InDesign and XML

Besides scripting, XML is one technology that is both overlooked and sorely underused in production work. With InDesign’s XML capabilities, you can design an XML-aware template, then import XML content into it. When you do, all styling, image placement, and text flow can be accomplished virtually automatically. You can then repurpose the XML content in myriad of ways. You could transform the XML doc to XHTML for the web or to a NIMAS-compliant or Section 508-compliant version of the work (for people with disabilities), or to a version suitable for displaying on an iPhone. There are many possibilities.

Adobe’s own site boasts many resources for deploying XML with InDesign. The most important is “Adobe InDesign CS3 and XML: A Technical Reference,” which explains the more technical aspects of InDesign’s XML interface. Adobe offers some good materials and tutorials as well.

A popular instrument for learning InDesign’s XML capabilities is a book called, “Designer’s Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML, A: Harness the Power of XML to Automate your Print and Web Workflows” by Jim Malvaid and Cathy Palmer. (There is a print and an ebook version.) The book not only describes in detail all of InDesign’s XML complexities, but it is one heck of an introduciton to the XML standard.

I took Jim’s Cooking with XML for Designers class. It was a great introduction to the power of XML, and I immediately saw how beneficial XML could be for print production.

Once, XML was thought to be the purview of Unix, Linux, and Windows-based PCs. Fortunately, there are now many cross-platform XML authors and editors. The one I use is from oXygen, and is one of the most complete XML coding environments you will see on the Mac. Recent versions include an XML authoring tool that can be used independent of the editor, and allows writers and creative types a friendlier interface that flows more naturally with the creative process.

Another good, less expensive XML editor is Editix, which has less functionality, but is also half as expensive for the professional version as oXygen. If you can run Windows on your Mac, I highly suggest Stylus Studio. Not only is it an excellent editor, but the support and free training is incredible, and the company makes learning XML concepts very easy. Another top XML editor, not for Macs, is XML-Spy.

I have not tried Syntext’s Serna Enterprise XML editor. However, Syntext offers a free, open source XML editor that is also cross-platform. Open source software is great because it is free, available to Mac users, and is generally more robust than similar commercial software. However, getting support for open source software is sometimes dicey.

Next time, I’m going to introduce a script that solves one issue that Adobe InDesign forgot to address when constructing its XML capabilities.

See ya soon.

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