Mastering the Long Document Capabilities of Adobe InDesign

By John Cruise

Dateline: September 5, 2005
Version: Adobe InDesign CS

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While InDesign will allow you to create a humongous document with up to 9,999 pages, if you’re publishing anything lengthy you’ll want to break it up into several relatively small InDesign documents and use the program’s Book feature to manage the files.

To create a book file, choose File > New > Book. Assign a name, and choose a location for the book file. To keep file management simple, you might want to save the book file in the same folder that will contain the book’s InDesign files. A book file is not an InDesign document; rather, it’s a file that contains information about the InDesign files that make up a book. By default, book files are given an “.indb” file extension.

When you create a new book, an empty Book palette is displayed. The next task is to add InDesign documents to the book. A logical approach is to create a separate document for each chapter—one for the front content, one for the index, and so on. Click the Add documents icon at the bottom of the palette, select one or more documents (press Command/Ctrl to select multiple documents), and click Open. You can also drag and drop InDesign files from the Finder (Mac OS) or Explorer (Windows) into a Book palette. At this point, you can change the order of the documents by dragging them up or down.

Specify one of the documents in the Book palette as the style source. The style source is the “master” document that contains the Paragraph and Character Styles and other properties that are used by all the other documents. To choose the style source, click the empty square to the left of a document name. The Style Source icon is displayed next to the style source.


Synchronize the files in the book so they’re all on the same page, so to speak. When you synchronize a book, all of the properties in the style source are copied to other documents in the book. Before you synchronize a book, choose what components you want to synchronize by choosing Synchronize Options from the Book palette menu, and click OK. When you’re ready to synchronize, select one or more documents in the palette, choose Synchronize Options from the palette menu, and click Synchronize. If no document is selected, then all documents are synchronized.

When you create a book, InDesign automatically paginates all documents and displays a page range next to each file in the Book palette. To ensure page numbering is done correctly, enable Automatic Page Numbering in the Numbering & Section Options dialog box (Layout > Numbering & Section Options) for every book document.


To control pagination for a book, choose Book Page Numbering Options from the Book palette menu. If you choose Continue on next odd page or Continue on next even page, the Insert Blank Page check box is available. If you check this box, InDesign will automatically add a blank page, if necessary, to the end of a document so there are no missing pages. Save changes to a book file by choosing Save Book from the Book palette menu.

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John Cruise is a Denver-based trainer, writer, and co-author of books about QuarkXPress and InDesign.