Automated publishing with XML, IDML, and scripting

The flexible XML options, InDesign® Markup Language (IDML), and rich scripting support in Adobe® InDesign let you create powerful automated workflows for publishing content across various systems and output media. Find in-depth information about the XML, IDML, and scripting support in InDesign to help you create a strong foundation for custom solutions that meet your unique publishing requirements.

If you're considering automating InDesign, you may also want to look at Adobe InDesign Server, the robust, flexible, and scalable version of InDesign. Because InDesign Server shares the same codebase as InDesign, it offers all the features of the desktop version as well as a number of server-based features.


IDML resources

IDML is an open, XML-based file format that enables third-party developers and systems integrators to programmatically create, modify, and deconstruct InDesign documents outside the context of InDesign. IDML works with standard XML editing tools, making it easy to use in automated workflows. And with support for multi-threading in InDesign, working with the IDML file format is even faster.

With IDML, developers can now:

  • Dynamically generate or modify documents
  • Deconstruct and reuse portions of documents
  • Transform document elements using XSLT
  • Find and modify data within InDesign documents using XPath or XQuery
  • Use Adobe Flash® Builder® software and the Adobe AIR® runtime to create custom applications and interfaces in front of IDML workflows

A reinvention of designed document workflows

IDML is derived from the InDesign Interchange (INX) format, which was introduced in InDesign CS2 to enable users to save documents for use in a previous version. INX was difficult to read and manipulate because it was designed to be used by InDesign alone. Those who tried to manipulate INX encountered challenges with readability, robustness, extensibility, and compatibility with XML tools.

IDML addresses these concerns by enabling developers to change, assemble, and reassemble XML representations of InDesign documents. This allows for the creation and manipulation of InDesign files outside the context of InDesign. The files are then brought back into an InDesign product for rendering into a final output format.

Benefits

IDML offers an easier, more flexible way to build and implement a variety of publishing solutions. Benefits include:

  • Completeness — With IDML, objects, attributes, and preferences can be represented with complete roundtrip capability.
  • Readability — The IDML format can be read and written by virtually any program or tool capable of reading and writing XML.
  • Robustness — With IDML, developers have more visibility into errors and increased flexibility in handling them.
  • Backward compatibility — Users will be able to take an IDML file generated for one version and open it in subsequent versions.

Sample use cases

Because IDML is an XML format, its potential uses are varied. However, some common uses might include:

  • Roundtripping — IDML allows a solution to convert back and forth between the InDesign binary file format and IDML. For example, an InDesign document can be exported to IDML for use as a template outside of InDesign, and the IDML template can then be modified using XML tools and imported back to InDesign file format.
  • Dynamic document construction — In this scenario, IDML documents can be constructed from information in a database or from a wire feed using XML tools, and then opened in InDesign or Adobe InCopy® software for further processing.
  • IDML partners

    Sabern is a software company based in the Netherlands that specializes in software and application development for database publishing, document publishing, content management, and web-to-print solutions. Sabern provides custom application development services and has a proven track record of delivering automated publishing solutions to organizations within the print, government, airlines, finance, wholesale, transport, and telecom industries.

    Using a web browser and Sabern's DesignDB, customers can create documents and high-resolution PDF files from predefined templates created in InDesign. With DesignDB, nondesigners can quickly and easily create highly professional marketing material and publications, offering significant improvements in speed and efficiency when compared to conventional workflows.

    "DesignDB takes full advantage of Adobe's new IDML format. Because IDML is XML with specific elements that enable access to InDesign formatting functions, we can now use standard XML editing software and utilities to manipulate the IDML outside of InDesign. With the flexibility that this format provides our developers, we can bring the latest generation of automated publishing solution to market quicker than ever before."
    — Karen Lelieveld, Sabern 

    censhare AG has developed the censhare publishing system, based on a media asset management solution, for the production, management, and publication of content across multiple media channels. The system includes web content management and collaboration tools. 

    The censhare Translation Memory System enables customers who need to publish content in many languages to extract and reuse specific elements of any translation. The Translation Memory System uses IDML as a more efficient way to extract and manipulate the content, enabling segmentation of the text and paragraphs based on sentences while maintaining all styles. IDML also provides a way to more deeply integrate the censhare solution with Microsoft Office. Excel tables and Word documents can be automatically styled by censhare and then placed directly into and edited within InDesign layouts.

    "IDML is a complete and open standard layout format for professional publishing. Now we are able to construct and decode layouts using standard XML tools. Since censhare is based on XML, this allows for a very elegant integration."
    — Mathias Wurth, censhare AG 


    XML resources

    The XML rules engine

    Find out how developers are working with the XML rules-processing engine to automatically build page layouts in InDesign.

    Adobe InDesign and XML: A Technical Reference

    Get in-depth technical information about the XML features in InDesign, such as XML tagging, XML import and export, DTD validation, and the XML rules-processing engine.

    View or download (PDF, 2.8M) file


    Real World InDesign: Creating placeholders

    Let InDesign CS2 repeat the arrangement of placeholder elements and static text for corresponding elements in an imported XML file. (Excerpted from "Real World Adobe InDesign CS2")

    Cox Newspapers

    Discover how a major newspaper chain has streamlined cross-media publishing and enhanced its brand using InDesign and InCopy.

    View or download (PDF, 700k) file


    Real World InDesign: Transforming XML

    Transform XML into HTML or any text format, including plain text, PDF, PostScript®, other forms of XML, and InDesign tagged text. (Excerpted from "Real World Adobe InDesign CS2")

    InDesign CS4 User Guide XML chapter

    Refer to the XML chapter excerpted from the Adobe InDesign CS4 User Guide for answers to basic questions about XML support in InDesig


    BusinessWeek

    Learn how InDesign, InCopy, the SoftCare K4 Publishing System, and the power of XML allowed BusinessWeek to combine separate print and web workflows into a single, streamlined process.



    Scripting resources

    With InDesign scripting support, you can automate tedious production tasks such as placing and replacing images, correcting errors in text, and preparing files for printing. And it plays an integral role in XML and IDML-based workflows. Here are some resources for both beginners and more experienced scripters.

    InDesign CS5 scripting resources

    Adobe Introduction to Scripting

    Check out this informative primer on why, how, and when to use scripting in Adobe Creative Suite® 6 applications.

    View or download (PDF, 851k) file

    Adobe InDesign CS5 scripting tutorial

    Learn the basics of InDesign CS6 scripting in this detailed tutorial.

    View or download the tutorial (PDF, 936k) file

    Download the InDesign Scripting Tutorial scripts (ZIP, 11k)

    Get in-depth information about creating custom scripts for InDesign using AppleScript, JavaScript, and VBScript in each of these detailed guides.

    View or download the AppleScript guide (PDF, 2.0M)

    View or download the JavaScript guide (PDF, 1.4M)

    View or download the VBScript guide (PDF, 2.0M)

    Download the InDesign Scripting Guide scripts (ZIP, 832k)

    Download the InDesign sample scripts (ZIP, 138k)

    Adobe Creative Suite JavaScript Tools Guide

    Check out this document for information about the JavaScript features, tools, and objects that are common to all Adobe Creative Suite applications that support JavaScript.

    View or download (PDF, 4.4M) file

    InDesign scripting user forum

    Share design and type-related questions and answers and exchange scripts, scripting ideas, and XML information with like-minded professionals.

    Adobe Exchange

    Download free scripts or upload those you've created, plus share templates, plug-ins, actions, and other helper files that add new features to your layouts, in the Adobe Resource Center.


    InDesign CS4 scripting resources

    Adobe Introduction to Scripting

    Check out this informative primer on why, how, and when to use scripting in Adobe Creative Suite® 4 applications.

    View or download (PDF, 851k) file

    Adobe InDesign CS4 scripting tutorial

    Learn the basics of InDesign CS4 scripting in this detailed tutorial.

    View or download the tutorial (PDF, 1.1M) file
    Download the InDesign Scripting Tutorial scripts (ZIP, 10k)

    InDesign CS4 in-depth scripting guides

    Get in-depth information about creating custom scripts for InDesign CS4 using AppleScript, JavaScript, and VBScript in each of these detailed guides.

    View or download the AppleScript guide (PDF, 3.2M)

    View or download the JavaScript guide (PDF, 3.2M)

    View or download the VBScript guide (PDF, 3.2M) 

    Adobe Creative Suite JavaScript Tools Guide

    Check out this document for information about the JavaScript features, tools, and objects that are common to all Adobe Creative Suite 4 applications that support JavaScript.

    View or download (PDF, 4.25M) file

    InDesign scripting user forum

    Share design and type-related questions and answers and exchange scripts, scripting ideas, and XML information with like-minded professionals.

    InDesign Exchange

    Download free scripts or upload those you've created, plus share templates, plug-ins, actions, and other helper files that add new features to your layouts, in the Adobe Resource Center.


    InDesign CS3 scripting resources

    Adobe Introduction to Scripting

    Check out this informative primer on why, how, and when to use scripting in the Creative Suite 3 applications.

    View or download (PDF, 674k) file

    InDesign CS3 in-depth scripting guides

    Get in-depth information about creating custom scripts for InDesign CS3 using AppleScript, JavaScript, and VBScript in each of these detailed guides. (Before you begin, review the Scripting ReadMe file for Adobe InDesign CS3 .)

    View or download the AppleScript guide (PDF, 3.4M)

    View or download the JavaScript guide (PDF, 3.2M)

    View or download the VBScript guide (PDF, 3.2M)

    Download the supporting Scripting Guide scripts (ZIP, 465k)

    InDesign CS3 Transformation Tutorial

    Using scripting to move, scale, rotate, and shear an object has changed significantly in InDesign CS3. This short tutorial and associated scripts show you how to work with the new transformation architecture to achieve the results you need.

    View or download the InDesign CS3 Transform Tutorial AppleScript (PDF, 322k)

    View or download the InDesign CS3 Transform Tutorial JavaScript (PDF, 323k)

    View or download the InDesign CS3 Transform Tutorial VBScript (PDF, 333k)

    Download the InDesign CS3 Transform Tutorial Scripts (ZIP, 45k)

    Build an InDesign CS3 workflow in Automator

    Learn how to create and use Apple's Automator Actions with InDesign.

    Review the InDesign Automator Tutorial (PDF, 4.6M) 
    Download InDesign Automator Tutorial Actions. (ZIP, 267k)

    InDesign scripting user forum

    Share design and type-related questions and answers, plus exchange scripts, scripting ideas, and XML information with like-minded professionals.

    Exchange InDesign scripts

    Download free scripts or upload those you've created, plus share templates, plug-ins, actions, and other helper files that add new features to your layouts, in the Adobe Resource Center.


    XMP resources

    XMP — Adding intelligence to media

    Adobe's Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) is a labeling technology that allows you to embed data about a file, known as metadata, into the file itself. For more information on how partners and standards are using XMP, go to the XMP website.

    XMP technology for developers

    The XMP Toolkit allows you to integrate metadata functionality into your product or solution. It supports Mac OS, Windows®, and UNIX® and comes with samples, documentation, source code, and project files. The XMP Toolkit is available under the BSD license.