3 Replies Latest reply on Jun 10, 2011 8:51 PM by John Hawkinson

    Strange footnote problem

    kevin.cecil Level 1

      One of the teams I support created an four-color academic book in InDesign that has 624 pages. It is broken into 44 chapters, each containing 20-50 footnotes. The book went through the editorial process and was approved. The final file was made into a PDF that went to the printer and 3,000 hard back copies were made. 20-30% of the footnotes in the printed book have problems. Footnotes start re-numbering in the middle of a chapter, some footnotes are simply missing, and numbers are skipped.

       

      I pulled a server backup of the file from the week before and the week after it went to press (the file was unchanged and was timestamped with the same time and date on both files). The InDesign file is correct in both instances. The archived PDF file that was made is definitely wrong. I do not really believe this is a PDF problem, but believe that something happened to the InDesign document that messed up the footnotes. DIstiller can drop items when PDF'ing, but it can't re-number footnotes… Section starts in InDesign are right where they should be for each chapter. EVERYTHING in the InDesign file looks right.

       

      We re-PDF'ed the file on the same Mac using the archived file and the footnotes came out correctly. Not a single error. We used the same file from which the original PDFs were made.

       

      The Mac was running OS 10.6.6 and InDesign CS5 7.0.3 at the time the PDFs were originally made. The file was printed to postscript and PDF'ed using Distiller 8.1.0. (Not sure why he did that, because he had Acrobat Pro with Distiller 9 on his Mac… but that is a different subject.)

       

      We have shredded the defective books and re-created the PDF files and the book is re-printed and shipping. So, this is over.

       

      However, I want to make sure this doesn't happen again.

       

      Any ideas?

       

      Kevin

       

      Message was edited by: kevin.cecil - fixed typo.

        • 1. Re: Strange footnote problem
          John Hawkinson Level 5

          Wow, Kevin. That sucks.

           

          I think you have a pretty clear business case to talk to Adobe at. Since there was some clear financial cost here, and clearly some budget available, its probably appropriate to engage Adobe support and your sales folks, if you have any. Especially since I suspect this is going to come down to an intermitant bug of some sort.

           

          I'm sure you aware that printing to Postscript and then making a PDF is not the normal workflow for PDFs in InDesign. The normal workflow is to Export to PDF from InDesign. Can you tell us why you were printing to Postscript?

           

          Do you have the original Postscript files that InDesign produced? While, as you say, it is pretty much impossible for Acrobat Distiller to be at fault here, it is quite possible that inspection of the postscript file it processed can give you some important clues. Since Postscript is an ascii text-based language, you can open the PS file in a text editor and inspect it near some of the footnotes.

           

          It is also plausible to do some level of forensic analysis on the PDF files, but you'll be more dependent on complex tools and will be also one cooking step further along in the process.

           

          I assume you are using InDesign's Book feature with multiple INDD files (44 of them?).

           

          I would try printing to postscript with a wide variety of different settings in the print dialog, trying to see if you can replicate the problem. I would have to guess that it is something entirely unrelated to footnotes, if it is triggered by a setting, since there really isn't a setting to "scramble and drop half the footnotes."

           

          Have you tried watching over the shoulder of the individual human person who ran the export that failed, watching them from start to finish as they start inDesign, open the book, and export the postscript? Perhaps they are doing something non-intuitive that you would never try (or that doesn't even look wrong but just has

          unintended consequences!) that triggers this bizarre behavior.

           

          Of course an analagous question is whether that individual can reproduce the problem. Clearly you cannot, but maybe they can?

           

          None of this is very helpful I fear. Just my off-the-cuff thoughts. Good luck.

          • 2. Re: Strange footnote problem
            kevin.cecil Level 1

            Thanks John,

             

            Even the guy who made the PDFs  can't replicate this issue–and he has been doing this a long time. I doubt Adobe would be able to replicate it either. We delete the .ps file after distilling so, no, we don't have those to examine.

             

            RE: "normal" PDF workflow

             

            While exporting is probably the most-used method of making PDF these days, printing postscript and Distilling is perfectly valid as a workflow. It just works–and the potential for certain issues are taken off the table.

             

            The book had 44 chapters, but this was just one InDesign file.

             

            I figure some type of flakiness with numbering and sectioning caused the issue. It manifested itself as though someone had gone in and changed section start locations, but I checked multiple times–they are correct. Also, some footnotes were just gone. For example, in one chapter, the footnotes were running along 33, 34, 35, 36, 43, 44, 45, etc… Gone. In another instance, the footnotes are humming along 23, 24, 25, then 2. Next chapter starts, the first footnote is 3, then 4, 5, etc… but the section start is in the right location, on the page where footnote 3 begins the sequence for the chapter.

            • 3. Re: Strange footnote problem
              John Hawkinson Level 5

              No, suggestions, but if you report the problem to Adobe and make a big stink of it (do you have any pieces of shredded book to mail to them?), perhaps they'll put two and two together with someone else's bug report and find the cause or manage to put in some checks to prevent it from happening again, even if they don't know the cause.