Seven years ago, Silicon Publishing stumbled into an opportunity to connect Adobe InDesign to remote assets in a very powerful and efficient way. Through the work of our developers, several of whom were part of the original team that built Adobe InDesign, we were able to make a very direct connection from InDesign to remote assets via URLs. InDesign DAM Connectivity has become a significant part of our work.

While other approaches rely on technologies such as WebDAV, which is known for latency and headaches, our direct approach has proven itself to be far more efficient, and is now the way that most leading DAMs handle such connectivity. We have over 25 DAM partnerships so far, with more on the way.

This post talks about 10 of the DAMs we've encountered, which happen to represent a great cross-section of the DAMs out there today. First, I will share an overview of what DAM is, heavily borrowing from the wonderful work of DAM guru Theresa Regli, whose book Digital and Marketing Asset Managment: the Real Story about DAM Technology and Practice is an essential guide for anyone in this space.

It started with a naive InDesign user

Silicon Connector first saw the light of day in 2010, when we at Silicon Publishing were building a large-scale online editing solution for a major client. Our solution was based on Adobe InDesign and Adobe InDesign Server, which were brand-new to this tech-savvy and ambitious organization we were working with. Although the client instantly understood the superiority of InDesign for page rendition and output quality, they looked at InDesign with very fresh eyes and came up with a big feature request.

“These links are barbaric!” said their brilliant technology lead. “They go to the file system, not to URLs as a real link should in this day and age.”

Silicon Connector is enjoying huge popularity, and as we build out more and more implementations (12 Connectors and counting!) the product is becoming more clearly defined, while the product roadmap is also taking shape. While the main feature of "connecting InDesign to URL-based assets" is itself quite enough of a product to save large authoring groups immense amounts of time, the "nice-to-have" features have taken on a life of their own, and become common to most new implementations. Here I will clarify the ways the product definition is being extended, now and into the future.

I hope to explain:

  1. What we originally meant by the term "Silicon Connector" and how this was consistently rather poorly explained by us, and in turn how it was often misinterpreted by the world.
  2. What we mean now by "Silicon Connector". How to understand what this product is, and what it does.
  3. Where the product and its many variants (AEM Connector, the InDesign Plugin for Flight, the Widen InDesign Plugin, WebDAM CC Connector, etc.) are headed.

In places, this post quotes heavily from the original blog post about Silicon Connector that came out when we first announced this product in 2010. At that point of time we had a narrow perspective on the product. Six years later, it has grown quite organically and evolves in response to feedback from thousands of users worldwide, as it connects InDesign to a diverse and growing array of over 10 Digital Asset Management systems.

We have just completed our eighth Silicon Connector, and over the coming months you will see some amazing new advances in connecting InDesign to remote assets, across the DAMs with which we have just finished integration. Because Connector lets InDesign talk directly to assets living in cloud-based DAMs, it is becoming very popular recently.

We have just identified the DAM that will become the ninth Silicon Connector. We chose Alfresco because, based on past experience, we know it is a solid system, and we see the user base growing recently. Alfresco is not just a DAM, it is a CMS, but our initial work is going to be just getting InDesign to talk to the assets using Silicon Connector. CMS integration has potential as well, but asset connectivity comes first, and this is very easy for us given the Connector foundation.

We have been working hard on our Silicon Connector product, and as it grows exponentially in popularity, its value versus any alternative connecting Adobe InDesign to DAMs and cloud-based storage systems is being confirmed again and again based on the feedback of thousands of users around the world. Here are both the specifics of the roadmap and the general software product development lessons learned from product feedback over the past 3 years, especially during the past 6 months.

Silicon Publishing has built InDesign Server Solutions the past 15 years for the largest organizations in the world: from Web to Print applications for the likes of Amazon, Hallmark and Shutterfly to Database Publishing applications for companies including Disney, Nike, and Royal Caribbean. In this context we have seen well over 30 “Digital Asset Management” (DAM) systems from third parties providers such as MediaBeacon, Widen and Adobe, as well as a number of home-built concoctions, some of which have actually been quite powerful.

We are not DAM-centric: we focus on InDesign Server automation and in most cases we integrate this with whatever asset management the client has running. Only quite rarely do we encounter clients at the point they are contemplating a new DAM. So we have made pretty much every popular DAM out there work, at least to the point of serving assets to our publishing applications.

For ten years I have been automating Adobe InDesign, and for 10 years I have had to deal with assets that were exclusively on the file system. InDesign won't generally let you link to an asset on the web.

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