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Help, My InDesign Palette Is Empty!

David (no, not me!) wrote:

Both my Text Wrap and Pathfinder windows are blank in InDesign. Did I change a setting or do something else stupid? Do I need to reinstall?

I don’t know what’s in the air these days, but we’ve been getting a bunch of these kinds of emails recently… empty panels, empty palettes, whatever you want to call them. You’re on deadline, it’s Friday morning, you wake up from your well-deserved 3 hours of sleep since you shut the computer down, and you launch InDesign… why is the Links panel empty? Why are there no colors in the Swatches panel? What is going on?

The answer is simple: I don’t know.

But I do know that it happens sometimes — this mysterious “empty palette syndrome” — and I know a solution that almost always fixes it: Rebuild your preferences. Anne-Marie first wrote about how to do this way back in 2006 (but it works in CS3 and CS4, too).

By the way, the Rebuild Your Preferences trick is one of several troubleshooting techniques listed on this Popular Posts page. And, just for references, if you need to find it again, choose InDesign FAQ from the Resources drop-down menu at the top of this page.

So next time you find yourself staring at a blank panel, quit, relaunch, and if the problem doesn’t go away, then quit again, and rebuild your prefs upon startup.

More after the jump! Continue reading below
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(Of course, note that when you do this, you lose all your application preferences. That could be a hassle, but less so than having a blank palette!)

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
  • Lauren says:

    Sometimes I can fix this by hiding InDesign then bringing it back up again.

  • jakob says:

    Sometimes I find that certain tool palettes (left hand side as well as the align buttons to the right of context bar at the top) do not display correctly until you move over them with the cursor or resize the window.

  • F vd Geest says:

    >Sometimes I find that certain tool palettes (left hand side as well as the align buttons to the right of context bar at the top) do not display correctly until you move over them with the cursor or resize the window.

    Same here, even after restarting InDesign. Hiding/showing sometimes helps

  • Glenn Toddun says:

    Two days before having to give a presentation to designers on Master Pages, my page panel goes blank. The irony almost killed me. I wish I’d known about this fix then.

  • heavyboots says:

    What about just resetting your workspace too? Seems like a trick that might be tried prior to the full rebuild prefs trick.

  • Somerset says:

    Changing or resetting the work space can fix this sometimes, better than losing all of your preferences.

  • I found when I enabled “Spaces” in OS X the palettes started to have problems…so I stopped using Spaces.

  • Klaus Nordby says:

    I’m on Win XP & Vista and have never seen this issue, so I suspect it’s a Mac-only problem.

  • David Blatner says:

    You wish, Klaus! :) No, it’s just a relatively rare problem, so it’s not surprising that you haven’t seen it before.

  • Very often it is not necessary to rebuild the preferences (nonetheless keep a healthy copy!). Deleating the Cache does the trick as well.

    In this case preferences stay untouched. InDesign is «forgetting» only two things:
    (1) Which keyboard set was in use (the set itself is not deleted, sure, because it is part of the untouched user pref folder), and
    (2) which were the preferences of cmd/ctrl+return.

    You?ll find the Cache in
    (Mac) User > Library > Cache > Adobe InDesign
    (WIN, a bit more complicated and in German) User > Lokale Einstellungen > Anwendungsdaten > Adobe > InDesign

  • Rene says:

    I can confirm that this a problem when Spaces is enabled on Mac OS X. It’s been affecting since CS3.

  • Roland says:

    The “missing” align & distribute icons get to be kind of annoying, but I know where they are and moving the cursor over them shows them, so I just pretend they’re playing hide & seek (I’m just better at it than them).

    Either way, if they keep on disappearing, I’ll just have to start using the Align panel instead. Now if only it would appear next to the cursor when you open it…

  • Lucia says:

    We’ve seen that problem and reset the preferences to fix it, but here’s another one: a panel becomes very wide (don’t know why) and we can’t resize it back down to the standard width. Resetting the preferences and changing to default workspace doesn’t help.

    Anyone else?

  • David Blatner says:

    @Lucia: I would recommend resetting the Workspace or choosing a different workspace. Panel size and position is controlled by the workspace.

  • Lucia says:

    Thanks, David. We did try that and no luck. We tried everything in the workspace pulldown. It’s very strange that we just can’t grab the sides or the corner of the panel in order to pull it in or out (or even up or down). It’s only happening to a few users and it’s just a little annoying, but doesn’t hurt anything so we’re just dealing with it.

    But thanks for the above tip and all your posts. I learn something new every day at this site!

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Deleting the cache also deletes the Most Recent list, as far as I know.

    I’ve not found an instance though where deleting the cache fixes anything. ;-(

    Lucia, does the problem occur if you log in as a test user on that computer? (a different user account?)

  • @Anne-Marie: For example here ? http://tinyurl.com/ctnmpc ? it worked. The problem was a corrupted dialogue.

  • Lucia says:

    I’m embarrassed. I thought I had reset her InDesign preferences, but that was Photoshop for another issue she was having. I just reset her InDesign preferences and it worked just fine. Thanks for all the tips, and sorry for my mistake.

  • Emil says:

    Sometimes I don’t want to clear preferences.

    Try this – disable and than enable plugin whitch is responsible for particular panel. In my case it was “Info Panel InDesignPlugin”. And yes you must to restart Indesign twice.

    I don’t know if it still works because I dont have this problems anymore. Couple a years ago (CS2?) I saw that my Info panel is suddenly blank and this plugin solution helps me.

    Sorry for my English.

  • Deleting the cache, as Jochen F. Uebel suggested worked for me, and turned out to be the best option, because you don’t have to rebuild all your preferences, keyboard shortcuts, workspaces, etc. that are stored in preferences.

    Thanks Jochen!

  • Robin Coyle says:

    Help! Using CS3 version and have never seen this happen – My text box frames have turned white! Does not matter if I create a new frame loaded or unloaded. I now can’t see them on my page. I’ve had to create a color background on my master in order to format my rather long document, but don’t want to keep that for the final. My text frames threads have also turned white. Can’t find anything in preferences to change these back. Is there a plug in that I could disable/enable to fix this?

  • David Blatner says:

    @Robin: It sounds as though your Layer color may have changed to White somehow. Perhaps a prank by a colleague?! Double-click the layer to change its color to something reasonable.

  • Robin Coyle says:

    David – thanks for the Layer tip – it worked! Would never have thought to look there for the problem. (And what do YOU know that I don’t about my colleagues?) Mischieveous creatures all.

  • Phil W says:

    Thanks. My Text Wrap panel remained blank for days after my CS3 workspace had rearranged itself. Deleting the preferences restored it.

  • Mary H says:

    I followed AnnMarie’s advice on rebuilding InDesign preferences using the cntrl-alt-delete with startup. My issue is that I can’t find the folder sequence of Documents and Settings to get to the folders to save them. Where else would adobe store the preferences file if I don’t have the documents and settings file?

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Mary, what computer platform are you on (Mac/PC) and which version of the operating system (10.4/XP/Vista/etc.)? The path to the prefs panel is different for some of the above combinations.

  • Mary H says:

    PC with Windows XP

  • Cheryl says:

    I have this problem a lot. The cache trick didn’t help and neither did trashing my preferences…or it didn’t work for long and was therefore not a good fix, given the associated problems. Pulling the affected palette “off the stack” and resizing it one way and another and then double clicking in the middle seems to be the best trick. Now if only I could remember that trick when I am stressed out about missing palettes and deadlines.

  • Caty Kehs says:

    Deleting the cache worked!

  • Luke says:

    can confirm that not enabling spaces on OSX will solve the blank panel problem.

  • Sara says:

    Hey, Cheryl’s trick worked for me and my page panel – pull it out – move it around – minimize and maximize and then the double click! Thanks! Seems like it just needed a bit of exercise :)

  • Traci says:

    I’ve tried pulling out preferences, restarting, adjusting size of palette, pulling it out, putting it back and everything else I’ve seen here. (Windows XP) and my align palette is still empty. Any other options?

  • Traci says:

    Oh, yeah, CS 4

  • Charlie says:

    Try double clicking on the name tab at top of panel. I had a blank links panel for days after trying all sorts to get a link to come up I double clicked on links name by chance and it miraculously displayed info – doh!

  • Russ Tkachuk says:

    Can someone tell me please, how I can the Tool Box up on InDesign4 on a Mac?

    I have tried reinstalling and rebuilding the preferences without success.

    When I open a new document, I get essentially a blank screen and there are no commands available in any of the menues to restore the Tool Box. (Have no tools what so ever)

  • @Russ: Try choosing panels (including the Tools panel) from the widow menu. Or, even better, try choosing from the Window > Workspace menu.

  • russ tkachuk says:

    I have tried the Workspace menu but “Show all Menus” is gray in colour. Cannot use “panels” fromtools panel because have no tools.

    Reinstalled CS4 again today and updated it. Still the same problem. Other programs, e.g., Photoshop OK.

  • @russ: You’ve selected Window > Workspace > Advanced? Or the other panels? Do you see the other panels when you do that? Try Window > Application Frame on and off, too. Try pressing Tab a couple of times to hide or show all panels.

  • Russ: Reinstalling InDesign is the last resort, and only after you’ve confirmed the same problem occurs when you log onto your computer with another account (a test account) … and even then, sometimes it’s something else in your user’s account folder, not with the app.

    Reinstalling InDesign doesn’t delete/rebuild preferences, nor does it delete the cache. Those are two separate operations. I would try deleting the cache first, then start up ID and see if the prob is still there. Then rebuild/delete the prefs, start up ID and see if the prob is still there. Each operation should take you just a minute or two.

    Let us know …

  • russ tkachuk says:

    Removing cache ( into trash), nor rebuilding preferences did not solve my problem.
    I still get virtually a blank screen on opening ID (All one sees are six boxes on left top: ID, Bridge, Zoom, View Options, Screen Mode and Arrange Documents).

    Don’t have another account as am sole user as Administrator, of my Mac.

    Have tried Window>Workspace>Advanced and pressed every entry on resulting list; Window>Application Frame, On/Off nor pressing Tab do not give the Tool Box.

    I appreciate getting your suggestions. I must be missing something very simple … .

  • Russ, go to System Preferences > Accounts and create a new Admin account. Turn on Fast User Switching. Then switch over to the new account and boot up InDesign, see what happens.

  • russ tkachuk says:

    Anne-Marie: Thank you very much for help! InDesign opens with a tool box in the new account.

    I need more advice as my old account has a history going back to the 512. Do I have to bring everything into the new account, or can one move the “restored InDesign” into my old account?

    Also, InDesign CS5 is in the mail. As reinstalling InDesignCS4 did not cure the tool box, will I have the same grief with CS5 and thus have to install it into the new account?

    I really appreciate your help. This problem has probably taken up more time than any previous one.

  • Russ, you’re welcome! I actually cover this very step in my Lynda.com video on troubleshooting InDesign files: http://www.lynda.com/home/DisplayCourse.aspx?lpk2=47762 (video #9 out of the 10 in the title).

    So anyway, congratulations, now you know the problem lies in your Home > Library folder in your main account. That is the difference between your main account and the test account. I don’t know if installing CS5 will fix the problem … you have something corrupt or conflicting with CS4 in your Home > Library folder that may very well conflict with CS5 as well. So I’d fix the CS4 problem even if you install CS5 and it works fine, because you will very likely need to continue in CS4 for at least some projects in the future.

    This very thing has happened to me before. The good news is that no, you don’t need to move everything over to a new account. Instead, just like deleting the InDesign prefs file and letting ID create its own new one on the fly, you could do the same exact thing with everything in your Library folder.

    In other words, there is nothing in your Home > Library file that is required to make your computer run. It *does* have all of your app’s current settings, bookmarks, any fonts you may have installed in your account’s Library > Fonts folder, your apple.keychain with all your passwords, and so on.

    Here’s how I fixed the problem when it happened to me (I’d recommend you make a bootable backup before doing this, though I don’t think you’d need one.):
    1. Create a new folder on the desktop in your main account called “Old Library”
    2. Move all the contents of your existing library over into the Old Library folder.
    3. Restart your computer, and log back in to your main account. If you look inside your Library folder you’ll see the Mac already recreated some files on its own.
    4. Try to run InDesign, and see if the problem is fixed. It likely is.

    Then you can drag over any required, hard-to-resurrect files from your old library to the new one as required. For example, the Firefox folder that has all the bookmarks; or your apple keychain, etc. Of course you should periodically test that ID is still working okay, that you didn’t drag over anything corrupt.

    If all that sounds too drastic to you, you could try removing “likely suspects” from the Library folder to the desktop, restarting, and testing ID. But when it happened to me, I was in a hurry, and this got me back in the saddle quickly. I ended up only needing to drag over three or four folders from my desktop Old LIbrary folder, but it took me about 6 months before I felt comfortable enough to drag the Old Library folder to the trash. ;-)

  • russ tkachuk says:

    Anne-Marie, thank you again. I see that there is a bit of work involved. Will eventually report on the clean-up operation.

  • Nathan Van Haver says:

    Hi guys,

    Just FYI : I had a similar , pretty annoying problem today ( MacBook Pro/Intel, InDesign CS4.)
    My Layers Panel
    – remained just blank
    – I couldn’t add new layers
    – I could no longer edit layer items s.a. text, images..
    All other panels were normal.

    Solution : I’ve emptied my cache (User/Library/Cache/Adobe InDesign)
    After shutting down & restarting InDesign, everything = now back to normal.

    Thanks for the help everyone! It was hard to find any info on this problem in Google.

  • Frank Kelley says:

    Working on a Mac laptop system 10.6.6 Intel core i7.
    When opening a file Indesign CS4 the tool box and palettes are not movable

  • @Frank: Sounds frustrating. Did you try the various options above, such as rebuilding your preferences?

  • Hi there,

    A little after the fact, but the blank panels problem just happened to me in the past week on PC so I tried resetting prefs in the usual way (Ctrl Alt Shift on startup) which failed, then I traced the problem to the specific file called InDesign SavedData

    (It xxSavedData so InDesign couldn’t use it on startup I then restarting InDesign and the problem disappeared. A new SavedData file was built which was a lot smaller in size and the issues was solved.)

    This SavedData file is within the caches folder (on PC I found it under C:\Users\XPS(may differ – this is specific to your pc)\AppData\Local\Adobe\InDesign\Version 7.0 (you may not have this – I have several versions installed)\en_GB\Caches

    Phew!

    Hope this helps solve the blank panel problem for some folks.
    Ida

  • Oops – my editing above went astray – It should have said that I renamed the file xxSavedData so InDesign couldn’t use it on startup and the problem disappeared. When I renamed it back to it’s original name the panels went blank again.

    Sorry for any confusion!

    Ida

  • Annika says:

    Hi, can someone address this problem regarding links in CS4 InDesign: Missing links in my links palette are not showing themselves as missing. There is no small icon next to those link that are missing like there were in CS3. Does anyone know if I have to turn something on? There were a few missing in my CS4 doc and when looking through the links palette it showed none of them as missing, they all looked properly linked. This is maddening. Thanks!

  • @Annika: If the panel doesn’t show them as missing, then it thinks it sees them. Perhaps there are duplicates of your images somewhere that you don’t expect. Try selecting one and choosing Show in Finder (or Explorer, in windows) from the Links panel menu.

  • kenzie says:

    I found this worked! I just kept clicking the name and after about 3 clicks it came back.
    Thanks

    “Try double clicking on the name tab at top of panel. I had a blank links panel for days after trying all sorts to get a link to come up I double clicked on links name by chance and it miraculously displayed info ? doh!”

  • Pam says:

    Thank you!!! the person with the tip to resize the swatch pallet, minimize it, reopen it, then click on it worked great!!!!

    • The canary says:

      Fantastic. Pulling the palette off the side bar so it is floating, then Clicking on the LINKs title on the palette, clicking minimize, and then Expanding the panel again worked great! My only question now is, did someone do this on purpose to me? Is it possible to make the panel contents disappear from someones work space, by getting them to open a template file?

  • Rich Milham says:

    Deleting the cache worked great. The prefs file did NOT do it. I suggest deleting cache file first. Then if it works you still have preferences in tact.

  • olivia destandau says:

    Yep, this just happened to me and boy did I FREAK.
    Thank you so much for this simple fix.
    My heart can go back in my chest…

  • My text wrap panel was blank and I tried deleting preferences, but this alone didn’t help.

    I’m on Windows 7 and my fix was to delete all of my custom work spaces and then the problem went away.

  • MinusZero says:

    I suffered from empty Palette syndrome. My Hyperlinks panel was constantly blank even though there was hyperlinks in the document. I tried resetting the preferences but that did not help.

    What worked for me was i deleted my saved workspace and then using the “Interactive for PDF” workspace as a template (since it has a hyperlink panel), i modified it to my taste and resaved the workspace.

    After this, all my hyperlinks were showing again.

  • Rob says:

    I had the same problem this morning. My links panel was empty. Usually a reboot of the computer works, but not this morning. I don’t know how this worked but I deleted my InDesign Shortcuts from the taskbar and the Start Menu. I made new shortcuts and BAM my links are back. Like I said, I don’t know how this happened.

  • vbadc says:

    Wow! Just had the problem occur and thanks to this thread, I was able to fix it be deleting the Caches folder. I’m using Indesign CS4 on Windows 7.

  • Fedir says:

    These help forums are extremely helpful. I had the problem that “info” panel kept coming up blank. I had coincidentally just added another language and thought that this might have had something to do with it. Nothing of the sort. Kenzie’s tip worked. I simply double clicked a few times in the top part of the panel and the info appeared. A little symbol also then appeared next to the word “info” and by clicking on that the characters and spaces info reappeared. Many thanks Kenzie!

  • Kal says:

    The Table Styles panel went blank for me, and resetting preferences did NOT work. However, thanks to the comments here, I tried deleting the cache files (found here: /Users/[User Name]/Library/Caches/Adobe InDesign/Version [#]) and this worked!

    So I agree with Rich Milham. Deleting the cache files FIRST would be better advice than deleting preferences to fix this problem. Perhaps a little side-note/update to the article would help, as the comments are easily missed.

  • Raheel says:

    Great Tip, Thank you so much. My same problem solved, thanks

  • M&M says:

    What worked for me was: clicking the little drop down menu (upper right corner) of the Hyperlinks dialog box, and choosing “Small Panel Rows”

  • Peter says:

    I lost my stroke options: had a blank gray space when the panel opened. I tried all sorts of things closing and opening etc.
    Finally I read though these comments and then attacked it with double clicking. That didn’t seem to work immediately but I then attacked it more with wild mouse clicking and then all of a sudden, it was back like normal. I closed it and opened it and it works fine.
    Thanks to everyone.

  • magerber says:

    Just wanted to update this for Windows 10 users Trashing my preferences didn’t fix an empty paragraph styles panel, so I decided to try the caches file. However, my file structure didn’t match any of the versions above, so I had to do a bit of experimenting to figure out which file needed to be recreated.

    I went to C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Adobe\InDesign\version\language\Caches, and then renamed two files: “InDesign SavedData” to “InDesign SavedData_old” AND “FontMaskCache” to “FontMaskCache_old”. Not sure which one was the key, but when I restarted InDesign, my paragraph styles were back again–whew!

    • A Zook says:

      I want to add to magerber’s comment. I’ve just begun using Indesign 2015 on a new Windows10 machine and I’ve found that the blank Panels seems to be related to workspaces. I’ve got a few custom workspaces and if I’m working in one for a long time, then I start losing panels (like Align) But here’s the fix I found works. If I switch to another workspace then I’ve got my Align panel back and if I immediately switch back to the workspace that was screwed up… viola; panels back again.

      • A Zook says:

        Need to reply to myself (and you all). Seems my fix above needs to be clarified. It seems that if you switch to a new workspace that has the blank panel collapsed, then it shows blank as well and so when you return to the one you were in your panel will still be blank.
        So, this seems to be the better fix. Switch to a workspace where the panel is default open/untwirled and then it’s not blank anymore. Then go back to the original problem workspace where the panel is open/revealed or not and it should be filled again. A general fix seems to be this: play with your workspaces… Hope this helps.

  • Maudie says:

    Thank you so much A Zook! Switching workspaces did the trick. Phew!!

  • David Greenwell says:

    Adobe has lost the plot. This is just another in a long line of issues I have been having, not just with InDesign but Illustrator and Bridge. Where is the competition when you need them!

  • Rob Kinloch says:

    My align palette is blank. I’ve reset my preferences and reinstalled InDesign. Is anyone else having this problem?

  • Ben says:

    I have this problem too, with an odd twist.

    Part of my palettes are missing. the tool menu is empty. Libraries show blank tiles.

    But, if i click and hold and move a palette, everything shows until i release it. If i move it from its normal position on my left monitor, to the right monitor, it looks OK.

    No other programs have any issues on either monitor.

    I’ve renamed preferences and caches, changed workplaces, clicked multiple times — all the fixes suggested here.

    Has anyone found any other solutions? Do you use multiple monitors and have this problem?

    Yikes! This really sucks. thanks.

  • Amala says:

    I’ve just run into this on InDesign CC 2018. Layers and Swatches panels empty. I’m on a Mac, so I restored the whole InDesign preferences folder (/Users/[User Name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign/Version xx) with TimeMachine to a version a few days earlier, and I was up and running again in a few minutes.

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