Friday, March 1, 2013

Advanced troubleshooting steps for Adobe InDesign Windows/Mac crash/freeze

Troubleshooting for text related issues

Users may encounter unexpected crashes and freezes when working with Adobe InDesign due to several reasons. However, I'll only talk about text related crashes and freeze behaviors in this blog. Designers throughout the world use various after market fonts A.K.A 3rd party fonts which are not developed by Adobe. In this scenario, we are not sure which typography software was used to create the fonts and whether InDesign would be able to treat the font structure and design as expected. My intention is to direct you some simple and advanced steps which you, as a basic/advanced user, can troubleshoot the issues to the best as you can.

Windows users follow these steps

Basic steps:

1) Reset the preferences of Adobe InDesign using the simple keyboard shortcut.

Alt+Ctrl+Shift : Keep these three keys pressed and then launch InDesign. Keep the keys pressed until you get a prompt asking to delete the preferences file. Click Yes and continue with the launch. 

Please note: You'll lose user defined presets, keyboard shortcut changes or Adobe PDF presets. Save these before resetting the preferences.

2) Manually cleaning the font cache: This step includes searching for .fnt files. Click the Windows Start orb and then type *.lst in the search box. Click on Show all to display all the search results. Delete these AdobeFnt<random#>.lst files to clean entire font cache. Don't delete any AdobeFnt.db or FontNames.db. ".lst" files will be found on Windows 7 and later OSes. For Windows NT/XP or Win2K3 this will be the location: C:\WINDOWS\system32\FNTCACHE.DAT

Advanced steps: 

Before I say anything about the advanced steps, I want to mention that this kind of troubleshooting requires intermediate knowledge about Operating systems like changing folder permissions or tweaking with the registry editor etc.

Text related crashes will have "CoolType.dll" as effected module in the crash data. You can check these details in the event viewer under Application section of Windows events. CoolType is an anti aliasing technique developed by Adobe to display fonts in a more crisp and clear format irrespective of the font design. CoolType throws errors when anti-aliasing algorithm fails for 3rd party fonts that are bad.

1)  Font Validation before installation: On Windows, you can validate a single font or a folder full of fonts before you can actually install them for use in applications. If you've downloaded fonts from another source or from Adobe, it is recommended that you validate the fonts using a genuine font validation application. Adobe's own Adobe Type Manager lite can be used earlier to validate fonts. However, the deluxe version is now out of date and unavailable in the Adobe marketplace. You can still download the ATM lite that can solve the purpose for not only OTF and TTF fonts but even Type 1 and Postscript fonts. Download link: ATM Lite. Use this application for validating fonts or you might use any professional font management applications like the FontExplorer pro to validate multiple fonts. Validating fonts before installation will help you determine a bad or corrupt font before its going to be installed. Any font with 0 byte size is a bad or corrupt font. It's recommended not to install those fonts and rather delete them and re-download them and further validate them. All fonts after installation in Windows, moves into the C:\Windows\Fonts folder since this is the system library of Fonts.

2)  Set the right permissions: The following Font locations on your Windows machine is very crucial for Adobe applications to access them dynamically during your production work. Hence setting the right permissions to the required Font folders is necessary. The correct locations are:

C:\Windows\Fonts\. Do not remove fonts from this folder unless you're sure about a bad font located here.

C:\Program Files(x86)\Common Files\Adobe\TypeSupport. This folder contains character map and font databases. Accessing this folder is very crucial during application launch.

C:\Program Files(x86)\Adobe\Adobe InDesign CS6\Fonts\. This folder may contain application fonts that were installed along with the application. You can place Fonts in this location when you want them to be local to Adobe InDesign only.

Right click on above folders and under Security tab choose your current user profile name. Check to make sure that you've Full Control on these folders. If not then check the Full control check box and then hit apply. If necessary, log in as local administrator of the computer and then apply the permissions. 

Microsoft's article for Font Registry entries will help you set the right permissions to the required registry keys.

Note: If you're still unable to apply the permissions, then it is an account specific issue.

3)  Thorough Font test using script: Adobe has developed a very robust Font testing script that will help you determine specific bad font causing application crashes or freezes. Download the font test script from the following link: Font test script. If you're new to this process, then please follow the read-me file. After installing the script, launch Photoshop and then browse to Help menu. Click on Test Fonts to run the script and follow on-screen instructions. Log file which is generated at the end of the test may be forwarded to Adobe support for in-depth investigations.

Mac users follow these steps

Prior to mentioning steps, I want to mention the location of fonts on a Mac machine.

Macintosh HD/Users/<username>/Library/Fonts.
Macintosh HD/Library/Fonts.

Users who use Font Management programs may have fonts installed over network location. In that case Fonts may reside under following locations:

<network drive>/Library/Fonts. This is an assumed path. This path may vary and sometimes go very deep within network directories. However, storing Fonts under deep network locations is not recommended. Adobe InDesign may fail to behave properly when Fonts are located under a very long network path.

Since Lion OS X, User Library is hidden. To quickly unhide Library permanently use this technique: Launch terminal and type the command "chflags nohidden ~/Library" and hit return key. Now Library folder will be visible under Finder window permanently.

Advanced Steps: 

1)  Font Validation: It is mandatory to validate fonts using the Font Book application which is by default installed with Mac OS X. To validate all Fonts within Font Book, press Command + A to select all fonts. Navigate to File > Validate Fonts. Font validation window will pop up and start the validation process. It will take some time depending on the number of fonts installed on your Mac. Once the validation process is complete, the results may have yellow or red exclamation marked fonts. The yellow marked fonts indicate that there are duplicate fonts installed on the OS X. It is recommended to remove the duplicate fonts or resolve the duplicates from Edit > Resolve duplicates with the duplicate fonts selected. It is mandatory that you remove the red marked fonts because they're corrupt for sure and may cause serious issues with Adobe applications.

2)  Set Permissions: Apply full permissions for the following folders:

Macintosh HD/Users/<username>/Library/Fonts.
Macintosh HD/Library/Fonts.

Right click on the folders and click Get Info. Expand the sharing and permissions panel. Make sure  your username is listed there with Read & Write permissions applied. If not then add your username by clicking on the lock icon, log on as admin to make changes. Click on the + icon to add your account name. Once you see your account name listed under the Name section, click on the right hand side drop down menu to choose Read & Write. Now click on the gear icon and choose "Apply to enclosed items".

This way the permissions will be applied successfully on the Font folders.

3)  Divide and Rule theory: This is a plain and simple theory where you will isolate the damaged font by separating fonts part by part. 

Create 2 folders on desktop named AdobeFonttest and Adobegoodfonts.

To test for a damaged font, keep half your fonts in the Library/Fonts folder. Move half of the fonts to the AdobeFonttest folder, and test the InDesign document for crash/freeze.

  1. If the problem recurs, the damaged font is still in the Library/Fonts folder, and the font is not in the AdobeFonttest folder. Move the fonts from the AdobeFonttest folder to the Adobegoodfonts folder.
  2. If the problem does not recur, the damaged font is in the AdobeFonttest  folder. Move the fonts from the Library/Fonts folder into the Adobegoodfonts folder. Move half the fonts back into the Library/Fonts folder.
  3. Continue launching InDesign and testing for damaged fonts. Continue to move the fonts not causing crash, into the Adobegoodfonts folder. 
  4. When you've determined the one font that is causing the problem, remove it from the Library/Fonts folder. Move all the fonts from the Adobegoodfonts  folder back into the Library/Fonts folder.

Perform these tests for each official fonts folder that contain fonts. It could be any of the fonts folder mentioned at the top before Advanced steps start.

4)  Remove Font database cache: Before applying this step quit any Adobe applications running in the background. 

  • Launch Terminal app from Spotlight search by searching terminal keyword. (Faster than Utilities> Terminal).
  • Type the command: sudo atisutil databases -remove

Any changes in the command will not work or not have any effect. Re-launch InDesign and then test for crash/freeze.

In this blog, I've edited the most needed troubleshooting techniques only for problematic fonts on Windows and Mac. Day to day crash/freeze and pinwheel issues can be avoided by following this blog properly. If you have any queries regarding this blog post, please feel free to contact me at Shushobhan's and I'd be glad to help.

Thanks for reading through and have a good day ahead!


  1. Very crisp, detailed and much needed information. Thanks a-lot.

    1. Thanks Apurv. Hope this helps in the future if you face any issues with fonts while working in InDesign. ;-)

  2. This is an excellent article! But I think you left out a word in Mac Font Test Step 3 (Divide and Rule theory). You said "Move half of the fonts to the AdobeFonttest folder, and test the InDesign for crash/freeze" but you mean "and test the InDesign DOCUMENT for crash/freeze," yes? Because fonts aren't called until they're used in the active document in OSX, as far as I know.


    1. Anne thanks for pointing that out. You're correct. I'll make the change. Yes it's true that with an active document in InDesign the font test should be continued. However, I've experienced crashes at InDesign launch with CoolType.dll errors in the past. Possibilities are that InDesign tries to recover Saved data from the last modified document if it wasn't closed properly and ID quit unexpectedly due to a bad font.

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