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PDF export in InDesign: perennial problem

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#1
natcase

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My workflow often involves taking a large Illustrator map file, cropping it in an InDesign window, and exporting to PDF. I don't have to mess (much) with the underlying Illustrator file, and I can quickly update a series of publications with different views.

Here's the problem: when you export to PDF from InDesign, it often exports the entire underlying Illustrator file... compressed, sure, but a lot of dead weight. My workaround has been to export from InDesign as an EPS (which does make hidden objects disappear), and then import via Acrobat, but this has its own issues, especially because EPS is very inefficient at handling raster images generated by InDesign effects.

Does anyone else have this problem?

I'm working in CS4, and I'm wondering if it gets addressed in later versions. I recall asking an Adobe presenter about this at NACIS last year or the year before, when CS5 came out, and being told no, it was still there.

Does anyone have similar workfow and a better workaround to get a more efficient PDF size?

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#2
David Medeiros

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Why are you using InDesign to do your cropping versus masking in Illustrator? Is the map part of a larger layout in InDesign or is this just a masking technique?

If just for masking I'd look at creating the masks in Illy and export straight to PDF (with save Illustrator editing capabilities unchecked). The mask operation will destroy your layers but you simply "undo" before saving again (or work on a copy of the master).

When exporting from illy to use in other layouts or to create the smallest PDF possible I always save an export copy first, then run the flatten artwork option from the layers palette before masking and exporting.

If you have to run your map through InDesign and still find that the EPS format is giving you the best file size results you may want to look into using Acrobat Distiller to convert the EPS to PDF instead of just opening in Adobe.

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#3
natcase

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Why are you using InDesign to do your cropping versus masking in Illustrator? Is the map part of a larger layout in InDesign or is this just a masking technique?

It's part of a I need a different piece of the map for each InDesign instance, and I want to be able to update quickly using the Illustrator file, which changes frequently. In this case, it's a series of tours using the local bikeshare program, but this is a frequent issue: I want to be able to use the Illy base work for a bunch of different projects, update it once, and then apply those updates in multiple InDesign variants. If it was a small number of variant frames, I'd use different artboards, but in this case that would quickly result in an unmanageable multitude.
Actually, in the name of production efficiency, I'm marking up the map in InDesign. That is, I'm laying in the base map, and then drawing dashed lines with arrows and 'point of interest" numbers" over the top. Not perfect, but it's quicker than maintaining all the different layers in AI.

If you have to run your map through InDesign and still find that the EPS format is giving you the best file size results you may want to look into using Acrobat Distiller to convert the EPS to PDF instead of just opening in Adobe.

ah - HA! Yes, that should make a difference, but it ends up about the same... In the meantime, though I tried the following strategy—not the prettiest, but boy does it make the file smaller:

1. turn off all layers in InDesign but the map and a blank white background the same size as the page
2. export as a hi-res JPEG
3. turn OFF the map layers and turn ON everything else
4. On a new layer below everything else, import the freshly exported JPEG.
5. Export your PDF...

The result was about 1/15 the size as the original PDF export. Phew.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#4
cartdeco

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Hi Nat,

One feature of Acrobat I use often to reduce file size and get rid of redundant information is to save as an optimized pdf. You can tweak settings such as image quality, font embedding etc, but what Acrobat will do is flatten your file to one layer and clip the artwork to the page size. Depending on the type of file you have (if it has images etc) you can get quite big savings in the file size and your printer will thank you for not crashing their RIP.

Cheers,

Craig
Craig Molyneux
Spatial Vision
www.spatialvision.com.au
www.svmaps.com.au
craig.molyneux@spatialvision.com.au

#5
natcase

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Hi Nat,
One feature of Acrobat I use often to reduce file size and get rid of redundant information is to save as an optimized pdf. You can tweak settings such as image quality, font embedding etc, but what Acrobat will do is flatten your file to one layer and clip the artwork to the page size. Depending on the type of file you have (if it has images etc) you can get quite big savings in the file size and your printer will thank you for not crashing their RIP.

Yeah, it helps, but only about 15% file size savings in this case. Actually, I try not to optimize this way for printer files: too much risk of unforeseen downsampling artifacts. I do sometimes (especially when I have a number of client-supplied ads) export a InDesign-generated PDF as a .ps file and then run this through Distiller. A printer taught me this trick a couple years ago, and it does seem to resolve a bunch of transparency-based weirdness. But not always everything.
The problem in this case is that the image is already "entirely within the page area": it's been placed within a frame in InDesign. But it retains the entire file that was masked using InDesign, even when you optimize as you suggest... Arrgh.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#6
Agnar Renolen

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Does anyone have similar workfow and a better workaround to get a more efficient PDF size?


A problem with InDesign is that it doesn't allow you to print directly to a PDF-file, promoting its own PDF export. Which is good however, except from the fact that it includes the entire PDF file in the output. However, if you have several instances of the PDF-file in your document, I believe it is included only once as a resource. Not so with inserted EPS-file which is appears to be included once for every instance (correct me if I'm wrong here).

The trick is: Export your InDesign document to EPS, and run the EPS-file through Distiller to create a "clipped" PDF.

The downside: If your map, contains transparency, it will be flattened during EPS-export which again increase the file size.

#7
Adam Wilbert

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The downside: If your map, contains transparency, it will be flattened during EPS-export which again increase the file size.


It really depends on the intent of the "reduced file size" file. If it's still intended to go to print, I would avoid any workflow that flattens transparency regardless of whether it has any affect on size or not. This means all PDF-X variants before X-4, anything that involves PDF v1.3 or earlier, and anything involving EPS as an intermediary. I may be way off here, and please correct me if I am, but I think we've moved well enough beyond needing to worry about transparency flattening before sending to press, haven't we? My experience is that most printers have moved to a modern PDF rip that supports proper flattening at the device, rather than having to do it in software ahead of time. And flattening too early introduces a host of problems that flattening was supposed to fix in the first place back when everything was postscript based. Issues like color mismatch where objects are half raster and half vector, or text objects getting split into rasters just because they happen to be within the cloud of a drop shadow on some other layer above. My working philosophy is to either rasterize the entire graphic at once or none of it.

Nat: if rasterizing the whole map as a reimported JPG is working for you, there might be an interesting way to streamline that whole workflow. If you place the Illustrator file inside of a Photoshop document (same size at 300ppi), and then import the Photoshop version into InDesign, it should be removed enough where the PDF export just embeds a JPG version of the graphic without having to go through all of the steps of turning on and off layers and importing a jpg for each sheet. I just tried it with a quick mockup and I went from a 1.8MB PDF using the Illustrator file down to 242KB using the Photoshop proxy.

The only down side that I can think of is that updating the Illustrator map won't automatically update the Photoshop file. (So aggravating! It only works the other way; PS updates Illustrator) So you'd have to re-place the map into your PS file after each update. But from there, InDesign should automatically become current.

Adam Wilbert
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#8
natcase

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Nat: if rasterizing the whole map as a reimported JPG is working for you, there might be an interesting way to streamline that whole workflow. If you place the Illustrator file inside of a Photoshop document (same size at 300ppi), and then import the Photoshop version into InDesign, it should be removed enough where the PDF export just embeds a JPG version of the graphic without having to go through all of the steps of turning on and off layers and importing a jpg for each sheet. I just tried it with a quick mockup and I went from a 1.8MB PDF using the Illustrator file down to 242KB using the Photoshop proxy.

The only down side that I can think of is that updating the Illustrator map won't automatically update the Photoshop file. (So aggravating! It only works the other way; PS updates Illustrator) So you'd have to re-place the map into your PS file after each update. But from there, InDesign should automatically become current.

Very clever. Thanks! Only problem: the original Illustrator file is physically quite large... not sure this will end up being a time saver if I have to do the place-in-Photoshop conversion each time. But some variant on this might work. I'll play around with it...

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com






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