Relinking placed content in Creative Cloud applications with assets from AEM

Customers who move from a file system to a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system such as Adobe Experience Manger Assets (AEM Assets) realize many benefits, including but not limited to more comprehensive search, access to augmented asset metadata, and workflows to syndicate content to multiple channels. Assets under management in many DAM systems tend to be locked in the DAM, accessible through a search interface that lets users collect assets for extraction from the DAM. Once the user downloads the assets, however, the “M” part of DAM breaks. This article presents best practices for allowing Creatives to use content from DAM such that DAM maintains control over the asset and the “M” part of DAM is preserved.

AEM Assets, like most modern DAM systems, provides two basic functions: asset and associated metadata storage, and access to those assets through a search interface in a browser. AEM offers a method to mount the repository on the desktop, exposing assets to end users as if they had been downloaded from DAM. When you combine search with the ability to expose assets as files, you get a very powerful combination that will be the subject of the rest of this article. AEM also provides robust workflows that can be activated through a variety of triggers. We will touch on workflows later in this article as a way to extend these core capabilities.

AEM 6.1 and higher has a UI preference to enable desktop actions. This means that if a user selects a file or folder, the user can choose to Reveal on desktop or Open on desktop. These actions are meaningful when you install the AEM Desktop Tool, which is a free application available on Mac and Windows. We will circle back to them in a few minutes.

The AEM Desktop Tool is a client that exposes the AEM Assets repository as an SMB file system. This allows any Creative Cloud desktop application to access DAM content without the need for any plugins or extensions. Download and install the AEM Desktop Tool from the Direct Download page. This page also shows any dependencies that may be required on the AEM side to support the current release of the Desktop Tool. Check with your AEM System Administrator to ensure that the correct packages are installed on AEM before you install the Desktop Tool. Once you have the packages installed and activated, you can install AEM Desktop. Once you install AEM Desktop, you can mount your AEM Assets server as a volume on your desktop. Login using your Author credentials.

Mount AEM Assets action on desktop

Once you login, your AEM Assets repository appears as a mounted volume.

DAM mounted as a volume

To enable desktop actions in AEM, you need to enable a setting in your user preferences in AEM. Navigate to your Preferences page (path varies depending on your AEM version, but is is usually found under your profile image in the upper right hand corner of the screen) and enable Show desktop actions for Assets. Click Accept and you’re ready to go.

Enable "Show desktop actions for Assets"  Additional contextual menu items

Reveal on desktop and Open on desktop actions appear when you navigate to an asset or folder in the Assets interface in AEM. Hover over a folder in Assets to see the Reveal on desktop icon, and hover over an asset in Assets to see the Open on desktop icon. Reveal in desktop is available under the more… indicator. Both of these actions will appear in the rail on an asset details page.

Desktop actions on an asset     Reveal on Desktop on a folder

Now that we have the plumbing installed, let’s turn to best practices.

Updating linked assets from DAM

The most common question I encounter from customers who have moved their assets to DAM is “how do I relink my images in DAM from InDesign?” followed by “How do I relink my images in DAM from Illustrator?” This question arises because when these assets were stored on a desktop computer or on a file server, all of the linked images also resided on the same desktop computer or file server. When the assets were ingested into DAM, they no longer appear in the same path, so InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop get confused as to where these assets are in relation to the files in which they have been placed. Reveal on desktop turns out to be a deceptively simple solution. Follow these steps to relink your assets from DAM in your layout document.

  1. Open your layout document. For the sake of illustration, let’s use InDesign. InDesign will tell you that the links are broken and that they need to be updated. DO NOT LET INDESIGN automatically update the links. We need to do this manually in order to ensure that we make the right connections.
  2. Select the first image in the Links panel
  3. Choose Relink… from the Links panel. A file system browser will open. Do not browse to a file.
  4. Switch to your browser and navigate to AEM Assets
  5. Open your Search interface
  6. Search for the asset by filename or other metadata
  7. Reveal it on desktop. It will now come in focus in your file browser, and it will be selected.
  8. Drag the file onto your already open InDesign relink… file browser.
  9. Release the file and the InDesign relink… file browser will now have your DAM asset selected.
  10. Click open to relink the image.

If you have other images in the same DAM folder, you can then relink to the folder. When you run out of images to link, repeat the Relink…, Search, drag, Open pattern until your InDesign document has all new links. Once you are done, save the InDesign document locally so that you can make changes. Once your document goes through your approval process, upload it to DAM as a new document or as a new version of one already in DAM.

While this may sound cumbersome, once you get the hang of it, it will feel like second nature. Over time, as you make new documents using images in DAM, instead of starting with Relink…, start with Place… or just drag the found-and-revealed image onto your layout. InDesign will link to the image in DAM, and the next time you open the InDesign file, it will be properly connected. If you’d like to see an example, watch this short video.


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