Using content from InDesign documents in CQ5.5

When Adobe acquired Day Software, it got not only a revolutionary Web Content Management system, but also a revolutionary Digital Asset Management platform based on CRX, Day’s implementation of the Java Content Repository. Quick to recognize its potential as a binding agent for an end to end Adobe workflow that included asset creation and management, campaign deployment, measurement and targeting, and campaign refinement, CQ quickly jumped to the forefront of many of our minds here at Adobe.

Adobe Drive 3 can connect to a CQ DAM and provide version control for Creative Suite assets. While this functionality existed with CQ5.4, in CQ5.5, there are some built-in examples of how CQ can extend an InDesign workflow to the Web. CQ5.5 ships with a couple of workflow scripts designed specifically for InDesign Server, which is required for them to function. Without InDesign Server available to CQ, what follows won’t happen. If you are a CQ customer and would like to try this for yourself, download the InDesign Server trial and install it on the same server where you keep CQ5.5. Otherwise, read on and you’ll get a sense of what’s possible with CQ DAM and InDesign Server.

InDesign server must be running and servicing requests on port 8080. On my Mac, I issue the following terminal command to fire up ID Server prior to starting CQ. I assume that it’s similar on Windows:

/Applications/Adobe\ InDesign\ CS5.5\ Server/ -port 8080

Once it’s running, it’s safe to start CQ in author mode. We’re looking at an author instance, not a publish instance, from this point forward. Once it’s running, you can mount the repository with Drive 3. Open Drive 3 and connect to your DAM. In my example, I’m running CQ on my local machine, hence the localhost connection.

Once connected, I can browse content in the DAM as if the DAM were a filesystem. CS apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, InCopy and Bridge understand that when CQ DAM is mounted via Drive, they can check files into and out of the DAM and access versions of those files in the DAM. This article isn’t about version control, though, it’s about repurposing content from InDesign in CQ5.5.

When I drop an InDesign file into the DAM via Bridge, Bridge creates a version and checks the file into CQ. In CQ, the appearance of that InDesign file fires off a series of workflow steps that, with the help of InDesign Server, create previews of that file, extract an IDML rendition of that file, extract text and images from that file, and assemble those items into a Page node in CQ. It’s this page node that’s the really, really cool product of ingestion.

Page nodes are reference-able in CQ using a reference component. Normally, when you place a reference component onto a page in CQ, you double click it and browse to the page you want to reference. Unfortunately, when CQ and InDesign Server make the page node of your InDesign file, it places that page into the “renditions” folder, which is a reasonable place to store it. Unfortunately, the Reference component doesn’t know how to look into the Renditions folder for this Page note. Fortunately, a colleague on the Chinese Solutions Consulting team, Joseph Lee, figured out a simple solution that allows us to use this page node as a source of content for other pages on our CQ site.

In the diagram above, the selected page node needs to move up two levels in the hierarchy so that it is at the same level as the jar:content node, just below the InDesign file’s primary node. We can drag it up there in CRXDE Lite, but that’s pretty “dirty,” as Joseph was quick to point out. Looking at the workflow, however, he identified a single modification that puts the page node into a place where it can indeed be found by a reference component. Note that it will no longer appear in the Renditions tab when you browse to the InDesign file in DAM, however. I think that the trade-off is worth it, though.

The change we need to make is in the DAM Update Asset workflow. Browse to your workflows console and double click DAM Update Asset. At the bottom of the workflow, there’s a step called Page Extraction. This is one of the new steps that’s included in CQ5.5. You need to change the Page Root Path to “/.” (do not include the quotes) just like below. This will instruct the workflow to create the page node directly below the InDesign file’s primary node. Once you’ve made the change, click OK and then Save in the upper left hand corner of the window. Now, you’re ready to reuse content from your InDesign files in your CQ pages.

To see this in action, let’s look at what the reference component will see after this workflow change, and after we either ingest a new InDesign file or make a change to it and check it back into the DAM, either of which will trigger the InDesign Page Extraction workflow and fix the page node location. Once you do this, you can now browse to it from a reference component.

In the figure above, I have selected a story that’s present in my InDesign document. Here it is in InDesign:

Now, here it is on my CQ page.

Now, here’s the really, really cool part. Nowhere in this process was I required to send my InDesign document overseas for XML extraction in order to get its content back into my Web Content Management system. Ingestion took literally seconds and allowed my authors to use the text and images from my InDesign documents immediately. In addition, when a user makes a change in InDesign and checks the document back into the DAM, the text will update in my CQ Author instance so that I can gracefully publish it to the Publish instance when I am ready.

Thanks again to Joseph Lee for his elegant but powerful suggestion to expose the page rendition to reference components.

I know that this workflow is a demonstration of capabilities, but what an amazing demonstration it is. A capable developer could develop components and workflows which would allow a CQ user to edit that same referenced copy, and then would fire off a workflow to re-inject that content back into the InDesign document. How about the situation where a CQ user mocks up a page layout and then pushes a button to tell InDesign Server to build an InDesign document using a specific template and the text and images from the repository. The possibilities are endless.

I firmly believe that CQ5.5 and its ability to drive InDesign Server heralds the beginning of a new era in multi-channel communications. Already the lines between print and web and apps are blurred. With InDesign Server and CQ5.5, those lines disappear entirely. Now, content truly becomes independent of presentation, which frees the marketer or publisher to extend their reach in existing channels and expand their businesses into emerging channels.

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5 Responses to Using content from InDesign documents in CQ5.5

  1. Joseph Lee says:

    It’s not my own effort only.
    Many thanks to you, Peter, Evelyn, and Lok.

    - Joseph

  2. David Moloney says:

    Hi James,

    thanks for the article — looks very useful alright! I’ve tried out your demo as above, one issue I’m coming across is formatting of content when it’s brought into CQ.

    I’ve set up a document in InDesign to map styles to tags & when doing a manual export, I have a document that will be marked up with valid , , etc. I’ve tried modifying the XHTMLExport.jsx script to use XML document format rather than HTML, but still no luck.

    Is this something you’ve looked into?


    • James Lockman says:

      Hi, Dave.
      I haven’t dug into modifying the scripts to change their behavior, although I have been tempted to do some more robust tag transforms between ID and CQ. It seems like it should be easy to maintain basic formatting, for instance, like bold and italic, but since InDesign hasn’t had a bold or italic button for many years, we’d need to parse the full font and backtrack to the style tag for CQ.
      I mentioned that the ID to CQ scripts are starting points upon which partners or developers could build more robust solutions. I invite any developers/partners who have built more interesting scripts to share them here.

  3. Sam says:

    Very useful Article.. However when we try to upload the indesign document in CQ5, it is losing all the styles and generating a single page html , it is dumping everything in one node. Is there anyways to generate same no of HTML pages as indesign document has with keeping the sytles intact?

    • James Lockman says:


      See my reply to Dave above. You will need to look at the InDesign ingestion workflow and modify the scripts to get different results. This would likely require the scripts on the InDesign Server side to identify content by page geometry, and then to export something that could be used on the CQ side to create Page nodes to match. I think that you could possibly use the HTML export from ID and then do some CQ tagging on that, but I’ll leave that to the more experienced coders to tackle.