by Olav Martin Kvern


Learn to install a script once—and you’ll never have to do it again.

I spent years at Adobe helping to develop, document, and popularize scripting in InDesign. I did this because I want to free creative people from the drudgery of most day to day graphic arts tasks (which I know well—Having worked as an art director, graphic designer, typesetter, and general purpose page layout lackey/slave). InDesign scripting gives graphic artists a way to automate the boring parts of page layout—which means you have more time to spend on the fun, creative parts of your work. InDesign scripting can both lower your stress level and help you get more sleep.

Now that I’m outside Adobe, I’m having a great time working with the tools that I helped create. At the same time, as I talk to InDesign users, I’m feeling that the job I started in the late 1990s—getting the word out about InDesign automation—is, at best, only half done. The majority of InDesign users still don’t know that scripting exists, and what it can do for them. They also don’t know how to install and run a script, much less how to write one.

In this post I am going to explain how Silicon Designer is built to support the most demanding online editing solutions in the world. We are at a point in the evolution of this product that I am truly proud of, and I am deeply grateful to our incredibly talented developers and other participants in its success. Go here for some history of how it came about: in this post we will talk about what it is and how it works.

At the time Adobe InDesign was created, 15 years ago, it was generally impractical to store print-quality assets on web servers. A decade and a half later, however, the maturity of cloud-based file storage and asset management systems is making links from InDesign to assets housed in modern platforms, such as Box, a powerful solution for creative professionals.

Asset storage as of Adobe InDesign 1.0

Adobe InDesign is the tool of choice for the creation of high-quality print documents. It is nearly ubiquitous among those creating newspapers, magazines, books, catalogs, marketing collateral, or almost anything that prints. InDesign started out as a competitor to QuarkXPress, and given the dominance of Adobe in tangential technology (PostScript, PDF, PhotoShop, Illustrator) along with substantial and well-focused investment in the product, it was inevitable that InDesign would take the place of Quark at the center of high-end publishing workflows.

Anything you can dream, you can do.

Anybody who works with automating Adobe Illustrator long enough will find some level of flakiness in the behavior of this application. It is very old, and doesn't enjoy the same level of support for automation as does InDesign, a much more modern application. I got this email this morning, and it seems we are one step closer to taming the Illustrator beast...

We have been automating Adobe InDesign for 12 years, InDesign Server for 7 (since it came out), and it seems that just now we are finally being proven right in our bet long ago that going with the slowest, yet far and away most robust, composition engine would in the long run be the best path. After all, hardware just gets faster and faster. Desktop tools and capabilities do tend to end up on servers.

I have been working with XML since it was a glimmer in the eye of Jon Bosak. In fact, before XML was conceived, there was SGML; this evolution of SGML represented a streamlining for the web, but at its core there was not much functional difference; in fact the new invention was defined as a mere SGML subset. The key concept of semantic markup is central to the core value of SGML as well as its "streamlined for mass consumption" child.

The two main perspectives I have seen are Document-centric and Data-centric. SGML initially appeared in support of document-centric work: managing all the technical documents or contracts of IBM or Boeing, for example. Charles Goldfarb has maintained that "SGML literally makes the infrastructure of modern society possible" and I think he's right - hmm, should we blame him for the lengths to which humans have gone to destroy the earth?

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