Automate Your Publishing Workflow with InDesign CS2

When you think of InDesign, some obvious things spring to mind—lovely type, sophisticated layout control, and tight integration with Illustrator and Photoshop. Automation is probably not at the top of your list, but perhaps it should be. InDesign CS2 offers a surprising number of ways to automate your publishing workflow.

If you’re using paragraph or character styles, you’re already automating some work. A style is a collection of settings, such as font, font size, space above paragraph, and so on. When you apply a style, you apply all of the settings in the style to the selected text or paragraph in a single step. Using styles is much more efficient than formatting your text line by line.

InDesign provides expected paragraph and character styles, which you find in most modern word processor and desktop publishing packages. In addition to these, InDesign CS2 adds object styles, which let you set up properties for graphics and text frames. For example, with object styles, you can set up a style for a sidebar. When you create a text frame for your sidebar, you apply the sidebar object style. InDesign automatically sets up the new frame in the margin of your document with a standard width and height. You can also save stroke, fill, color, and several other attributes of the text frame as part of the object style. (For more information, refer to the preceding tutorial on styles.)

InDesign supports three scripting languages—AppleScript (Mac), VisualBasic (Windows), and Java­Script (Mac and Windows)—with which you can automate almost any InDesign task. For example, you can use a script to strip out double spaces and extra paragraph returns from a story, or to produce a creative effect, such as randomly changing the font and color of characters in a text selection. You can also write scripts for more complex tasks. The Adobe Studio Exchange ( contains numerous scripts, including a character and word count utility, graphing tools, and a page impositioning utility.

For details about scripting, refer to Check your Creative Suite installation CDs for script resources, as well.

Automating layout with XML
Extensible Markup Language (XML) provides an application-neutral foundation for many different types of automated workflows. You can combine InDesign with XML files to automate layout tasks. InDesign gives you several different options for working with XML. For a one-time project, you can import XML, lay out the XML content in your InDesign pages, and then format the content as necessary.

For more repetitive publishing tasks, you can set up an InDesign file that automatically associates XML tags with InDesign styles. When you import an XML file, InDesign automatically assigns the relevant formatting to each bit of content. If your content resides in a database, use an XML file as an intermediate format between the database and the InDesign layout file.

InDesign Server
For extreme automation requirements, you can implement InDesign Server CS2. This technology allows you to run InDesign without any user input. If you need the ability to publish large amounts of variable data without any user intervention, look into InDesign Server. It’s available only through third-party system integrators. For details, refer to