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Typsetting a Bible in InDesign

Feb 21, 2013 5:34 AM

Tags: #dynamic_header #footnotes #bible #scripture #multiple_footnote_streams #foonotes_span_columns

Hi all!
I'm typesetting a Swedish Bible in InDesign and I've run into a number of problems, to the point that I'm wondering if this is too big a task for InDesign. I was told that there are a few people on this forum that have done Bible compostition in InDesign so I turn to you to see what suggestions you have on plug-ins/scripts or built-in tricks that you have utilized.


Below I've attached an image which will help explain the issues I'm facing. I've done this layout manually to show how I want it to look.

1. InDesign only supports one stream of footnotes but I need two, one for notes and one for cross-references. I've found that Virginia Systems’s Sonar Bookends InFnote plugin can offer me another stream of footnotes in addition to the one built into InDesign. But InFnote doesn't offer the kind of flexibility I desire. It doesn't resize the text blocks according to the footnotes on each page, and I didn't even get it to create a new block on the pages that didn't have one. I had to do that manually. Are there any good plug-ins for InDesign that could give me another stream of footnotes with high flexibility?


2. InDesign can't place footnotes that span over columns if the main text is in more than one column (see image for reference). There is a span column option in the paragraph styles but for some annoying reason it doesn't work with footnotes. I found this script by Peter Kahrel that helps out a bit but it still leaves me with a page-to-page manual control to correct the sizes of textblocks, and thereby moving the notes to their right pages. That's a lot of work when you have 1500 pages.


3. The header should contain the book of the name followed by the first/last chapter plus verse for left/right pages. I've found power headers at I haven't been able to try it yet but I think it might work, or at least simplify it for me. Anyone who can confirm that?



  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 21, 2013 2:59 PM   in reply to SimonLinden

    I am one of those who typesets Bibles in InDesign. I do several of them a year. However, I use an external program we wrote called "Publishing Assistant" which runs InDesign via scripting. It handles page headers, footnotes, cross-references, insertion of illustrations, as well as the various text streams included in a study Bible via scripting--the script creates the frame, scans the body text for the information needed for that element, and places the appropriate data into the appropriate frame. The only automatic thing Publishing Assistant depends on InDesign for is page numbers. It handles everything else. We originally took this approach because Publishing Assistant development began in the CS2 era, before InDesign had variables, automatic footnotes, etc., and before there were as many plug-ins available as there are now. Even now, we find InDesign's capabilities for handling page headers, footnotes, and cross-references inadequate for the task. And, since we don't depend on InDesign for these things, Publishing Assistant remains compatible with all versions of InDesign from CS2 to the latest version. One piece of advice--don't try to put an entire Bible is one InDesign document. Create individual InDesign documents for each biblical book, plus others for the front and back matter, and gather all the individual documents into an InDesign Book file. So, yes, InDesign can be up to the task of typesetting a Bible (or other long structured publication)--especially if you can bring custom software development to the table.

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    Mar 3, 2013 12:39 PM   in reply to SimonLinden

    Hi, Simon:


    Just a wild guess that writing a plug-in is more than trivial. However, a script might work. Actually, while writing some scripts might be trivial for one who has some appropriate skills, more complex scripts require advanced skills, but not on par with plug-in development skills.


    The question is "What should the script do?" Actually, the question is "What overly-labor-intensive operation should the script do easily?"


    I'm a FM and ID user, so your question has been boggling me for a while. Here's a clumsy but workable approach:


    * Insert a cross-reference whose format is <paraNum /> in a numbered heading paragraph. This captures the paragraph's autonumber.  Yes, there will be two numbers, like "1 1," "2 2," etc. This shows it's working so far.


    * Create and apply a character style to the cross-reference's number.


    * Create and define a character style running header text variable, choose the character style defined earlier,  and insert it in a header/footer text frame on the master page. The cross-reference's captured paragraph number appears in the header on document pages.


    * Insert <paraNum /> cross-references in additional heading paragraphs and point them to the paragraph's autonumber. Verify that running headers capture the first or last paragraph numbers, depending on your variable's definition.


    * Once you've proven the concept, modify the character style to make it invisible. You can use small type, paper color, etc. If you don't like the text displacement it causes, you can move it to the end of the heading paragraph. Verify that it doesn't cause the heading to wrap to a new line.


    Yeah, it's tedious, but it should satisfy your requirement.


    OK, what about a script? Well, if a scripting guru tackled the problem, the successful script would create a cross-reference that captures each numbered list paragraph's autonumber, inserts it at the beginning or end of the paragraph text, and applies the character style that makes it invisible. For goodies, it could prompt the user to specify the heading's paragraph style and the invisible character style, rather than requiring the user to type these names into the script. A companion script could toggle character style to visible or invisible.


    Autonumbered paragraphs should renumber normally when moved, deleted, or added in the text flow. Hmmm... Probably best to put the cross-references at the ends of paragraphs to avoid displacing text.


    If your heading paragraphs won't have text, only autonumbers, you probably could use a paragraph style running header text variable.


    I did a small test to verify the concept. If you need scripting assistance, ask here, and in the scripting forum.


    Search Google for terms like "InDesign cros-references," "InDesign running header text variables," and "InDesign hiding text making text invisible," without quotes, for details from these Adobe forums and also other sources in the outside world.










    Peter Gold

    KnowHow ProServices


    toSimonLinden wrote:



    Yes I've heard of Publishing Assistant - it's part of the Paratext suite isnt't it? I've contacted the administrators to see if we can be allowed to use this software but the feedback has been very limited. It doesn't seem like we will be invited to use it.


    This actually opens up a new stream of questions which I avoided in my first post. Namely how to go from InDesign to USFM, but I suppose that's a question for another thread.


    I wonder how difficult it would be to write my own plug-in that solces the footnote issues I'm having...? So far I've only written scripts but if I can't find plug-ins that will aid me perhaps the best solution is to create it myself.

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