Extracting Image Files from InDesign (sort of) When You Don’t Have Originals

Has anyone else out there ever needed to get a preview image out of InDesign and into the world-at-large when the original linked files were not available? Maybe it’s just me, because it doesn’t seem like an easy thing to do.

Because I edit books on graphical subjects, many of my authors actually like to write and submit InDesign files (rather than go “old school” and turn in Word docs and a folder full of TIFFs.) Until the ready-for-production draft goes off to my brilliant composition team, I really don’t need (or want) to have them send along the linked files. InDesign’s preview images are certainly good enough for me to evaluate a manuscript— and, frankly, passing around hundreds of megabytes of photos during the draft stage would eat up time and bandwidth unnecessarily.

I have, however, found myself on occasion wishing I could create an independent file from an InDesign preview in an emergency. Once upon a time, my answer was to take a screenshot of the preview image in situ and then paste it into Photoshop. But now I have a better solution: Create a PDF and use Acrobat’s ability to extract images.

The process is relatively simple. For my example, I’ll use a spread from Tim Grey‘s new book, Take Your Best Shot, due out this week. Why? 1) The book is good enough to deserve a shameless plug, and b) Tim is sitting next to me at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit right this minute and he’s the one who got me the invitation to attend the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit. (By the way, tell Deke that Tim is working on Channels and Masks One-on-One as I type this. It’s due out this Fall.)

Start by creating a PDF. As you know, you’ll have a choice to make about the quality of your file. Even though I know I can’t make those previews any higher res than they already are, I still go for the highest quality setting out of superstition (and I invite alpha geeks to explain whether it might actually make a difference).

  1. Once the PDF version opens in Acrobat, choose Advanced > Document Processing > Export All Images.
  2. In the ensuing dialog box, enter your desired filename in the Save As field. Note that you are actually extracting all the images in your PDF, so this “filename” is really going to serve as prefix for every file you’re extracting. If you have multiples (as I would since this is a chapter in a book), Acrobat will go on to add more to the file name that will leave (almost) no doubt in your mind from whence in your document it was extracted (with one caveat explained below).
  3. Choose your Format from the drop-down menu which offers JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and JPEG2. I’m usually using these as placeholders (imagining that when Tim gets off his a… bike, he’ll send the hi res files, so I choose JPEG).
  4. It is worth it to click the Settings button and choose the JPEG (Quality: Maximum) setting from the File Settings > Color pop-up. (I’ve actually tested and see a difference there, it’s not just superstition.)
  5. Click OK, and then Save, and watch as Acrobat creates your images. Then go look at them and see the wacky name and order Acrobat creates for your images.

Magically, I now have reasonably useful versions of the files that live outside of InDesign, complete with Acrobat’s fancy made-up names.

Note: if you have more than one image on a page, Acrobat will name the files sequentially, based on chronological order. Weird, but one of thos those things any InDesign user will find familiar. (For some reason, InDesign likes tointerpret your images in the order in which they were added to the page instead of something that, oh . . . makes more sense.)

Voila, file liberation!

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  • How about Embedded Images

    What if some bozo had copied & pasted images from PowerPoint into the document? Is there a way to extract the images from InDy? (I know, I know - always link images. Like I said it was some bozo who did it.)

    InDesign doesn’t even acknowledge the existance of these embedded images. They don’t show up in the links palette, preflight, or in the info panel. The only thing I can think of is the enlarge the frame so the image fits @ 100%, create a PDF with no compression or downsampling, and extract the images from the PDF.

    — K

  • PDF should work to extract embedded images as well as previews

    But I’m confused about the part where you said InDesign denies their very existence. Can someone tell me how this would happen?

  • InDesign files with no Links

    Can anyone help me out? I’ve got an InDesign file from a client
    with images in the file but there aren’t any Links showing up in my pallette.
    How is this possible. BTW, I am fairly new to InDesign.


  • Dragging Illustrator files into the page

    Nevermind. I figured it out.

    Dragging Illustrator files into the page will not give you a link because it becomes part of the file. Weird.

  • They become native objects

    That’s b/c vector paths brought in from Illustrator and the like are treated as native paths by InDesign. Once you understand it, it makes a lot of sense. And it’s quite helpful b/c you can edit the paths right there in InDesign.

    Meanwhile, this is one of the things that Flow should eventually be able to track. (One of its functions is to serve as a higher order Links palette.)

  • Similar technique for Word docs

    This is a great way to get around what shouldn’t be such a difficult thing—extracting those images!

    I am called upon to extract images from Word docs occasionally. All one needs to do is save the Word doc as an HTML file, and a folder full of images will be provided! No one in my office knows how to do this, which is probably why they keep me around. Granted, the images sucked out of a Word doc will be really crappy, but sometimes you gotta do it.



  • Export all Images in JPEG, jpg, tiff, gif, png from indesign

    There is a plugin that exports every image in an indesign document directly to *. jpg, *.gif, *.tiff or *.png.

    The downloads aren’t working until now, i wrote an email and he sent me a fuly working beta version of his plugin. He even included two installers running on Mac and Windows.

    I installed the beta on two Windows installations, one was 32bit the other 63 bit. Both plugins are working flawlessly!

  • what about other image files?

    I have an InDesign document that is full of sourced pdf images?  When I extracted the images from a PDF version of the doc with Adobe Document Processing, it did not bring over the pdf’s.
    Is there a batch process that will export all the images with their current view, setting, mask etc straight from InDesign?

  • Name Of Plugin

    Hi Martha,

    Could you please tell me the name of the plugin.



  • Great


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