What is causing my type to move, disappear, or re-rag in InDesign?

This question has multiple parts. The problem is that type, letters within words, just disappear on our proofs or press sheets when no edit was done to the file. It is happening when the supplied file is run through the pre-press vendor's RIP or the printer's. We are also experiencing re-ragging of type. This has been going on for about a year with at a rate of about one per month. We have been fortunate to catch these errors, but our luck will run out soon.

The explanation I have been given is that Adobe InDesign is unstable if the vendor has an OS9 operating system. Also, different RIPs at the printers could be the cause. No one has give us a clear answer.

The questions are: What is causing type to move, disappear, or re-rag in InDesign? Is InDesign the problem or the RIPS or both? To what extent are other print organizations experiencing this problem? What is the solution or what are other organizations doing to solve this problem?

Any help you could offer or direction you can give will be greatly appreciated.


The most probable answer to your problem is "none of the above." All your problems are most likely caused by that little four-letter word: font.

Ironically, this most often occurs with the basic "printer" fonts that most companies supply with their printing devices. The truth is these fonts are NOT as universal as one might expect. Your Times Roman may look ALMOST identical to mine, but it's very unlikely that it really is IDENTICAL. Very minute differences can create horrendous re-wrap issues. Often, designers do not furnish their "system" fonts (They assume the printer already has them.), so the printer uses their own system fonts. If I were a betting man, I would wager that your problems are occurring with Arial, Times Roman or some other standard "printer" font.

The old adage that you SHOULD ALWAYS FURNISH ALL FONTS has not been rendered obsolete.

Printers should have learned long ago to remove all of the fonts not actually used by the system and only use the fonts supplied with the job.

Letters within words disappearing is usually an issue with translation of PC TrueType fonts. PC TrueType font sets actually have more characters than their Mac counterparts. Since Apple originally created TrueType, one would think that would not have happened; but it did, and it continues to haunt us. When a character is used for which the Mac has no corresponding character, it can simply be dropped or an inappropriate character substituted.

One solution is to use OpenType fonts which are always identical on both PC's and Macs.

As far as OS-9 vs. OS-X is concerned, OS-X handles fonts much differently and many printers are simply not up to speed on these differences. Add to this the fact that many font handling utilities had to be dramatically rewritten for OS-X and many companies are switching back and forth between operating systems.

OS-X can handle Windows PC fonts directly and see all of those missing characters. It's not an entirely blissful transition, but the hesitation to move to OS-X in pre-press is probably unfounded. You will need Font Agent Pro and Font Finagler to handle fonts properly on OS-X. But, there are more pluses to making the move than minuses.

This is not essentially a Mac/PC issue. It's not even an OS issue. It's more an issue of things changing faster than we can keep up with, and a huge gap between the knowledge needed and the level of training on all fronts.

So, the fix: Supply ALL FONTS. Remove all but mandatory system fonts and install the actual job fonts using FontAgent Pro. Keep your font cache cleaned out by using Font Finagler regularly. Use Open Type Fonts. Run OS-X (at least 10.3.8) on Macs.

Will this fix every font related issue? I only wish!

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at stephenbeals@mac.com.
© Copyright Print Buyers Online.com, Inc.