Adobe InDesign is the tool of choice for creating high-quality print-ready documents. These days, nearly every magazine or high-end printed piece was created with InDesign. InDesign output is increasingly found on the web, in cases like Infographics, where extreme precision matters.

While InDesign is hands-down the perfect application for print design and shines for graphically intense images on the web, it’s not for everyone. It requires an aptitude for design and a fluency with the nuanced vocabularies of typography and layout. And even if you have those skills, InDesign comes with a steep learning curve.

Can your users create InDesign documents through an easier, online interface? Yes, they can, through the magic of InDesign Server and the Silicon Designer platform.

Upload, edit, publish

With Silicon Designer, your designers can upload InDesign documents into a web-based platform, where end-users can then make edits through an easy-to-use, browser-based user interface. End users don’t need to have InDesign installed or learn, but can instead make the changes they need with maximum efficiency.

In many cases, such as a real estate agent changing the price on a flyer, or a branch manager updating a store’s sale dates, users won’t want or need to change anything about the design of the document. The design characteristics, including the brand, were already part of the template that they were starting from. These users just want to make simple edits, and then receive a document or web graphic instantly. In other cases, such as a school yearbook, users may want to go wild, making major design changes, or perhaps even starting a document from scratch.

Silicon Designer can handle either extreme, or anywhere in between: the user interface is built for configurability. Designer doesn’t open up every last InDesign capability for authoring, but it offers a robust feature set, and under the hood it is working with real InDesign documents. The template that it ingests was built in InDesign, and the final output is rendered from an in-memory InDesign document. Thanks to InDesign Server, the quality of output is perfect.

Template setup can further refine the user experience of specific documents. With just a bit of adjustment to the source InDesign file, designers can make text frames, images, and branded areas non-editable. Document components can be made editable in precise ways (i.e., a date-picker for entering a date), or even connected to a specific data source through a special form of interface.

Silicon Designer is a platform for online editing providing the ultimate control over user experience with the highest quality of output. It augments the incredible Adobe InDesign composition engine with an extensible UI, and modular, services-based interaction with other systems.

Cloud editing empowers efficient collaboration

InDesign came on the scene as a desktop software product, and to this day, most InDesign documents are still created and maintained solely with the desktop product than through the web-based form of collaboration offered by Silicon Designer.


In old-school workflows, content owners and stakeholders typically send emails, marked-up hard copies, or annotated PDFs to inform designers of changes to the document at the center of this shared activity. Designers, the InDesign experts, manage everything about the document. This can easily create bottlenecks:

  • The process of communicating content or design changes is often time-consuming and inefficient.
  • Errors can be introduced through miscommunication.
  • Designers may bypass validation processes, thanks to InDesign’s free-form nature.

At this point, it’s easy to see why Adobe introduced a server form of InDesign. It’s also clear why the company made InDesign extremely extensible, allowing it to support automation of authoring and publishing processes.

Liberation: separating content from presentation

InDesign Server enables online editing workflows that let designers control the style of a document while content authors and business users are able to control the content. The solution accomplishes this by separating two fundamental dimensions of the document:

  • Content — the text and images maintained by authors.
  • Style — the style catalog and layout maintained by designers.

Solutions built with InDesign Server, such as Silicon Designer, define a fully automated process of making InDesign templates (which are created in desktop InDesign) available to content authors via a web-based interface.

Editing from a form

InDesign Server solutions enable every participant in the content creation process to do what they do best: business owners and content authors maintain the text and image selection, while designers control how that content is visually expressed and delivered.

Rather than send a change to a busy designer, a salesperson can make the change themselves. The document does not need to be reviewed to ensure brand compliance, as the template was already approved, and the user interface only allows changes to the content, rather than the fundamental layout or related characteristics of the document.

Advanced features: is this “InDesign on the web?”

Silicon Designer also allows for flexibility. For example, content authors can be allowed to add inline formatting such as bold or italic, apply paragraph or character styles, or even crop / scale images. Levels of authoring flexibility can be determined entirely by the InDesign file that’s uploaded into the system. This is becayse different industries, document types, and user types are likely to have different requirements.

At its most extreme, Silicon Designer can even give complete creative freedom to all document contributors, behaving something like “InDesign in a web browser.” However, if you need the most advanced level of creative freedom, it’s best to simply use the desktop product, or wait for Adobe to put the entire application on the web (which would seem inevitable, as they just did for Photoshop).

No, it’s not aiming to be “InDesign on the web.” Silicon Designer exists to handle use cases that InDesign itself doesn’t quite deal with: it does use InDesign itself, but as a tool for template setup, and as a powerful composition engine that works behind the scenes.

Editing through a configurable, extensible web interface is valuable precisely because it’s not just InDesign: there is little to no learning curve, and it provides just the right self-service experience for editors and authors, with features and options driven by their roles in the publishing process. It can also be seamlessly connected to other systems, for example internal databases or asset management systems, as well as external stock photos, social media, or industry-specific data sources.

Designers are still central to the process, but they play a new, more powerful role. Instead of focusing on the final output of individual documents, they define templates that include rules for how the content flowing into them will behave. For example, if they define a minimal resolution for output, Designer automatically warns the user if they try to scale an uploaded image beyond the defined number of dots per inch. Designer is also excellent for ensuring that content is in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Next Steps

If you’re thinking of building an online editing solution, especially one based on Adobe InDesign, we’d be happy to talk with you. We’ve been building solutions based on InDesign Server since the product arrived on the scene in 2005, and our solutions have advanced in capability and ease of deployment with every passing year. Today, InDesign Server is more widely adopted than at any other point in its history, as organizations find value in collaborative content workflows that efficiently deliver branded, accurate, and timely documents.

We believe that Silicon Designer is the ultimate online editing platform, and we’ve proven it at scale for the largest online editing implementations in the world. As the world-leading reseller of InDesign Server, we happily support all users of this amazing rendition engine, and with several members of the original InDesign team on our staff, we can provide expert assistance with your own product or solution on a consulting basis.

Contact us to learn more.


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