Adobe InDesign: Should You Link or Embed Your Images?
by Barb Binder
This is a controversial question in my Advanced InDesign class. By the time my students get to the advanced classes, they usually have a fair amount of production experience under their belts. And frequently they’ve been confronted by missing links and have no idea why. They figure out how to embed their images, and feel safe again.
I get that. Embedded images are copied into the document and can’t go missing. But the tradeoff we make when we embed images is a significantly larger InDesign document file. Lots of embedded images in one file means a bloated document, and a bloated document can be a sluggish document.
I think most of us are better off with linked files, and here’s why: when you place a image file that is over 48K (in a print workflow, that’s virtually any file you will ever place), the file is automatically linked to your document. InDesign shows you a lower resolution version of the document on screen* and maintains a link to the original file on the disk. The linking process keeps the InDesign document trim and you can actually edit the image using the original program outside of InDesign. When you edit an image in, let’s say, Photoshop or Illustrator, the changes will be reflected as soon as you return to InDesign and update the image in the Links panel.
So what causes a missing link? It’s someone (you or an unknowing co-worker) moving or deleting files that InDesign was linking to. It’s the same thing as telling me that you put a cookie on the table, and then either ate it or moved it to another room while I wasn’t looking. When I’m ready to eat that cookie, I’m going to look at the table where you told me you left it. And if I’m InDesign, I’m going to keep looking at the folder where the file used to be.
Ok, so how do we eliminate the missing links? In my mind, it just comes down to getting organized within your operating system. Whether you use Windows or Mac OS or even Bridge, it just makes sense to start a new project by making a project folder. If you:
- begin by creating a project folder, and
- make sure that you put everything that relates to that project into that folder, and
- refrain from moving/deleting graphics from within that folder
you will eliminate the missing links.
For example, as I get ready to start the next issue of a journal, I begin by making a project folder. I called this folder “Vol 20 No 3”.
Next, I create several subfolders within my project folder: I make one for the Word documents that are sent to me for layout, one for the images and one more to hold the PDFs I create for the editors to review my work.
This particular project is a book, so I have a book file, along with the two supporting chapters. It’s all very clean and organized. And here’s the most important part: when I’m ready to back up my work, all I have to do is move my project folder to my backup drive and everything inside is backed up along with it. If I find myself in a cleaning frenzy elsewhere on my working drive, I don’t have to worry about inadvertently deleting an image that I’m using in my project because they are all contained in the project folder. And I never, ever, get missing link alerts.
Try it, and let me know how it goes.
* For more information on controlling the display of the screen image, see Adobe InDesign: Display Performance Controls—They’re Everywhere!