Monday, April 4, 2011

Adventures in Exporting: A Lesson in Patience

Today, I had a problem with Exporting a PDF file from InDesign CS5. I'm working on a 8-page newsletter, with lots of photos, illustrations, transparency, and such. I've been designing this quarterly newsletter for several years, without much complication.

Yesterday, I got the Dreaded "Failed to Export PDF" message. Apparently, this happens to many other designer around the world, but it has never happened to me before. I was able to track down the offending file and finally make a PDF. But it took 2 days and at least 30 or 40 attempts.

The source of the troublesome file was a word doc with charts in it. Call me stubborn, but I'm a die-hard mac user. I don't own any Microsoft products. Maybe I should break down and buy MS Office, but thus far, I've come up with workarounds to allow me to successfully view and extract data from Office documents. So, I'm still holding my ground as an all-mac office. But sometimes I need to come up with creative solutions to view certain file types. Normally it works pretty well. Today...not so much.

To designers around the world who have ever had a rough day and seemingly got nothing accomplished: I dedicate this post to you.

  1. Open the word doc in Preview. Charts don't show up.
  2. Upload the word doc to
  3. Save it as a PDF.
  4. Open PDF in Illustrator.
  5. Redraw/fix all graph artwork from Word. Use 3D, graphic styles, nice typography, etc.)
  6. Since there are multiple graphs, repeat Step 5 several times.
  7. Save as an AI file.
  8. Place into InDesign.
  9. Export PDF. Fail!
  10. Grumble.
  11. Try different PDF export settings. Fail!
  12. Grumble again.
  13. Export INDD file as IDML file.
  14. Open IDML file and repeat steps 11 and 12 for an hour. 
  15. Repair disk permissions.
  16. Give up and go to sleep.
  17. Wake up.
  18. Restart computer.
  19. Repeat step 11 and 12 a few more times.
  20. Surf the web looking for solutions.
  21. Quit all programs and relaunch InDesign. Export the PDF with no other programs open, and without paging through the document. Fail!
  22. Try saving the AI file as an EPS file. Relink the file in InDesign.
  23. Repeat steps 11 and 12.
  24. Search again for more help on forums and websites.
  25. Read a forum where the designers tell you to outline all your fonts in order to fix the problem.
  26. Gasp in horror.
  27. Find a different website with an alternate solution.
  28. Try creating a postscript file and distilling. Fail!
  29. Remove graph images.
  30. Export PDF. Success!
  31. Place offending graph images in their own InDesign document and Export a PDF. Success!
  32. Place resulting PDF into original InDesign.
  33. Export PDF. Success!
  34. Export another PDF with different DPI setting (just to verify that it actually works). Success!
  35. Take a lunch break.
  36. Confidently make change/edits to the graph illustration.
  37. Update file in workaround-INDD document.
  38. Export a PDF.
  39. Update linked PDF in original newsletter layout.
  40. Export a PDF. Fail!
  41. Repeat steps 11 through 12 a few times.
  42. Try creating creating and distilling a postscript file. Fail!
  43. Export a flattened PDF. Success!
  44. Export another flattened PDF, this time for the Spanish version, which has different layers. Success!
So when I send this file to press later this week, I'm thinking about including a letter of apology. What do you think?

And oh, by the way, I wanted to include a screenshot of the "Failed to Export PDF" error message, but of course, now I can't get the error message to show up. Seriously?!

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