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Printing and Exporting Alternate Layouts

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The Alternate Layouts feature in InDesign CS6 offers you the benefit of keeping several different versions of a document conveniently in one file. But it does make things a little more complicated when it comes time to specify a set of pages to print or export.

For example, what if you created a few alternate layouts in an InDesign file and you wanted to print just the first page of each alternate layout to compare them? In order to do this, you have to specify the pages you want with the name of the layout followed by a colon and then the page number. You separate each individual page with a comma (and optionally a space).

So if your document has two alternate layouts called iPad H and iPad V, and you want to print page 1 of each alternate layout, you enter in the Range field: iPad H:1,iPad V:1.

You can specify ranges within each alternate layout too. So if you wanted to print (or export to PDF) pages 1-2 of both layouts, enter iPad H:1-2,iPad V:1-2

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You can also print a range of pages that spans more than one layout. So to print from page 1 of iPad H to page 2 of iPad V, enter iPad H:1-iPad V:2

When you’re entering pages in the the Print or Export dialog boxes, spaces matter and so does case. So in this example, iPadH:1 won’t work. Neither will ipad h:1IPAD h:1, etc.

From my testing it appears that you can’t use absolute page numbers when specifying alternate layouts for print or export. So if you wanted to print the second page of each layout (regardless of the actual page number), you’d have to enter the actual page numbers.  iPad H:+2,iPad V:+2 doesn’t work.

Editor in Chief of CreativePro and InDesign Magazine. Instructor at LinkedIn Learning with courses on InDesign, Illustrator, GIMP, Inkscape, and Affinity Publisher.
  • Steve Werner says:

    There’s another aspect of exporting from Alternate Layouts. You can set page ranges when exporting as PDF, or SWF or when printing, as Mike explains. But it doesn’t work for EPUB or HTML export.

    On the Adobe InDesign forum, someone asked whether they could include both a print layout and an EPUB layout in the same document in CS6. The idea makes sense because you sometimes have to make substantial changes in the file when you’re exporting an EPUB file. But it won’t work. There’s no option to export just the EPUB layout. Everything in the file gets exported in the EPUB as one stream of text and anchored images. The same is true for exporting HTML.

    It would be nice if page ranges could be added to EPUB and HTML export.

  • Mike Rankin Mike Rankin says:

    Interesting. I wrote this in response to a question someone asked me recently about printing and wasn’t even thinking about EPUB and HTML export. I suppose in that case, you could use the Articles panel to create an article that targeted a specific range of pages or a layout for those kind of exports.

  • Steve Werner says:

    Hey, that’s a great idea. I forget that you can choose which articles will export so that would probably work.

  • To use absolute page numbers for printing or exporting to PDF, you need to change Preferences > General: Page Numbering menu from the default Section Numbering to Absolute Numbering.

    Then you’ll see the absolute page numbers appear in the Pages panel below each thumbnail. The first page of the first layout is 1. Say it’s 4 pages long. The first page of the second layout will be “5.”

    Now you can print/export just the first pages of each layout by entering “+1, +5”.

  • Marcus says:

    Has anyone else had issues with Print Booklet? If you use Alternate Layouts, you sacrifice the ability to use Print Booklet. I got an error because there are multiple page sizes in the same file.

    Is there a workaround for this?

  • Steve Werner says:

    I don’t have issues with Print Booklet because I don’t use it. But it’s getting old (might have been added about CS2 or CS3) and has never been updated. It definitely couldn’t handle a file with multiple page sizes (which came with CS5) or Alternate Layouts (which came with CS6).

  • JS says:

    OK, so what if I have a book composed of several InDesign files “chapters.” Each “chapter” has 2 layouts – one for print and one for an interactive pdf.

    When I export the book, how do I get it to export just one set of layouts??

  • Ron says:

    I spent a lot of time creating an alternate layout for my Kindle/Nook ebook, but when exported, my ebook just ended up being twice as large a file, and twice as long, but the alternate format did not register with my portable device (Nook). I don’t know if this is because Nook does not support an alternate layout, or that I did something wrong when exporting. Idon’t see any options in the “Export” menu for exporting alternate layouts. Additionally, I assume I have to create separate ebook files for Ipad, Kindle, etc, when publishing to Amazon, etc.?

  • Ron says:

    I have a friend with an Ipad, so I’m going to see if the alternate layout works with their device.

  • We create a book for web and print. We have created a Web Version and an alternte layout called Print Version.
    How can I add just the Print Version of the document to a book?


  • jcdesign says:

    I have an issue where I have an alternate layout of a university catalog that is set up to be exported as an interactive PDF with objects slightly repositioned from the print version. When I export the alternate layout to an interactive PDF none of my text anchors work anymore and neither does the linking in the bookmarks or table of contents.
    I tested an export based on the primary layout and those links work fine. Is there something that causes the bookmarks, table of contents, and text anchors to look for their links in the primary layout even when I am exporting from an alternate layout?

  • Mattez says:

    How to get name of alternative layout as a text variable? I want to use it in page info. Any idea?

  • Abigail says:

    I was able to export separate alternate layouts by selecting them in the “Range” dropdown in InDesign CC.

  • Kevin Rea says:

    How do you export an alternate layout when your chapters/etc. are in a book?

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