EPUB and HTML Export in InDesign CS5.5

Unlike PDF and SWF, the EPUB and HTML file formats still do not support high-fidelity design,typography, and layout. Despite this limitation, the eBook market has grown significantly in the last few years, due largely to the consumption of eBooks on tablet devices and smart phones.

Improved EPUB and HTML export in InDesign CS5.5 enable you to create a better quality EPUB/HTML file without having to know code. Used in conjunction with other new features like Articles, Improved Map-Styles to Export Tags, and Object Export Options, the overall production workflow is greatly streamlined, especially for those of you who want a quality export experience out of an InDesign document intended for print. It’s worth noting that the verboseness of the code is also reduced, so that advanced users and coders can work with the EPUB and HTML in a code editor, and spend less time fine tuning and “cleaning-up” the file.

The command now located under File > Export, with EPUB and HTML listed with other formats like IDML, FLA, and SWF.

Below is a list of some sub-features that you might find exciting!

Article Based Ordering

You can now choose ordering based on an Article. Earlier content ordering approaches such as “Based on Layout” and“Same as XML Structure” are still supported and have not been changed.

Book Margins

A simple margin value can be entered in Em or in Pixels.  The same value is applied for all margins—top, bottom, left, and right. Em is the best value for multiscreen compatibility. The margins use the css @page rule, which is currently only supported by Adobe Digital Editions and Opera web browser. At the time of this writing, the @page rule does not appear to interfere with any EPUB reader.

Note: Using the CSS “margin” attribute is inadequate, as it does not support top and bottom margins.

Image Resolution PPI Setting

InDesign CS5.5 provides a range from 72 (the only option in CS5), 96 (Windows default), 150 (average of eBook devices), and 300 (print and “Retina Display”) quality.

Image Size

In addition to “Fixed”, CS5.5 now supports a setting called “Relative to Page”. This sets a relative % width value based on the size of the image relative to the InDesign page width. The net effect is that images scale proportionally on different size computer screens or adjust to size of the browser window for desktop EPUB readers like Adobe Digital Editions.

Support for PNG

PNG is a new option. No compression UI is enabled when PNG is selected, as this should be used for LOSSLESS images or for images that include transparency but with better quality than GIF (another lossy format).

Cover Image

You now have some options to specify the cover image. You could use the first page of the publication, an image on disk, or have no cover image.

Break Document by Paragraph Style

In previous releases, InDesign only supported breaking upcontent by the top level TOC style. In CS5.5, any single paragraph style can be selected. This results in more HTML files contained in the EPUB package, but it can be very useful when breaking up very long chapters, which have been known to cause some EPUB readers to crash.

Place footnote after its paragraph

You now have an option to decide if  Instead of converting footnotes to endnotes, footnotes should appear after the paragraph cited.

Remove soft return

You have an option to remove soft-returns used in the InDesign document.

Support for Audio and Video Tags in HTML

Placed mp3 audio and mp4 video (h.264), result in use of HTML5 <audio> and <video> tags.

Note: While we anticipate these tags to be adoptedby the IDPF, the EPUB 2.0.1 specification does not currently support this. As of the date of this writing, only the Apple iBook application on the iPad supports the <video> tag.

New support for EPUB 3.0 J-language features

Support for vertical text and Ruby.

Support for sub-lists

Bulleted and numbered sub-lists are correctly represented as nested<ul> and <ol> in the exported EPUB/HTML. This feature works when using the native InDesign auto-bullet or auto-number feature.

Support for table headers and footers

InDesign table headers and table footers are represented in EPUB/HTML.


  • An InDesign document with a Table of Contents intended for use in print is included in the resulting EPUB file. Earlier in CS5, these were omitted in favor of the NCX manifest used byEPUB Readers.
  • A Publish Date metadata value is automatically generated though not displayed in the UI. This enables EPUBs generated from InDesign to pass the EPUB Checker validation tool. If you need to edit this, or other EPUB metadata values, use a thirdparty tool like Calibre or edit the EPUB packaged directly.
  • The command now located under File > Export, withEPUB and HTML listed with other formats like IDML, FLA, and SWF.

For a complete list, see the Export Content for EPUB in the InDesign help.

You could also have a look at the following video to have a look at the features.

Enhanced eBook authoring


, , ,

  1. #1 by Marcio Duarte on April 12, 2011 - 4:38 am

    That’s great! There’s a lot of improvements in the ePub generation. Now we need a way to integrate ePub with Dreamweaver (or other program based on code editing), to do a lot of other tasks that Indesign can’t handle, like editing the file without decompressing it first.

  2. #2 by Karen McChrystal on June 8, 2011 - 8:41 pm

    I’ve designed a book for print (in InDesign CS5.5), and now want to do the epub version. I’m assuming I have to take off my running headers and footers manually in my print-book design, save that as a version to be converted to epub. Right???

  3. #3 by Jeff Wenz on June 18, 2011 - 8:29 pm

    When I export as HTML or EPUB the website layout gets messed up. Before I export it looks perfect and has multiple collums, but after the export it become a sinlge collum and looks horrible and not all the hyperlinks are active. How can I fix this?

  4. #4 by Lola on July 7, 2011 - 3:22 am

    Porque cuando hago hyperlinks en un archivo de otros archivos los hyperlinks se desconfiguran y solo acepta los que estén dentro del mismo archivo y no de los archivos externos?


  5. #5 by David Blatner on July 21, 2011 - 5:28 am

    Hi Vikrant: I’m surprised you didn’t mention the wonderful Cover Image feature, also new in CS5.5. The ability to choose the first page or a specific image (such as a jpg on disk) is incredibly helpful when building an EPUB.

    • #6 by Vikrant on July 21, 2011 - 7:09 pm

      I made some amends :-) Thanks for letting me know.

  6. #7 by Anne-Marie Concepcion on July 21, 2011 - 6:45 pm

    To avoid any confusion, “Place footnotes after paragraph” and “Remove soft return” are both optional settings, they’re not turned on by default.

    Also, the ability (via the new Ojbect > Object Export Options dialog box) to turn any object or group into a rasterized image *in the exported EPUB file only* (they remain normal editable objects in the iD file) is extremely useful for EPUB creators, allowing them to include artwork created with InDesign tools/objects, for example. There is no longer a need to export a selection to JPEG and then replace the selection with that JPEG.

    • #8 by Vikrant on July 21, 2011 - 7:14 pm

      Thanks. I tried to remove the confusion and also added a link to the Help article. Hopefully, I’ll confuse fewer folks!

  7. #9 by Anne-Marie Concepcion on July 21, 2011 - 6:46 pm

    BTW I appreciate the comprehensive list! I’ve bookmarked this post and refer to it often. ;D

  8. #10 by Bill Jelen on July 25, 2011 - 4:40 pm

    It is good to see that they are including the table of contents. I am wondering if they fixed these issues which caused headaches in CS5:

    1. Will the index get converted to the ePub? Essentially, each page number in the index needs to become a hyperlink to the index marker in the text. This was incredibly unpleasant to do manually in CS5.

    2. In CS5, any images located inside of a table were left out of the ePub. Has this been fixed?

    3. Will cross references from Chapter1.indd that point to Chapter2.indd now work?

    Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    • #11 by Vikrant on July 25, 2011 - 4:54 pm

      Images inside a tables are included and cross-references work across documents.

      I’m not too sure about indexes. Will need to try it out.
      But a more academic question: When you have full-text search, why would a reader need an index?

    • #12 by Gale Petersen on August 18, 2011 - 11:20 pm

      An index allows a reader to scan other topics to see if there is info about related topics. Say I am looking for info on “dogs” but it is not listedin the index. I can quickly scan down and see the term “canines” and go there.

  9. #13 by Bill Jelen on October 14, 2011 - 4:51 pm

    I agree with Gale. A well-designed index provides links to concepts, not links to words. A full-text search would be like putting a horrible computer-generated concordance at the back of a printed book. It is relatively useless.

  10. #14 by Heidi on November 5, 2011 - 3:05 am

    When I go to export for epub, it only gives the option for buzzword. Epub doesn’t even show up as an option. Is there a preference to turn this on? I’m in ID 5.5. Thanks.

    • #15 by Vikrant on November 8, 2011 - 11:16 am

      In CS5.5, choose File > Export and then select EPUB from the Save As drop-down list. The experience is now similar to that of exporting to PDF etc.

  11. #16 by Graham on November 14, 2011 - 5:16 pm

    Can I make epubs that include text in coloured boxes or boxes with keylines?

  12. #17 by Graham on November 14, 2011 - 7:07 pm

    I’m trying to turn a very simple InDesign page, with headline, standfirst, abstract in box and two columns of text into a one-page epub. Should be easy right? I’ve given all the par and cha styles export headings, then dragged everything into the Articles dialogue. It appears in the wrong order, ok, so I can fix that. Then I export it as an ePub and open it in Calibre or Firefox’s ePub reader and to find – it’s a total mess. None of the styles have been retained, there are no spaces between the different elements, the abstract box has gone and elements on the page I didn’t put in articles have appeared too. Is this the best we can expect or am I missing something(s)? Thanks. G

  13. #18 by peter on December 13, 2011 - 2:54 am

    I’m trying to convert my novel (an InDesign CS5.5 file) into an ePub. The story uses a number of Nakoda words for which, in each case, I would like to enable the reader, by cursor-hovering over the word, to view a temporary pop-up box that states the word’s meaning. If there exists a way of doing this, I am so far stumped to make it work. Any suggestions? Thanks mucho!

  14. #19 by Valentina on January 21, 2012 - 12:37 am

    The same question as No 3 – after exporting to epub of magazine all layout is broken, what do I need so to produce a print magazine to epub the same way like it is looking in Indesign?

  15. #20 by Mark on January 23, 2012 - 10:25 am

    @Peter, getting a cursor to hover would be a neat trick on an eReading device as they don’t have mouses.
    The best option is a hyperlink and hope that the reader’s device supports hyperlinks.

  16. #21 by Hinrich on January 24, 2012 - 4:47 am

    I like the added features for epub export in ID 5.5, and I don’t have any problems converting epub to mobi in calibre. One feature I would like, though, is a keep [together] option between images and captions, as well as between heads and first paragraphs. Can it be done?

    The paragraph keep option – first 2 lines, last 2 lines – seems to come through in epub on Adobe Digital Editions, but seems to get lost in the mobi format.

  17. #22 by Freya Anduin, Denmark on February 15, 2012 - 10:58 pm

    I’m trying hard to find out how to make it work when exporting to epub. I can make a book, export, and if I read in Digital Editions it makes me a TOC. If I read in another reader – like Aldiko – not.
    I try making a manual one, it works ok in the book, when I export it looks real – but all links goes to the front page – not the chapters (ie the documents whose headings were used for the TOC).
    How can I make a TOC that works in the book in all readers – ie is included in the book and then exported with the rest into epub, so that anyone can use it?

    • #23 by Vikrant on February 16, 2012 - 1:31 pm

      Have a look at the following PDF: http://labs.oreilly.com/Bilodeau-IDtoEPub.pdf. Maybe it’ll help.

    • #24 by Freya Anduin, Denmark on February 16, 2012 - 10:50 pm

      well, thing is – if I leave out the mark in ‘use indesign toc style’ (and define) in the export menu, I get a menu in some readers, and the in-doc TOC I’ve made (which works perfectly when exported to PDF), but if I do use the ‘use ID toc’ – I get neither the ‘external’ toc – or the one working as PDF.
      when not ticked I can export to PDF fine – but all links in the epub links to the first page.
      there is nothing in the oreilly page that answers this.

  18. #25 by Freya Anduin, Denmark on February 16, 2012 - 12:06 am

    actually, I’ve just updated – and now the TOC has disappeared altogether.
    How to make one – that works when exported?

  19. #26 by Freya Anduin, Denmark on February 16, 2012 - 12:31 am

    I’ve succeeded in making a TOC that works as expected when exported to PDF – links link to the correct pages. only – when epub it makes links allright – to the cover – all of them. that’s just where it ends up.

(will not be published)