AEM Assets workflow for automatic PDF generation from InDesign files

Many of my Enterprise customers ask how they can use Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) to automate the production of common derivative files from their InDesign files. Derivative files, you ask? InDesign files often represent the “source of truth” for many business documents, from manuals to data sheets to publications and many more types. These documents must be transformed from InDesign into something else (hence the term derivative) in order to be made available on a web site, for instance. The usual method is to export a PDF from InDesign and then upload the PDF as a new asset into the repository. This puts added burden on the author of the InDesign file as well as introducing the possibility of error due to incorrectly set PDF job options. This gets even more complicated if the author must make versions suitable to send to a commercial printer as well as a version that’s optimized for reading online as a PDF. This article provides techniques to automate the production of a web-optimized and print-optimized PDF from any InDesign file that appears in AEM Assets.

This article assumes that you have access to Adobe Experience Manager Assets and InDesign Server. In this example, I use AEM 6.1 and InDesign CC Server 2015, but the technique should work with AEM 5.6.1 and higher and ID Server CS6 and higher. You need to ensure that you have configured your AEM Author environment to work with InDesign server according to the documentation found here. The foundation of any successful integration (beyond configuration!) is the combination of Scripts, Workflow Models, and Workflow Launchers.

You can download a package that contains the scripts and a workflow model you can use today. When you install the package, you will have new scripts located at /etc/dam/indesign/scripts and /etc/workflow/scripts. You will also see a new Workflow Model located at /etc/workflow/models/dam/. The Workflow Launcher must be reconfigured, since I didn’t want to disrupt your existing workflows after you install the package.


Scripts tell AEM or external applications what to do, and they form the basis of any InDesign Server-based solution. There are two sets of scripts used here: one set for InDesign Server to generate the PDFs and the other for AEM to move the resulting files. First, let’s look at the JavaScript to tell InDesign Server what we want it to do and how we want it to respond to the request.

There are a number of InDesign Server scripts included in the basic AEM installation, and I’ve modified /etc/dam/indesign/scripts/PDFExport.jsx to request specific kinds of PDF from InDesign Server.  In addition, the script writes the new PDF files into the InDesign file’s /renditions node. These two scripts are located at /etc/dam/indesign/scripts/PDFExport_Print.jsx and at /etc/dam/indesign/scripts/PDFExport_Web.jsx. I could have easily combined these two operations into one script, but I wanted to leave you the option to easily enable or disable each one according to your requirements. You can also combine them yourself or make them fancier, responding to properties you set on the InDesign file in AEM (via XMP) and read out with InDesign Server. Here is the code for PDFExport_Web.jsx, which is almost identical to PDFExport_Print.jsx. The difference is in the value of pdfExportPreset in line 31, the filename set in line 56, and the function return value set in line 57.

// Export any Indesign document as PDF

//==== get soap arguments ====
if (app.scriptArgs.isDefined("credentials")) {
 var credentials = app.scriptArgs.getValue("credentials");
} else {
 throw "CQ host credentials argument is missing";
if (app.scriptArgs.isDefined("cqHost")) { 
 var host = app.scriptArgs.getValue("cqHost");
} else {
 throw "cqHost argument is missing";
if (app.scriptArgs.isDefined("resource")) { 
 var resourcePath = app.scriptArgs.getValue("resource");
} else {
 throw "resource argument is missing";

try {
 //==== create a temporary folder under InDesign server tmp directory to fetch and export ====
 // added randomness to the folder name
 var exportFolder = new Folder("tmp-" + (new Date().getTime() - Math.floor((Math.random()*10000)+1) ));
 fileName = resourcePath.substring (resourcePath.lastIndexOf ('/'), resourcePath.lastIndexOf ('.'));
 var sourceFile = new File(exportFolder.fullName + fileName + '.indd');
 var outputFile = new File(exportFolder.fullName + fileName + '_web.pdf');
 var pdfExportPreset = "[Web Preset]" // Set your PDF Web-ready Export Preset (joboption) here.
 // You can use any joboption file installed in InDesign Server

 app.consoleout('Fetching resource from CQ: '+resourcePath);
 fetchResource (host, credentials, resourcePath, sourceFile);

 var document =;

 with (app.pdfExportPreferences) {
 viewDocumentAfterExport = false;
 var myPDFExportPreset = app.pdfExportPresets.item(pdfExportPreset);
 document.exportFile(ExportFormat.pdfType, outputFile,myPDFExportPreset);

 // close the document
 //==== remove the original resource and send the export back to CQ ====

 //==== send file to CQ ====
 var target = resourcePath.substring (0, resourcePath.lastIndexOf ('/')) + "/renditions";
 app.consoleout('Posting this file to CQ: '+outputFile);
 app.consoleout('Posting to location: ' + target);
 putResource (host, credentials, outputFile, fileName + '_web.pdf', 'application/pdf', target);
 returnValue = "PDF for Web exported and posted successfully";
} finally {
 //==== remove the temp folder ====
app.consoleout('Finished PDF for Web export using '+pdfExportPreset+' joboptions');

To use these scripts, you need to have a PDF Joboptions file installed in InDesign Server to export your PDF. When you install the package, you will find a new folder at /content/dam/InDesign Server joboptions that contains two PDF Export Presets for InDesign Server. Move these two files to Applications/Adobe InDesign CC Server 2015/Resources/Adobe PDF/settings/mul and then restart InDesign Server to load the new settings.

Now that we have the InDesign Server pieces in place, let’s look at the AEM script. This is an ECMA script, which is very much like JavaScript, and it’s located at /etc/workflow/scripts/move-pdf-renditions.ecma. I’ve written it as a function that’s called twice, once for each PDF rendition, so it’s easy to add or remove other renditions as you see fit. This script will be called from the Workflow Model, which we’ll look at next. Here’s the script code.

var renditionExtension = "pdf";
var mimeType = "application/pdf";

var workflowData = graniteWorkItem.getWorkflowData();


function movePDF (renditionPostfix) {
 if (workflowData.getPayloadType() == "JCR_PATH") {
 var path = workflowData.getPayload().toString();
 var resourceResolver = graniteWorkflowSession.adaptTo(;
 var resource = resourceResolver.getResource(path);
 if (resource !== null) {
 var asset =;
 if (asset !== null) {
 var name =, ".");
 var renditionName = name + "_" + renditionPostfix + "." + renditionExtension;
 var rendition = asset.getRendition(renditionName);
 if (rendition !== null) {
 var renditionResource = resourceResolver.getResource(rendition.path);
 var stream = renditionResource.adaptTo(;
 var targetPath = asset.adaptTo( + "/" + renditionName;
 var assetManager = resourceResolver.adaptTo(;
 assetManager.createAsset(targetPath, stream, mimeType, true);
 } else {
 log.debug("rendition " + renditionName + " cannot be found on asset " + path);
 } else {
 log.debug("Item is not an asset: " + path);
 } else {
 log.debug("Item does not exist: " + path);

Workflow Model

There will be a new Workflow Model in your Workflows list called DAM Update Asset with PDF move located at /etc/workflow/models/dam/update_asset_pdf/. It is similar to and derived from the standard DAM Update Asset workflow that comes with every AEM installation. I have changed one existing step (Media Extraction) and added a new step (a Process step called “Move PDFs from Renditions”).

These two workflow steps are different from the standard DAM Update Assets workflow

These two workflow steps are different from the standard DAM Update Assets workflow

The Media Extraction step is designed to convert InDesign documents to other formats required by AEM Assets for a number of key functionalities. These include generating sub-assets (images that are embedded within the InDesign file), page images, extraction of text, and metadata synchronization, among other things. Media Extraction sends the script (and a pointer to the InDesign file) as its payload to InDesign Server. InDesign Server then runs the script and returns something to AEM. It is important that you do not remove any of the existing scripts that Media Extraction launches, but you can always add additional steps. Here, we added two additional scripts to the workflow step: PDFExport_Print.jsx and PDFExport_Web.jsx

The Print and Web PDF Export scripts have been added to the Media Extraction Workflow Step.

The Print and Web PDF Export scripts have been added to the Media Extraction Workflow Step.

Immediately after Media Extraction, I added a new Process step that executes an ECMA script in AEM. For many users, they will access AEM Assets via their desktop using the AEM Assets Companion tool or the Creative Cloud Desktop tool, so this workflow ensures that they get the renditions they need in a place that’s easy to find. Also, users of AEM Assets will be able to search for these PDFs like any other asset under management. This script copies the PDFs from /renditions as new assets adjacent to the InDesign file. It is best to leave the PDFs in /renditions so that they can be used by components that might offer the PDF as a download, for instance.


The new Process step executes an ECMA script that copies the new PDF files so that they are accessible on the desktop.

Workflow Launcher

Lastly, it is necessary to change the Workflow Launcher that is triggered whenever a file appears in the repository or whenever a file is modified in the repository. I did not include this change in the package so that you can install the package with no impact on your running system. When you are ready and have tuned the scripts for your workflow, then you can enable the Workflow in the Workflow Launcher panel.

In your AEM Author instance, click on Tools>Workflow>Launchers or visit http://localhost:4502/libs/cq/workflow/admin/console/content/launchers.html (of course, point at your Author instance!). Select the /content/dam(/.*/)renditions/original that has no condition on it (see screenshot below) and click on View Properties, and then on Edit.

Select the proper Launcher and view its properties

Select the proper Launcher and view its properties

The Launcher is designed to run a workflow when a specific condition is met. This workflow looks for any file that appears in the repository and then runs the DAM Update Asset workflow on it. You need to change the workflow to DAM Update Asset with PDF Move and then Save the changes.

Change the workflow that is triggered by the Launcher

Change the workflow that is triggered by the Launcher

Once you’ve saved the Launcher, you are ready to test. Upload an InDesign document into AEM using your preferred method. You can use drag and drop in a Browser window, AEM Assets Companion, or CC Desktop Tool. If you happen to catch the InDesign Server console, you will see new entries that report on whether IDS was successful at exporting PDF renditions. In a short while, your new PDF  files will magically appear next to the InDesign file. Now, go ahead an edit that InDesign file and save it back to AEM Assets. Again, the workflow will run and new PDF files will replace the existing ones, ensuring that you always have access to the latest versions. And, since they are assets under management, you can always revert to earlier versions of the PDF by looking at the asset timeline in a browser.


This new workflow and the scripts that support it expose a new behavior for AEM Assets. While convenient for the user, since it automatically generates useful and necessary derivatives of the source InDesign asset, it enforces known good business processes by encapsulating approved PDF Export settings into he workflow. It also reduces errors by automating a task that otherwise would require several configuration steps in InDesign before they could export the PDF.

I hope that you find this useful, and that you use it as a starting point for further InDesign Server automation using AEM Assets.

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