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Why Is InDesign Soooo Slow?

Erin wrote:

I am working on a brochure (40 pages, about 180 images). The document is running incredibly slow. It is not my computer, it is specifically inDesign. Every little action has about a 5 second delay!

There are many reasons why InDesign might be running slowly, but here’s a quick rundown of things I would try in this situation, more or less in the order I would likely try them.

  • Enough memory? RAM is like air to an app like InDesign; if you don’t have enough, it will be sluggish or even die. I would never try to run InDesign on a machine with less than 2 GB of RAM, and I’m forever cursing that my laptop with 8 GB is not enough (but I’m constantly running 5 to 10 programs, often including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Word). Hard drive space can also be a cause of problems, especially if you’re working on a nearly-full drive. Common wisdom says keep 10% of your drive free. (That’s 50 GB for a 500 GB drive!) InDesign relies on your drive because when it runs out of RAM it writes to the “scratch disk” (this happens far more than you’d expect).
  • Display Quality. There are three main display modes in InDesign — Fast, Typical, and High Quality (under View > Display Performance). Obviously, the higher the quality, the more InDesign has to think, and the slower it’ll become. If you’re working in Typical and it still seems like one or more images are in high-quality mode, then those images may have display quality overrides applied to them; you can disable those from the Display Performance submenu. InDesign also has other display modes that could potentially slow it down: view > proof color, and view > overprint preview. Normally, on a reasonably fast machine, those shouldn’t slow ID down, though.
  • Preflight. This is a big one. InDesign is constantly looking at your document to see if there are any “preflight errors,” such as overset text. If you have created a custom preflight profile, then it may be looking for lots of different things. Adobe insists that Preflight only works in the background when you’re not working, so it should not slow you down. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that preflight can get in the way. I almost always leave it on, but if you’re running into slowdowns, it’s definitely worth turning it off. (You can disable it by double-clicking that little green or red dot in the lower-left corner of the screen, then turning off the On checkbox in the Preflight panel that appears.)
  • Cross references. Probably the most notorious offender, causing slowdowns in InDesign, is the Cross-References feature. This is another example of “Adobe says it shouldn’t slow you down, but people keep coming up with examples that it can.” The biggest problem, as far as I can see, is x-refs that span from one document to another. This doesn’t surprise me because I’ve also seen problems when hyperlinks span across documents. I personally think something is deeply wrong with the way Adobe engineered the whole cross-document thing, and until it’s fixed I tend to think that cross-document referencing and linking should be avoided. Now, that’s not possible for everyone, so here are two other options: First, it sounds as though having all the documents of a book open at the same time can help. That is, just open all the files whenever you’re going to be editing one of them. Annoying, but it should help. A second option is to look at the Cross-References Pro plug-in from dtptools. I don’t know for sure, but it sounds as though their x-ref technology is more robust than what Adobe came up with.
  • Live Screen Drawing. If you get stuttering or slow-downs when you move, resize, or rotate objects, then you should definitely consider setting the Live Screen Drawing pop-up menu to Delayed (in the Interactive pane of the Preferences dialog box). The Delayed option is how it worked in CS4 and earlier: if you click and hold the mouse button for about a second, then it kicks in to “patient user mode” (where you can see the effect take place as you drag. Otherwise, you just get a gray bounding box. I’m fine with the gray bounding box if it means InDesign works faster!
  • Plug-ins (Font Activation). You know I dislike all the font management auto-activation plug-ins and recommend people not install them. (I don’t know who’s fault it is, Adobe’s or the add-on developers, but they’re just buggy as heck.) One person reported that turning off the “auto activate” feature that activates fonts inside graphics helped a lot. But I’d try disabling the whole dang thing and see if that helps, too.
  • Rebuild Preferences. I’m not sure if rebuilding your preferences would help slow-downs, but if you’ve tried everything else, then I would try hitting it with this. In the same vein, if you can’t figure out what else is causing the slow-down, you might try logging into your computer under a different account (like a guest account). If the problem goes away, then perhaps it’s something else system-wide going on.

All that said, there are some times when InDesign is just always going to be slow. For example, it tends to quit slowly — and the longer you’ve been using it, the longer it takes to quit. There are some technical reasons for this (I believe it has a lot to do with code that is cached on the scratch disk), but nothing you do will get around that. Some folks say they just use Force Quit (or End Task on Windows) to speed it up, but jeez, that makes me nervous. I wouldn’t do that unless it was taking over a couple of minutes and it was clear InDesign had actually crashed. Note that InDesign only writes your Preferences to disk when you quit properly, so if you force quit you may lose those.

InDesign will also run slowly when you’ve asked it to do something that takes a long time. I know that’s obvious, but it bears saying. I was once editing a 40-page index with 8-pt type, and I edited the index paragraph style definition… with the Preview checkbox turned on in the dialog box. Every change I made took a loooonnnngggg time, because InDesign had to update thousands of index entries, checking line breaks changing, reflow, and so on. Turn off the Preview checkbox in those situations! (Unless you are paid by the hour.)

There could be a dozen other reasons InDesign is running slowly. (Or perhaps you drank too much coffee and it just seems like InDesign is moving slower than usual.) Do you have other suggestions that have been helpful for you besides these? Write ’em in below!

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 Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
David Blatner

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  • - November 30, -0001
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101 Comments on “Why Is InDesign Soooo Slow?

  1. Hiya, if you are having the same problem I had when resizing anything or moving objects about, there is a computational bug with the control panel and the transformation panels that are giving you real time changes to the sizing and position parameters. This is slowing down the whole process as the program calculates and displays the changes. Close these two panels and bing, the jumpy pauses are gone.

    Hope this helps as it was driving me up the wall, Indesign CC on a brand new iMac 16gb of RAM. It shouldn’t be.

    Adobe needs to address this.

    Cheers, Anthony

    • Hi there,
      ID_CC it is REALLY a pain! It is SO slower than CS4, 5 or 6; My machine has a overclocked i7, win64 and 24Gb Ram, so don’t blame my hardware!!! I’m not really a programmer, but I guess that the real reason could be this: in Photoshop (CS6 and CC) Adobe stated they began to use Mercury Engine, which is a set of video display routines relying on GPU (the processor of the video card) instead than CPU; it is thus obvious that the ‘fluidity’ or overall speed of the software is related to the power of the GPU and the way GPU (videocard) and CPU (main processor) communicate each other. On the old versions of the softwares (Photoshop, InDesign etc) I think they did tricks and shortcuts to circumvents bottlenecks and speed up the whole stuff; and they worked as hell. But these tricks must change each time OS (Win and Mac) are updated or changed; programmers have to re-write huge portions of code each time and in this age of ‘spending rewiev’ even Adobe prefers to rely on something quicker and cheaper but somewhat less performant… Someone should investigate this with Adobe and tell them to bring back the speed we need!

      bye

      • Adobe is aware that there are problems with a small number of InDesign CC users. For those people it is very frustrating. The CC 9.1 update fixed the problem for some users, but not everyone apparently. They continue to investigate. Some people say it is better when all the panels are closed (press Tab or Shift-tab).

      • So would I notice an improvement if I replaced my GT120 graphics card with a GTX 680? Because I keep reading that 2D programs can’t take advantage of all the 3D hardware on newer cards…?

    • Hi, everyone,
      Just wanted to tell you my observations on the “speed” of the welcome screen of InDesign and its connection to the internet available:
      1. If I disable the network adapter of the computer everything goes extreamly quick;
      2. If I connect my hi-speed internet, it takes like half a second beeing blank before showing its content;
      3. If I connect to internet via my mobile phone, it takes like 1-2 seconds;
      4. If I connect to a rooter, which has no connection to internet this blank screen can last for more than 10 seconds.

  2. hi dave,
    I apologize for the language, but english it’s not my first-choice.
    They investigate? FBI, NYPD or LAPD should investigate; they should sell good stuff instead of rubbish. CC it is not the product we all expected. The REAL problem (to me) it is that when you SELL a product, you SHOULD sell something which works. If I buy a car, I expect that the car itself will exit the dealer’s yard while I’m driving; Adobe’s way, instead, is about buying a new car with a lot of problems having the dealer fixing ’em (maybe) in six month or so after engine blows up just past their doors.
    It’s not nice ever that a company like Adobe charges a lot of money for a tool which does’t work well and uses precious people’s time to debug this stuff.
    If you want to really understand why Adobe is lowering quality of it’s product, just read CREDITS of Indesign CS4 or CS5 and CC (everybody can do it, it’s fun!): all silicon valley american names are gone, replace by indian names. It is like you trade your Chevy Impala sedan or your Harley for a Tata pickup, man. Indians are great about philosophy and chackra, but not in mechanics or engineering. Germans are good in mechanics, not Inuit or Mexican. American WERE good in writing code, but huge companies discover that they can pay 1/10th or 1/100ds less to foreign people, so… It’s all a matter of cost, and Adobe has lowered it’s standard hiding a really poor engine under a nice GUI. Just missin’ ’95 and Pagemaker, buddy!

    regards, paolo

  3. Thank you! I was going crazy watching the cross-reference panel try to work for a 54 chapter book!

  4. I’ve found ID CC a vast improvement for one reason: epubs. Suddenly it (almost) works straight out of ID. Indexes are possible, editing outside of ID is kept to a minimum. Happy days! However, the slow downs have started to occur in unusual places. A few versions back creating an index almost always seemed to crash the system. That no longer happens. Now the slow downs occur when synchronising book files and when exporting to epub. The time increases when ID has more images to process but the worst part is it isn’t just ID which slows down but my entire PC (Win8, Intel i7, 2.8ghz, 8gb RAM, 64-bit, plenty of spare disc space). At least nowadays I can tell that ID is doing something – the progress bar is reassuring – but as an inveterate multitasker it is frustrating!

  5. Others may be aware of this issue, but when I move pages from one InDesign document to another, some type of link remains in place between the two that results in very slow editing of the document.

    I have searched high and low for this link to no avail. When I do a move (or copy) I generally do not want the link. Anybody know how to break the link, or avoid it in the first place?

  6. Not that I’ve seen it mentioned, but if I need to select and copy a bunch of text (Can be one page worth or 100 pages worth) indesign takes forever!! (Over 5 minutes) to do the copy to the clipboard. I use CTRL-C to do the copy (This is Windows CS5.5, btw). Any ideas?

  7. InDesign running slow?
    I have always had success with exporting to IDML files, then opening these IDML exports.
    Typically it is a font issue that can slow InDesign to a crawl.
    When I re-open one of these IDML exports, a find font error (that I am able to fix) dialog opens.
    Once the errant font(s) are deleted or replaced, InDesign runs like a top. Also restart InDesign after the export.
    I can only seem to find these problem fonts AFTER export to IDML.
    Very strange…

  8. I am running InDesign CS3 on an old 3.2Ghz Pentium (really) with a good graphics card and XP. I do run into some quite aggravating slowing. My file is presently 425Mb, 6,640 pages, 2,400+ 300 dpi linked images. It is a journal that I have been keeping for the last fifty-six years (I obviously didn’t always use InDesign – used pencil and paper for a long time into the late eighties). It is not so bad. I type most entries in Word and then copy and paste them to the current page of my file. Nearly the worst is when I edit old entries where InDesign thinks it has to re-paginate every time an image moves to the next page – takes three, four minutes sometimes. The worst is when I close. It can take five to seven minutes. Updating some indexes can take thirty minutes or longer (one has twenty-three thousand entries on over 600,000 pages). It can take many hours to count all the words and display them in the Info panel. thought you might find this interesting.

    • John W:
      1. Is there a good reason for you having one document with 6640 pages? This will make ANY programme unstable, not just ID. Consider splitting your file into multiple files and then using an ID book document (go to File > New > Book) to order them correctly and maintain styles between them. You should read the Help documentation about book files and their functionality. You can even set the page numbering so that it doesn’t automatically update every page number (just the ones in the document you are working in) every time you move your images around – but then you must remember to do it manually later.
      2. You should also look up how to Place documents (not cut and paste). It sounds like you are using techniques learned for Word but you have better alternatives in ID.
      3. However good your PC + graphics card were when you bought them you would now benefit from an upgrade. Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft from early 2014 – that means it is 10 years since they replaced it. It has since been replaced 3 times. Time to move on!
      4. In the same vein, ID has now been upgraded several times. Even if you only upgraded to CS5 or CS6 you would see huge improvements. If you have any intention of turning your indexed journal into a reflowable ebook (for use on all modern e-readers) you’d seriously benefit from upgrading to Indesign CC (the latest version).

  9. Inherited a 50ish page product catalogue in InDesign CC format. We have CC, but our MacPros are getting on a bit, and it’s a dog, so I saved the file as an idml and opened in CS5.5.

    All fine, except any time I go to update ANYTHING in the links palette, it basically hangs for 30 seconds. What’s going on there? Everything is linked up fine. There are a combination of image locations (some local, some networked), and a combination of RGB/CMYK images (working my way through that, thinking happy thoughts about the originator of the document).

    Anything I can do to make it behave normally?

    • Preflight can sometimes be your culprit. If you have it checked on or “live”, every time you place a new photo, preflight kicks in and re-checks your entire document. With a lengthy project, your document can sometimes hang up while preflight is working. Hopefully this helps. Good luck.

  10. Still no change even with suggestions.
    But can say the answer is revert to CS6 or wait for CC
    to catchup with updates or like found out,
    If machine is super cool, Indesign CC SUPER FAST.

    Thanx for the help but put everything back
    On.

  11. A user that I work with has a document that contains 10 chapters. Each chapter is a threaded story. The document contains 380 pages

    Editing throughout the document is fine except for one chapter (story). An edit in that story takes at least 30 seconds to process. This would include typing one letter, adding a space, etc.

    This “slow story” does include a good bit of text that was copied and pasted from another InDesign document.

    Is there some kind of link to the original document that is created when one does a copy and paste? Is it possible to break that link after it has been created?

  12. In CC, I have found Locking objects brings InDesign to a crawl. We’re talking several minutes to move to the next action. If I accidentally lock an object, it will take a few minutes for the screen to redraw.

    • sound bizarre, but this is true, we are having the same problems here.
      i pasted vector drawings from illustrator to indesign, i always do that.
      now my colleague took over, and he locks those pasted vectors. when he does that, Indesign will get extremely slow. i checked 99 times, and if i unlock those objects, Indesign is back at full speed again. strange but true.
      solution someone?

  13. With all due respect, David, and first of all thanks for trying to help, and providing comments.

    Things like the “speed up your inDesign” chart suggesting little workarounds are offensive and more than slightly apologist, as if Adobe is some open source volunteer effort and we should help them along. We’re not talking about video editing and compositing here, which my computer can also handle – we’re talking about simple fonts and static photos, and it should run smoothly and lightning fast by now, certainly as fast as it did 10 years ago. The truth is that they have a pricey monopoly, we don’t have any choice and Adobe is taking advantage of that fact.

    The most convincing explanation I’ve read, from an insider, is that Adobe are cutting serious corners with the coding quality and just piling on features without designing for efficient code, because that would cost more.

    I’ve been doing page layout since it was called “desktop publishing” and it is not my imagination that simple things like selecting a word with double-click are slower now (1/2 second delay! are you f*ing kidding me?) than with the original InDesign on a much slower Mac, not to mention being slower than in Quark on a freakin Mac SE. I believe the reason is simple: Adobe are cobbling together half-baked bloated code, skimping on paying for good code.

    And it all goes back to market monopoly, the same reason Internet Explorer and even Office is a piece of crap. I would gladly use other software if it existed. I loathe the current ethos at Adobe, their contempt for my time.

    • I hear your frustration, Andrew, but the problem is that you are experiencing these things and I’m not. In fact, I think most InDesign users are not. Most InDesign users find ID as snappy as ever. I am sitting here using IDcc and there’s virtually zero delay when selecting text. But some users do have problems. Sometimes it’s their documents, sometimes it their systems… it’s very hard to know.

      • That sounds legit enough, David, except that “why is indesign so slow” is one of the top search terms for Indesign on google, for pete’s sake.

        It would be easy for Adobe to sleuth out the problem if they wanted to – there are more than enough posters on the Adobe forums themselves, people with new systems complaining of dragginess, to constitute a quorum for investigation. If open source coding efforts can take into account a significant user bug experiences, and those developers are not even being paid, the Tesla-driving MBA’s in charge of Adobe these days can certainly do the same, if they’d look up from their balance sheets. Adobe’s attitude towards users has been supercilious and oblivious for years, I have a long memory.

        I’m glad you’re not having issues, and from the looks of it we’re of a similar vintage, but I have to ask, are you sure you haven’t just gotten used to draggy performance? A lot of my friends have.

  14. I am having an issue…My Indesign Program keeps on coming up with an “out of memory” error

    Mac Preferences:

    iMac 27-inch, Late 2013 Start up Disk: Macintosh HD Processor: 3.5 GHz Intel Core i7 Memory: 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M 2048 MB Software: OS X 10.9.3 (13D65)

    I have PLENTY of RAM…I know that cant be the issue..

    • Cassandra: I would try rebuilding preferences (see the article above for info on how). If it keeps happening, write something on the Forums (which more people will see than this blog post)

  15. Thanks for the efforts David

    Just to add data to the quest for understanding, my slow screen redraw began as soon as I turned “Proof Colors” on.

    Everything was instantaneous on the same document before that. InDesign immediately began a very slow redraw when I chose “Proof Colors”, and redraw has been slow on that document since. I can reproduce the issue if I go back to an earlier version and choose “Proof Colors” again.

    My system is pretty robust, so some of the possible causes are ruled out.
    (See system and document info below)

    I agree with Andrew that performance and reliability are my most wished for software features. Though, CC 2014 has been a pretty smooth upgrade for me so far.

    Cheers

    Tom

    System info:

    Adobe CC 2014, Mavericks 10.9.3

    iMac Late 2013 (3.5GHz, i7)
    RAM: 32 GB
    Video: 4 GB RAM (GTX 780M)
    Storage: 1 TB SSD plus 6TB RAID 0 Thunderbolt drives.

    Document info:
    Profile: Web
    Color Policy: sRGB
    Proof Profile: sRGB
    Layers: 9 (Some layers locked) (I rarely work with more than 3 layers)

    Apps Running: Adobe Ps, Ai, Id, Br

  16. I have a theory!!!!
    I believe it’s In-designs incapability to utilize the all the RAM and other hardware.
    I’m currently running an
    i7-2600 @3.4ghz CPU
    32gb ddr3 1600mhz corsair vengance RAM
    120gb intel SSD
    2x 500gb segate 7200rpm HDD
    GTX 660 2gb.
    windows 7 ultimate SP1 64bit.

    When looking in the task manager In-design never uses much ram despite having 32gb or so to play with.

    Another observation in the task manager is the ram allocation fluctuates and my network usage runs high when zooming in and out of a page.

    this leads me to believe In-design doesn’t store linked images in the ram for a long time and keeps referring to the source file (in my case a NAS Drive). could this be due to the scratch disk being almost full or is it just because Indesign need to keep referring to the source of the linked image.

  17. Related problem: Anyone seeing Indesign CC launching extremely slowly the first time, then much faster after quitting and relaunching? On my Macbook Pro 2.53 ghz Core 2 Duo, initial launch takes more than 4 minutes. After quit, a relaunch takes 25 seconds.

  18. Hi Their,

    I have a PC with configuration i72600K 16GB ram,128GB SSD,1TB HD 7200RPM.using software’s coreldraw x6,indesign cs6,illu cs6 but still the application are working very slow.so plz suggest me the best configuration so that i can use these apps simultaneously without loosing the speed.and i am planning to configure intel xeon with dual processor with 12 cores.so is it ok or not

    • Santosh,

      You already have a fast machine, adding dual processors won’t help. If you allocate too much RAM in Photoshop, it won’t be available for other apps, you might want to check your settings.

  19. I’m working on a big ID CS6 project, with hundred pages of text and linked images. Using a slight amount of cross-references, and a few conditions. Maximum document length is 150 pages, all binded in a book.

    I’m shocked at the slowness of ID. The spinning ball appears even when typing. Documents are continuosly opened and closed in the background. The program crashes every two hours or so. I did everything described in this and other discussions, but there is no way to improve things.

    I don’t want to go back to FrameMaker, since it is a real pain. But ID is really unusable as it is. I’m starting to dream the day I’ll stop releasing documentation in the form of a traditional book, and be able to get rid of this thing.

    Paolo

    • I must add: I’ve worked on similar projects with PageMaker in the past. Never experienced something like this. Call it progress!

    • One of the reasons that make ID so slow seems to be the amount of hidden objects in the file. For example, if you imported a text file, then cut and pasted part of it in a text frame, and then deleted the imported file sitting on the workbench, it seems that this text is still contained inside the ID file.

      I could discover this by looking at the Structure pane, where these hiddn text files/stories could be seen thank to the tags associated with the paragraph styles. By removing these hidden stories, the ID file become smaller, and there is less need to reformat when opening a file.

      I have a lot of hidden linked pictures as well. While they are not embedded, I guess they take computing time when everything has to be set. Shame I could not find a way to remove them from the Link pane.

      Paolo

  20. If your InDesign document has been packaged, try deleting the “Document Fonts” folder from within the folder your file resides. I have found several times that InDesign has some sort of battle with the system over where the font resides.
    I’m using CS6 / Win7

  21. I have multiple documents in ID CC, with multiple anchored objects, and placed images. The docs range in size, but the biggest may be around 40 pages. There are 200 pg in all – I did not book them together, they each are individual. Yet, whenever I want to print a file, it takes several hours to flatten and print.

    My images are placed from a remote location, (my job uses networks and a cloud to bridge across a few buildings), if that matters at all. I do not suppose it does.
    I have 8GB ram, and a terrabyte of storage, as well as several remote drives with terrabytes each.

    What can I do to make printing more palatable? Especially with a boss who likes frequent printouts. . .?

  22. Not sure if anybody mention this:

    My document gets crazy slow when I have the “Pages” panel enabled. The rendering of all the page thumbnails seems to slow down ID dramatically. When hiding this panel or disabling preview thumbnails, ID works fine again.

  23. I’m at my wits end. My InDesign was running just FINE up until the last update. Now it takes 3-10 seconds to do ANYTHING, even nudging a simple small text field. This goes for all of my documents, even new ones, and takes almost 10 minutes just to open up the program. None of the things listed in this article apply to me. Now I have just lost a job because of this and am concerned I’m about to lose another. :( :( :( Tried closing all my tabs… virtually no improvement. Will Adobe be offering any discounts/credits toward CC members for this?

  24. I found a bit of a bug in Indesign i hope this can help a few people.
    If you have sluggish performance make sure you haven’t got any placed PDF’s and AI files.

    • I wish that were the case with me. Unfortunately, InDesign is sloooooow even if I don’t have any documents open. :(

      • What OS are you using? What computer spec have you got? How much free primary storage space do you have? (if you are using a Standard mechanical hard drive make sure you have at least 50% free and do a defrag) what is your workflow proccess? If you have bugs maybe try uninstalling all adobe products using Adobe removal kit, then re install them could be some corrupt libraries on your machine.

  25. I tried “Display Quality” the “Preflight” to no avail, but deleting the lone cross-document cross reference returned me to normal speed!

  26. I’ve been able to get back a tremendous amount of speed to InDesign by unplugging my tablet. I’m glad for the speed, but now I have to get through using a basic mouse.

  27. I came to a literal crawl on a short document I was wokring on, seeing the dreaded beachball of death efter almost every charatcer typed, saw a suggestion about switching GREP off by adding an * before the GREP code, I did that but it didn’t do anything, then I actually deleted all the GREP styles and it is back to normal speed now.

    Very diassapointing, they really should be embarrassed.

  28. Hi. I had a problem with a magazine what I created, InDesign became extremely slow.. Every single task caused a spin-ball.. It was pretty strange.. then I came here to find some solution to my problems and when I read this article I did realized that I have a lot of hyperlinks to external websites and when hyperlinks palette is turned on then each task cause 30 seconds spin-ball, the solution is simple.. hide the hyperlinks palette and then everything back to normal :)