PDF spreads from InDesign: radio button vs dropdown

When proofing PDFs of books to clients, it is often important that the client sees the proof as a series of left and right page spreads. PDFs made with any of InDesign’s default settings (these are the options in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box in the top dropdown field in square brackets) will show the PDF in Adobe Acrobat as it’s default view – single pages.

Adobe Acrobat does allow for pages to be presented in two-page appearance, but this is controlled by the user. If the user is unaware of this feature, then they will be viewing the PDF using Acrobat’s default single page view.

It is possible to change the view settings of a specific PDF while in Adobe Acrobat and this is done from the Properties option from the File menu.

The page viewing defaults of Acrobat itself can also be changed, but this will view any PDF that has not had its preferences changed when the PDF was made.

It is worth noting though that prior to 2015, the widely accepted method to prepare a PDF as readers spreads was to do this from InDesign’s Spreads radio button in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box.

While this does prepare what appears to be readers spreads, it does so with some disadvantages:

  • The centre spread line cannot be seen. This can be addressed by using the page border script from Indiscripts that applies a page border to all pages. Run this script prior to exporting the PDF to generate the page border and then export the PDF, then rerun the script to turn the border off.
  • The page count is incorrect. The folios will still appear to be correct within the PDF, but the page navigation itself will show the page count as half the number of original pages plus one (e.g. a 16pp file saved as spreads will now show up as 9pp in the PDF’s navigation).

However, from June 2015 it has been possible to set the default view options when exporting a PDF from InDesign for viewing in Adobe Acrobat.

This allows PDFs to contain the correct page count and to also show the page split between the spreads while still showing the pages as spreads.

Should be problem solved, right?

Unfortunately, no. Despite the dropdown now being available, there’s no ideal way to prepare readers spreads to suit all PDF readers or platforms.

  • Unless InDesign users read all of InDesign’s patch notes (maintained by James Wamser) or were otherwise made aware of this change, then normal habits would persist, and users would continue to prepare spreads using the spreads radio button.
  • If the dropdowns had been used, this only makes viewing the spreads possible in Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro), but unfortunately this software is no longer the preferred option for viewing PDFs. Besides Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Acrobat, most PDF readers only support single page view.
  • Even if Acrobat or Firefox are being used, users can still override the view either manually, or using Acrobat it can be done by default using accessibility in the preferences

So what can be done?

There are effectively four options:

First option is to prepare PDFs based on an audience using Acrobat only as their reader and use the dropdown option for spreads. If the PDF is exported from InDesign using a PDF/X standard, Acrobat will also show the PDF as it appears in InDesign’s overprint preview.

Second option is to prepare a PDF using the pre-2015 method of using the spreads button and the Indiscripts page border script.

Third option is to lobby the manufacturers of the non-Adobe PDF reader software to bring their software into line with the PDF specifications set out by Adobe itself (and while they are doing that, also update their readers to also accept form fields and commenting functions!).

Last option is to do nothing and leave the pages as single spreads… and that isn’t necessarily a bad option. If the PDF is being created for onscreen viewing only, and the viewer must see something that is intentionally spread over two pages such as an image that crosses over two pages, then single pages should be fine.

Last word

It is of note that people are not just consuming information on a single desktop monitor, but may have two or more monitors in which software windows are being juggled around; or on a mobile device that is more natural to be held in a portrait fashion. Social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram are designed for mobile devices to be held in a portrait orientation. It’s hard for me to admit, but left and right hand pages are just a legacy of printed books as their assembly creates this phenomenon. Unless there is a crossover between the two pages, a reader will usually read the content on one page, adjust their gaze and read another – their focus of vision can’t be on both pages at the same time.

Also, if the PDF is intended for print by a printing company, don’t provide them a PDF as readers spreads as they won’t be able to impose the pages for printing without breaking the PDF back into single pages.

Script: export an InDesign file to split PDF ranges

For the last month, I’ve been feverishly working away on some Data Merge javascripts that will ultimately answer the question that is commonly asked on the Adobe Forums – is there any way to Data Merge to uniquely named PDFs directly from InDesign? I can tell you now that the answer is yes… but developing a one-size fits all solution that will keep everybody happy is another matter!

Even though these scripts aren’t being released just yet, the research did yield some information that could be applied in another script that is as equally sought-after – the ability to export an InDesign file directly to split PDFs. There are many that can export directly to single pages, but not many (if any at all) that can export a PDF from InDesign directly to PDFs that allow the user to choose how many pages long each PDF should be. Well now there is!

exportscreengrabIt’s simple to use. Open the InDesign file, run the script and the following dialog will appear. Just choose where you want the PDFs, what preset to use and how many pages each PDF should be, and click OK!

Better still, it’s FREE!

Download the script from this link.

Any feedback concering this script is greatly appreciated. If you would like to more information about the Data Merge scripts that are in development, contact me on twitter: #colecandoo.

See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat: Part 2

2015-07-03 NOTE: This article is now out of date since the release of Adobe InDesign CC 2015. However, I have left the article here for posterity.

A previous Colecandoo article presented a way of being able to control the view size and page presentation of PDFs used as soft-proofs for clients. The solution was to use the Actions tool in Adobe Acrobat to apply an appropriate action that contains the necessary view size/page presentation settings.

This method certainly works, but there is a far more easy method that can be done directly from Adobe InDesign, and that is to export as an interactive PDF.

As a printer that, I had created very little interactive content until recently. I felt that the “Export to Interactive PDF” was only of use for content that contained form fields or other interactive elements, so I had not considered this an option… until now. In fact, this method is much easier than the method described in the previous article. Once again though, this should only be used when a client is checking the content of the PDF only.

To do this, select File/Export (or command + e on a Mac) and from the dialog box, select Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the dropdown list and click Save.

interpic01

A new dialog box will appear showing the available options for export, including the view and layout settings.

interpic02

If preparing a proof that is to appear as readers spreads, be careful that it is possible to select the same view in two places in this dialog box, with some unwanted consequences.

interpic03

To avoid this, use the Two-Up (Cover Page) option available from the Layout dropdown menu, rather than the Spreads option from the Pages/Spreads radio buttons.

The method still needs improvement…

One important note is that unlike the PDF export option for print, there is no way to save export presets for Interactive PDFs. Instead, the options used to last export an interactive PDF are maintained for the next export.

With this in mind, PDFs can also be exported en masse using Peter Kahrel’s batch convert script, but make sure that prior to using the script, one file is correctly exported to interactive PDF before using the script. Peter’s instructions do say this already, but it is worth writing it again.

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