links (especially if you turn off auto-update). If you’ve already built your x-refs in InDesign, I guess this doesn’t help you — but if you haven’t, you might consider trying their plug-in instead. (It offers more features than ID, anyway.)

    (Disclosure: I do have a business relationship with dtptools via Blatner Tools, but I do not have any financial interest in their cross-references plug-in. I’ve just used it and like it.)

  26. I have InDesign CS4. I recently upgraded my iMac from 1 GB to 3GB of RAM, and everything was awesomely fast. CS4 worked fabulously. Then I updated my system from 10.6.1 to 10.6.2. Immediately, Indesign developed a pause every approx. 10 seconds. No matter what I’m doing within the program, no matter how large or small the file, no matter how many or few applications I have open, I still get the very same beachball-spinning pause with every little thing I try to do, always. Nothing seems to affect it. (It’s not xrefs, I don’t use that). It’s very aggravating. By the way, I experience the same beachball-spinning pause in Photoshop, but not in my other non-CS4 applications, such as Quark.

    I’ve been googling all around the internet and have tried many things (apparently the problem is widespread): disconnecting an external hard drive, zapping the PRAM, closing a bunch of fonts, even disengaging my magic mouse in bluetooth (someone swore that worked for him). Nothing has made the slightest bit of difference.

    I am a graphic designer, and use InDesign every day on both PC and Mac platforms, and have been for years. I’ve never had such a problem, and have never been so disappointed in an application. It takes me twice as long to finish any task here on my Mac, in CS4 with 3 GBs of RAM, as it does at work on my pokey little PC, in CS2 with 1 GB of RAM.

    I’m hoping for more suggestions I can try, any ideas? I wonder if it would be too much to expect Adobe (or Apple) to fix this.

  27. I also had problems with slow typing of a document in a book having some xrefs between the documents.

    For the first document, it helped to open all the other documents of the book, too.

    But then I copied the book with “package book” feature. In the new book the editing was slow again, and it didn’t help to have all the docs open.

    As suggested above, deleting xrefs would have helped – but actually it was enough just to update the xrefs to correct documents. There seems to be a bug in InDesign from which follows that when copying/packaging a book, the xrefs are not updated properly – they still point to the old documents.

  28. Hi David Blatner, i was reading that you could turn off the (sometimes boring) auto-update option, was you talking about InDesign Cs4?, if that, can you explain me how did you do that? Simply i can’t find this option.

    Thanks in advice!


  29. I have the slow problem only when I try to change pages using the drop down box at the bottom. I use CS4 on a MacPro with 8 GB of RAM plenty of disk space. This only started happening on a document once I added pages to it. It has 300+ pages. I have added 60 pages from another IDD file and then I added 11 more pages to the back of it. Then it has been slow since then. It is only linked to two images (medium sized) no Xrefs or other links. I tried it on more than one mac and same problem.

  30. I too have experienced an extreme slowdown. Just inserting the cursor into text is mind-numbingly slow. This started when I was creating a huge book with tons of linked images. But I am still having the problem in a document that I just created. As soon as I autoflowed the text I was going slow.

    I did install an update to get to 6.0.4. could this be the culprit?

  31. I was suffering from a similar slowdown in InDesign CS4 which I have now fixed. I’m sure this wont work for everyone as you may not be using suitcase but it solved it for me.

    Having deleted preference files, repaired permissions, turned off pre flight etc. I thought that maybe Suitcase Fusion might be causing the problems (as it quite often does)! Eventually under ‘Suitcase Fusion 2 Activation Preferences’ in InDesign I found the option ‘activate fonts in embedded objects’ which was ticked. I turned this off and straight away InDesign worked as quickly as it had done before.

    My basic setup is as follows:

    iMac 3.06 duo
    4gb RAM
    OS 10.6.2

    Hope this helps someone as it was driving me mad!

  32. I also experience slow response to typing, but in my case it’s limited to a table which is 5 pages long.

    When typing in other tables (for example 10 rows) there is no delay.

  33. @Martin: Thanks so very much! This was killing me! When all the documents in a book is open and preflight is turned off, Indesign behaves alright. If one document is closed, any change leads to a hiccup for a minute or so. I have a lot of cross references.

  34. Hi,

    I am experiencing the same sort of EXTREME slowdown of my system when using InDesign CS3. This did not happen until the last couple of months. I used ID CS3 for 2.5 years without having this problem. I use DTP Tools’ Cross-References Pro extensively and link hundreds of TIFs and AI files.

    I thought the slowdown was due to a lack of system resources on my Windows laptop, so IT gave me a fresh Core 2 Windows desktop with 8 GB of memory. Initially, I did not experience the problem, but then it started happening. I don’t remember whether I applied the Adobe updates before the problem cropped up.

    CS3 does not have auto preflight, so I can’t turn that off. I’ve tried Save As and rebuilding the files in the book, but that has not helped.

    Please point me to a CS3 discussion of this problem if there is one or if there is anything not mentioned in this thread that I might try. I’d upgrade CS3, but we have multiple CS3 seats and we’re trying to conserve the company’s cash. Other users are not experiencing this issue when using the same files.


  35. It defintely are the cross references that are slowing down indesign.
    I suddenly experienced serious hickups when typing. It took seconds before text appears.

    After turning off preflight, which didnt help, I removed some cross references and… Hickups were gone!


  36. I didn’t exhaustively read this page, so pardon me if some of these were mentioned…

    I had early on turned off all of the dynamic guides and tips (I found them more of an annoyance than a help, and I did notice a speed increase), but the big thing for me was changing my default display quality from Normal to Fast. I also thought it wouldn’t hurt to change any other options that show a thumbnail (such as while dragging an image) to NOT do so. Performance still is not fast, but it’s noticeably improved.

    Thanks to all,

  37. Sorry for the double post…

    Another thing that I just discovered helps considerably is moving cross-referenced items by dragging rather than a cut-and-paste, even if moving them multiple pages (zoom as far out as possible to move items several pages).


  38. I am also experiencing the same problem with a book that consists of 10 files, about 175 pages total, about 100 hyperlinks and cross refs, as well as an index. It’s CS4 on Windows 7, fresh re-install, tried several of the suggestions above to no avail. It’s a hideous to wait like this after each and every text edit!

    The big question is: has this been fixed in CS5 ? !

  39. I, too, have been experiencing this slowdown in my work. I have a book that is about 235 pages long (about 20 files). Initially, I had no problem, but then the slowdown started and is still there. The only way I can add text at any reasonable speed is to type it first in a text editor, then copy and paste it into the files in this book. The problem is not present in new files that aren’t part of this book, so it must have something to do with the book itself. Initially, the cross-references did not cause a problem. I had packaged up the book for my laptop (where I first noticed the problem), then packaged it up again to work on my desktop (thinking my laptop wasn’t up to the task), only to have the problem there as well. So perhaps it is in the cross-references as someone mentioned. I’ve tried turning off preflight and updating all cross-references in the book (from the book panel), and neither of those actions worked. Since I haven’t changed the font set, I don’t think it could be the fonts, though I did install High-Logic’s Main Type (a font manager) at some point, so perhaps that is something to look into. I am going to keep trying to solve this, but it seems that if so many people have this problem, surely Adobe is aware and has a solution?

  40. Thanks for this post – it finally solved our problems with large documents containing many xrefs.

    When applying changes to one document of a book, we noticed that ID opens/closes lock files in the document folder when we are typing (Preflight was off). Solution: Open ALL documents of a book that are xref targets, ID works like a charm, even with live Preflight!

    Thanks again for all the input, this saved our day!


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