Virtual catalogs

Hello everyone. When a client wants a virtual catalog, what do they mean? Does it mean a pdf file that can be uploaded on the website? If not, how do I create it?

I think that can only be answered by the client. It could be as simple as a PDF of their catalog or as complicated as a custom–built e-commerce system with descriptions, ratings, photos and inventory tracking of everything they have in stock.

Based on your last question, you are not ready to take on this client’s job. It is really rather rare for someone to want just a downloadable PDF catalog and quite honestly I kinda look sideways at an online retailer who can’t present their product online, with perhaps a PDF download as an alternative. I’ve joined the “I want it now” type of consumers who want to see immediately if a store has what I’m looking for. Not wait for a download that will take up “hard drive” space and is not phone friendly.

“Virtual catalog” is not a universal term, so really, no one can know exactly what is meant. I might even suggest a person actively using the term may not know exactly what they mean, in a technical sense.

If I was a merchant-client, I’d want an e-commerce site; a term that is much closer to universal, or at least we’d all agree at minimum, it’s a web site which presents a line of products and their details, along with facility for consumers to enter an order and pay for it.

Someone asking for a “virtual catalog” seems to be asking for that, but the choice of words may mean they envision something more closely emulating a paper catalog; perhaps the dreaded page-turn effect (((shudder))).

I didn’t even want to mention the “page-turner.” I have one preferred supplier that presents their offerings that way. PITA. Easier to just call and let them look it up. Or dig up the paper catalog.

So the client wants a pdf catalog to send by email or share a link. But also wants it for printing.
I am guessing that the setting of the document has to be different right? If I do a design for printing I have set the documents as spread and that can not be use for emailing since it will show the spread and not page by page. Am I right? and also different price for each: the printing version and the digital version.

When sending for print you send it the way the printer wants you to send it. Usually they do their own imposition. You would probably want to use their job options when setting up the PDF as well.

The file size and resolution will definitely be different, but the price? Once set up for print, saving for email may be a simple image size reduction. Or not. There is a fine line between emailable and legible. Depends on how image intensive this thing is. Most of the time, a large, heavily-imaged catalog is best not sent by email. I’m a printer and my email has a 15mb attachment limit. Anything larger than that gets bounced back to the sender. Most people will have smaller limits. Besides Outlook hates overly large attachments. It gets so distracted by the downloading process, it can’t handle doing anything else you want it to do. Don’t tee off potential clients by locking up their email. Most PDF catalogs I access come from an email blast with a download link on the corporate website. That way I’m not being spammed with huge junk mail files.

The catalog is a small one. About 20-25 products. But what if the printer wants the document as spreads then the pdf digital file will be seen like this: 47%20PM

The catalog is only 2 letter size pages folded in the middle making a total of 8 sides. Each page will be folded and stapled in the middle. I want the digital pdf to be seen page by page not spread by spread. Is there a way to change my print document to digital without having to create another document with 8 half letter size pages ? that’s why I should think there must be an extra charge for making this modification unless there is an easy automatically way do it in Indesign?

They won’t, but if they do, send them spreads.

So export as single pages and deploy.

Did someone tell you there can’t be more than one file?

when I worked as a graphic designer in ad agency, I remember designing companies memorandums in Indesign and it was one multi document. But the memorandum was coil bound so the document had 30 something 8.5x11 pages not divided in two columns like the one I am planning to make. I didn’t create 30 files. Only one multi page file. 30 files would be a lot. But since this small catalog is going to be folded and stapled at the center I assume they have to be spreads not individual pages.


I wasn’t suggesting you make a separate file for each page. I was saying to export one (multi-page PDF) file however the printer specifies, and a second (multi-page PDF) file for “digital” deployment. Just 2 files, each is the complete document, each for a specific purpose.

I had asked this. You said to export as single page. How? Indesign can not divide my 8.5x11 horizontal spread into two 5.5x8.5 pages. I have to do it “manually”

I haven’t used Indesign in a looong time. I only use Illustrator

If what I’m reading between the lines is true, you haven’t built this document in the normal way. Spreads in InDesign are built side-by-side as separate pages. It makes no difference whether or not page 2 will be on the shame sheet of paper as page 11 (or whatever), you build the InDesign file with page 2 next to page three. As PrintDriver mentioned, the imposition is determined by the printing company, not by you. If the printer requested it otherwise, well, that’s sort of unusual.

I know of no straight-forward, built-in way to split a letter-sized page in half in InDesign to accommodate the two pages you built onto the single page spread since that’s not how it’s typically done.

Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what you’ve written though (which wouldn’t be the first time I’ve misread things).

Oh. I hadn’t surmised from your posts that you did it the way you did it. It wasn’t that long ago you appeared to need help just defining the deliverable. With the miscarried foundational work, there’s no correct way out. If I inherited your file(s) now, I’d start over in InDesign and build it correctly. If a shortcut was in order, perhaps I’d consider placing your spread-bricks on InDesign letter-half pages and cropping them down to the sheet size to get a usable construct.

I think you posted that as I was writing.

Illustrator isn’t made to easily create multi-page documents. Given that you did it that way, though, you could do as HotButton suggested or create two separate files for each spread, then copy what you’ve already done and position them on individual pages with the excess hanging off the edge of the bleed area where it won’t be printed. Save them to PDF, then connect them back together a page at a time, then remove as much as you can from the individual files that lies outside the bleed area.

Really though, I’d do it over in InDesign and get it right.

HotButton, your reply has a way of words that seems somewhat poetic. :slightly_smiling_face: What I understood from your comment is that I am not doing it correctly. Yes, I think you are right. I just assume, for example, a bifold brochure is one letter size page folded in half. That of course can be designed in Illustrator making 2 different documents. One for one side and the other document for the other side. If it is design in Indesign I would setup one document with 2 facing pages. So since this catalog I am designing is the same as the bifold example but only that it has 2 pages front and back making a total of 8 sides.
“I only use Illustrator” meaning that it has been a while since I last used Indesign. I haven’t started building anything formally yet. I will attach 3 screenshots of different settings and please tell me which one is correct.

first: 8 5.5x8.5 pages 57%20PM

4 8.5x11 divided in half and not facing pages 16%20PM

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