Silicon Publishing was out in force at PePcon 2015 in Philadelphia, and as usual it was a true joy to meet pretty much all of the brilliant and talented InDesign developers from around the world: Gabe Harbs (In-Tools) came from Israel, Kris Coppieters (Rorohiko) represented New Zealand, Ferdinand Schwoerer (Movemen) from Germany; our own Olav Kvern joined us from Seattle, and three Adobe InDesign engineers travelled all the way from Noida, India. It seemed that all of the serious InDesign-related companies were represented: MEI, Typefi, Teacup Software, you name it. The cool thing about the InDesign ecosystem is that knowledge is shared freely among InDesign developers, without competitiveness.
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.
Software development is a crazy business. Every time you feel you’ve mastered a programming language or framework, it’s declared obsolete, and you’ve got to crawl your way back up a learning curve to master something new. These changes are never under your control—they are handed down from on high, from Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, or whichever corporate tail it is that wags your particular dog. They make a change, and we scramble to adapt. You know, as if our livelihoods depended on it, or something.
I’m not exactly complaining, mind you, because there’s nothing I enjoy more than learning something new. But there are days when I wish I’d taken up, say, shoeing horses. There is no “Horseshoes 2.0” on the horizon.
It started with beer.
It was the year 2000, and I’d just taken a job with the Developer Technologies group at Adobe. I’d been working on InDesign scripting as a contractor, but now I was a full time employee. This meant, among other things, that I had to respond to scripting questions from developers.
Most of the questions were quite basic. How do I make a new document? How do I enter text? Then, unexpectedly, a question came in that involved moving text from an HTML page on a web server into an InDesign (1.5 or 2.0?) layout using Visual Basic.
The guy asking the question was working for the Saranac brewery in Utica, New York. The brewery offers custom labels for special events—birthdays, graduations, wakes, and so on. Customers can go to the brewery’s web site and enter the text they want on their label, view a proof PDF of the label, and order beer for their event.
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.
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.