InDesign now supports bitmap fonts, that’s great! We used bitmap fonts to great effect in our word game Good Interesting Fun Times. But you will likely run into a few issues editing and exporting documents using bitmap fonts. Below are a few of the common issues and their solutions.

Exporting bitmap fonts to PDF

InDesign can’t export a document containing bitmap fonts to PDF without error! You might get this message:

Can’t export PDF

Let’s fix that by employing a popular fix, usually reserved for sending files to printers. The fix involves converting text to outlines and exporting to PDF 1.3… which was first released in 1999. It’s pretty crazy that a PDF format created 20 years ago fixes a problem today. Well InDesign, let’s party like it’s 1999!

Convert text to outlines

We’re basically following this technique here:

  1. In the menu bar go to “Edit -> Transparency Flattener Presets”
  2. Click “High Resolution” then click “New…””
  3. Name your preset “Export bitmap fonts”
  4. Select “Convert All Text to Outlines”

Now when you export your document as a PDF:

  1. Select “Acrobat 4 (PDF 1.3)” under “Compatibility”
  2. In the “Advanced” pane under “Transparency Flattener” select your custom “Export bitmap fonts” preset

The PDF export should work!

Loading bitmap fonts

Bitmap font files can be big, from 2MB to 50MB. The larger the size of the font file, the more likely it is that InDesign will crash. InDesign loads your font into memory and sometimes simply can’t handle it. You’ll know you have this issue if InDesign frequently crashes, or crashes after a while. There are a few things you can do.

Update InDesign

Make sure you have this update. It helps you load a document containing bitmap fonts in the first place. Without this update InDesign is prone to crashing or not opening the file.

Free disk space

Make sure you have at least 10GB free disk space. If you’re running any other apps at the same time then they’ll chew into your swap disk. Chrome especially loves to do this. Try quitting Chrome and running just InDesign and you’ll notice a big difference.

Reduce bitmap font file size

I had a bitmap font that was 50MB and it caused a range of issues (scrollbar not working, random crashing). I re-exported that same bitmap font to 15MB and all of the issues just went a way. InDesign simply can’t handle large font files.

General configuration

This stuff is not required at all, but I thought I’d mention it to save you future headaches.

In order to have the perfect PDF do the following:


And there you have it. Bitmap fonts in InDesign. Your documents never looked better.

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