InDesign is lagging, running slow? InDesign is a huge program. Do you need all the accessories and features on at the same time? Probably not. By selectively turning off features of InDesign, you can speed up the response time. Try these strategies on that next big document.
By deselecting the On checkbox while you build, you lighten the load considerably. Save that Live Preflight session for the late stages of the project. Of course, when you do turn it on, make sure you are enabling some of its advanced preflight features. Don't just use the default preflight check, which only looks for missing fonts, missing linked graphics, and overset text.
Viewing placed images at high-quality resolution forces InDesign to display graphics under hi-rez color-managed conditions. Setting the view default to Typical (Preferences > Display Performance) renders the images at screen-rez, or 72ppi resolution and less color management relative to the monitor screen. That lightens the load for long documents.
Pages Panel Thumbnails
The Pages Panel > menu button > Panel Options allows you to deselect Show Thumbnails. This saves a lot of wait time while the tiny page image regenerates. Really, unless you set your thumbnails to Large, Extra Large, or Jumbo, you can’t really see much in the thumbnail.
In Preferences > General is a switch to Show “Start” Workspace When No Documents Are Open. When this is turned off, InDesign is noticeably faster when opening and closing document files.
Text that threads across many pages slows down InDesign, because a change on one page triggers an adjustment to them all. Add some anchored graphics and the text flow adjustments get even more complicated. As a strategy, consider flowing and threading text for a limited number of pages and frames. Break the text, and flow and thread for another limited number of pages. Repeat the process as needed throughout a lengthy text project.
The Hyperlinks panel spends a lot of repetitious time pinging and re-pinging all the hyperlinks you have built. While this is a useful feature, and an important part of quality control, you might save this for late stages of editing by clicking on Hyperlinks panel > menu button > and deselecting Auto Update URL Status.
While you should definitely use styles, the more complicated the style, the more InDesign has to adjust many related things. This can cause lengthy wait times. Keep Options within paragraph styles can be too complicated, and even lead to impossible conflicts. Therefore, have just enough styles, and try to understand their interrelationships. The simpler the paragraph style options, the faster it can update.
GREP in Paragraph Styles
Closely related to paragraph styles is too many GREP rhythms in a paragraph style. These can tie up an InDesign document for a long time while everything gets sorted out. Consider simplifying the use of them by transferring some of them into Find/Change routines.
Live Screen Drawing
Setting the Preferences > Interface > Options to Delayed means that when you select an object to move, you wait a moment to drag it, and see it move in full detail. If you drag it immediately, all you see is a square shape frame; not the detailed image within the frame. If you set it to Never, you see a square shape frame move; never the detailed image within the frame. Of course, once you let go of the mouse drag, the square box fills in the image again.
Save Preview Images
This feature is constantly redrawing as you work on a file, but can be minimized by going to Preferences > File Handling > Saving InDesign files. Either switch off the checkbox, or set it to First Page with a Preview Size of Medium 256x256. Consider setting this with no documents open, and it will be the global default for future new documents. On the other hand, 1024px previews look great in Bridge.
Type Contextual Controls
Within Preferences > Advanced Type > Type Contextual Controls are two switches that can slow down and even crash InDesign. When turned on, InDesign has to constantly generate flyouts for alternate characters, ordinals, and ligatures. These things can usually be provided in a paragraph and/or character style.
The Eyedropper Tool
Avoid using this method to transfer typesetting and other attributes to other text. Better to use paragraph and character and object styles. More than just slowing down the application, many find the use of the 2020 Eyedropper tool to be crash-prone.
Oddly, this Mac-only feature is supposed to speed up InDesign, but on some Mac systems it slows the program or even crashes it. Try turning it off, and see whether or not InDesign becomes more stable.
Using the InCopy features to have externally-editable text requires InDesign to spend a lot of time checking the condition of the linked textfiles and updating the Assignments panel and the frame adornments of the textframes. It creates a lot of network activity which can slow down the document. If the story is editorially complete, consider removing the assignment to lighten the load.
Smart Text Reflow
Under Preferences > Type is a section called Smart Text Reflow. When you have a lot of text editing going on, this feature is constantly trying to figure out if you need more pages added and/or removed. If your page count is known and constant, consider turning this feature off.
A document that has lots of cross-references within it triggers a lot of adjustments whenever the text changes or reflows. The more cross-references, the slower InDesign runs. There is really nothing to be done about this, except lighten the load on all the other things in this list!
For more troubleshooting guidance, download InDesign 2021 troubleshooting how-to guide from the InDesign 2021 resources section of this website.