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.
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.
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?