Do you REALLY need to trash your preferences?

As a regular in the Adobe InDesign Forums, from time to time I see this one line given out as a “cure-all” to any issue occurring in InDesign: Trash your preferences. There’s even dedicated instructions on how to trash your preferences in the main screen of the forums, so it should be the first thing to do once InDesign goes off the rails, right?

NO!

When I see this suggestion offered as a solution to a strange or bizarre situation that a poster is encountering, the person offering the advice usually neglects to tell the poster that by doing so, all of their settings and preferences will be gone, and have to be reset. There is also no guarantee that trashing preferences will resolve the issue that the poster had, and in doing so the poster not only has the same issue, but now has the complication of rebuilding their preferences.

Instead of this advice, I would suggest a checklist of the following:

  • Is the issue happening in all documents, or just the one that I’m working in? What happens if I try in a new document?
  • Could it be a conflict with other software? What happens if I close other software and try again?
  • Could it be InDesign itself? Does restarting InDesign help?
  • Could it be the machine? Will a restart return InDesign to normal?
  • Is an InDesign plug-in to blame, or a recently installed script? If the plug-in or script can be turned off, does this make a difference?
  • If you have access to other versions of InDesign, is the issue able to be replicated in other versions of InDesign?
  • If you have access to InDesign on other platforms (e.g. there are other machines in the office that may run InDesign on another operating system) is the issue able to be replicated on other operating systems?

If the fault is persistent, before going to the forums, check the Adobe InDesign Feedback page first. Does the fault appear on this page as either a bug or feature request?

If the fault is not listed here, then go to the InDesign forum and search the forum first for the particular issue. Chances are if you are experiencing the issue, that someone before you has as well.

If the forum is showing no results, feel free to ask the question but remember to state:

  • the version of InDesign being used;
  • the platform and version of the operating system that is being used;
  • what is done to trigger the fault (e.g. When I print; When I click on the pages panel…)
  • what the fault actually is (e.g. a warning comes up; it crashes; the image appears backwards…)
  • any debugging you have taken to remedy the fault (e.g. I tried turning it off and on…)

Posting on this forum may take some time to receive an answer, as the majority of posts are handled by other users. Occasionally the Adobe staff will answer the queries, but they are clearly identified as “STAFF”.

If one of the responses that is received on the forum is “trash your preferences” ask the following questions:

  • What led the poster to come to that conclusion that trashing preferences would resolve the issue? Did they suffer the same fault and this solution worked for them?
  • Look at the poster’s history. Do they have a habit of suggesting this solution over and over again?
  • Did the poster warn of the side-effects of trashing your preferences?
  • Is this the consensus of all other posters on the thread, or are there other solutions that have been offered?

My concern with providing the “trashing your preferences” option as a solution is that it should only be performed as a last resort when all other methods short of a reinstall have failed to resolve the issue. In recent years, I’ve seen this advice given out on the forums like candy at Halloween, and no doubt I too have suggested it more than once.

If you have received “trash your preferences” advice on the forums, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

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About colmin8r
A prepress operator since 1997 specialising in Adobe InDesign.

One Response to Do you REALLY need to trash your preferences?

  1. dblatner says:

    This is great advice, Colin. Trashing prefs should never be the first thing you try.

    Another troubleshooting idea: Log in as a different user (even a “Guest” user) on the same computer and launch InDesign from there. That often provides good perspective.

    But there are some situations where rebuilding Preferences is absolutely the right thing to do. For example, user interface problems… for example, if you open the Layers panel and it’s empty (no buttons, no layers, etc.) and you quit and restart InDesign and it still looks like that, then I would recommend heading straight for rebuilding the prefs.

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