3 Replies Latest reply on Apr 28, 2015 5:50 AM by [Jongware]

    XML to InDesign




      I’m completely new in Adobe InDesign domain, so maybe my question will be not enough reasonable. I apologize, if yes. Also, if my problem doesn’t suite this forum, please redirect me to the right one.


      We have our content organized as XML documents. The nature of content: source for books and articles. We want to publish this content as PDF documents via InDesign. Scrolling InDesign tutorials I see two possible ways  to do this. First – transform (XSLT) our XML document to IDML format fulfilling required layout. Second – create in InDesign something like a dummy document that keeps layout requirements, then import an XML document, in “merge content” mode, to InDesign, doing previously structure and vocabulary transformation (again XSLT) due to match InDesign’s data representation.


      My kind questions: Which way is more sensible? Maybe is a third way, better than two mentioned? If I decided to generate IDML format directly from our native XML, could I find any tools helping me doing this?


      I would add, both our content structure and desired layout are not simple. Contrary, they are quite complex.


      Thanks in advance,



        • 1. Re: XML to InDesign
          MW Design Level 5

          Hello Konstanty,


          It is really hard to advise without seeing what the XML is structured like and what the presentation of that XML inside of InDesign is desired to be.


          For what your needs are as I understand them, and again depending on what the XML looks like and how consitent it is in one document type (book, article), you may be able to skip any transforms and simply import it with mapped styles and have all or the majority of the document(s) formatted. But it really depends on the XML itself and what it should look like in ID once formatted.


          Being new to ID and going into XML import straight away is like jumping into the deep end of the pool to learn to swim. It can be done, but there is a learning curve. If you would like to privately share a couple XML files of each type (book and article) I would be happy to review them for any issues that may require XSLT work or not, as well as advise you as to how I would approach your needs.


          If this is something you can do, ZIP up the XML and a sample ID file or two of how you desire the work to look in ID and upload it to dropbox.com or the like and send me a private message with the download link and over the next day or two after receiving it I would do so.



          • 2. Re: XML to InDesign
            kostek47 Level 1

            Hello Mike,


            Thanks a lot for your answer. I’ll try to explain how are things.


            By now, we publish our content doing auto assembly. It means, we have written a collection of XSLT scripts that transform an XML document to XSL-FO format – one script for each series of publication (each layout). Then a commercial XSL-FO processor is used to generate resultant PDF document. Depending upon the series we use AH XSL Formatter or RenderX XEP Assistant. It works quite well, but, naturally, has some inconveniencies – generally, almost no possibilities to do minor changes to the resultant PDF document. On the other hand, the XSL-FO code updating is not a nice occupation and needs some qualifications, which our editors haven’t got. That’s why the idea was born: using XSLT experiences in transforming our XML structures to XSL-FO (and also XHTML), attempt to transform our content to such XML (maybe IDML) format, which can be imported to ID. Next, mentioned minor changes could be done in ID, before final PDF generation.


            Mike, it would be great if you wanted to share your opinion on these things.


            Exemplary files that contain a source XML document and a resultant PDF document (generated automatically via XSL-FO) are available here:






            • 3. Re: XML to InDesign
              [Jongware] Most Valuable Participant

              Interesting job. The XML seems very consistent, and can be compared to the current PDF almost page by page.

              I noticed there seem to be no ligatures used anywhere in the PDF -- not only for Minion Pro's typical "Th", but also not for the practically mandatory "fi" and "fl". (Of course, this could have been a design choice as well.)


              A direct XML-to-IDML trajectory is very, very hard. IDML is not the most user friendly format! By way of intermediate, and looking at the target design, I think INX would serve much better!


              Other than IDML, an INX file is one single file, and you don't have to provide specific values for every single item. At its very basic form, just plain text plus an indication of which paragraph style to use is enough! But everything else I see in the PDF, including the footnotes, should be possible as well.