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.
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.