Technology sneak: InDesign -> Flash

“Print is not dead,” says InDesign Product Manager Michael Ninness. “But design for print only is dying.”

At last week’s InDesign Conference*, Myke & Adobe evangelist Tim Cole showed a sneak preview of InDesign handing off a rich layout to the Flash authoring tool, then turning it into an interactive composition.  Terri Stone from’s got the story and screenshots, while John Dowdell shares some perspective from a longtime observer of designer-developer interactions. [Update: Mordy Golding has posted videos of the demo.]

What’s particularly cool here, I think, is that InDesign isn’t just producing a SWF file.  That approach can be great when you want one-stop shopping, but we saw very clearly in the LiveMotion days that integration with Flash authoring is an essential option.  Without integration, content creators face an either/or choice of tools, meaning that each app ends up trying to do everything you could want. 

By emphasizing integration, Adobe can avoid re-inventing the wheel or stuffing half of Flash inside InDesign; instead, each tool can focus on doing what it does best. InDesign can nail layout, styling, content aggregation, and basic interactivity, while Flash can pick up for richer coding and animation. (As it happens, Myke is a veteran of Microsoft’s Expression/Silverlight effort, before which he was my boss on LiveMotion, so I’m really glad he’s helping shape these efforts.)

For more examples of InDesign-style content taken to the next level with Flash, check out the full-screen, video-enhanced Flash presentation of Reporte Indigo (“Inicia tu experiencia aquí!”) and the page curls of Lovely Magazine.  (The sneak showed page curls being specified right within InDesign, then running in the Flash Player.)  [Via Lynly Schambers]

Tangentially related: InDesign Magazine is offering a free trial issue as a downloadable PDF–no strings attached.

*InDesign now gets its own conference; back in the day, whouda thunk it? You’ve come a long way, baby. 🙂

[PS–On the baby front (hey, how could I resist?), I have to say that it’s kinda bizarre to get back to talking about technology & the usual ephemera I share here. I checked mail on Sunday and saw a CNET headline about the future of digital photography (sounds interesting, haven’t read it yet). I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah… digital photography… people are still talking about that?” What a seismic shift in perspective this whole thing produces.]

8 thoughts on “Technology sneak: InDesign -> Flash

  1. Hey. it’s great to see you still find time to post. I remember making time to check my email, while my son was sleeping.
    Exciting news, about the InDesign/Flash compatibility, but I’m still trying to get the designers here to use style sheets… 😉

  2. I posted video clips of the actual keynote where Myke demonstrated this preview John. The link is here:
    The clips are posted to YouTube as well.
    I think the key take away here is that the clips show Myke doing TWO things — one is a quick and simple SWF export from ID. As you say, that’s nice. But nothing earth shattering — considering that no one would ever consider authoring SWF files in ID. But his second half of the demo shows him exporting a file from ID to Flash (NOT via SWF), and to me, that’s extremely interesting. It means Flash is getting rich layout information from InDesign. It may be hard to see on the video, but the layout and typography translates EXTREMELY well between the two apps. For a designer to get that level of control of fine typography and layout using Flash alone is simply not feasible.

  3. It’s very cool technology, and will be a great tool for many in repurposing content — so I’m of course rooting for this “preview” to be included in CS4.
    On a related note: would it not be damn useful to have a PSD export in InDesign, which preserved objects, layers, text formatting, etc., so we could slice up stuff in PS and perform a Save for Web? I sure think so. It’s PITA to work with text in PS, but a pure joy to do so in InDesign.

  4. Another “Interactive Designer”? As long as there is no direct data exchange between InDesign and Flash (no manual conversion, live update) and no Flash color management (not limited to sRGB) it’s useless as the first mentioned. InDesign would need some more product logic to better participate in a automated workflow, instead of some flicker options… 🙁
    Please: Don’t imitate, innovate!
    [Don’t stress. No one is trying to imitate Quark.
    Are you saying that being able to convert an InDesign document into a Flash authoring file with high fidelity is no good if there’s not a live link between the two? Could you elaborate on why that is?
    As for color management, I think we’ll see some good things now that Adobe’s chocolate can get into Macromedia’s peanut butter. Having said that, what are your needs for non-sRGB color management in Flash? Wouldn’t starting there be a huge win (relative to the zero color management that Flash currently does)? –J.]

  5. Check out something similar here-
    QuarkViewer for QuarkXPress 7:
    QuarkViewer is an XTensions module for QuarkXPress 7.3.x that allows users to export QuarkXPress layout pages for viewing in Microsoft Silverlight player. QuarkViewer may run as a pure desktop application or a Web application.
    Our approach has been 1 click export. Behavior and user interface are pre-packaged and only relevant data (previews, vector info) is collected during export. Thus this is not meant for production workflow but is more of an alternative way to distrubute your artwork in a rich reading experience environment.
    And last but not the least, it is available today 🙂

  6. Regarding “live link”:
    For creating (print) documents, we are able to link files (mostly graphics/pixel files) for years — even in Word! This enables the possibility to change small things in the original document of the linked file during the last minutes or to exchange the exported version with the one of a new document. One time consuming thing is the export (if I’m not able to use native formats), every time I make a change, a new export has to be done manually. Just integrate a new export strategy: export the document once and update the export on every save automatically (of course the user has to switch on this behavior per document). There are many ways to improve these change-export-import processes, without exporting/importing and searching for the documents manually: “Open in InDesign” for Flash, direct InDesign-Import in Flash, connecting InDesign document and the exported document so they know who’s “mother and child”…
    Example: Changing a picture would lead to a “nice” export domino game. Exporting the picture from Photoshop to something, update InDesign document, export this again to Flash and contribute changes to Flash (however this will work).
    Regarding color management (CM):
    At first, it should be possible to control the InDesign to Flash way with the standard CM tools. Notice the user, that the document colors are converted to sRGB, let him see a preview of the document colors (soft proof: sRGB), let him choose/review CM settings (profiles, rendering intents, …)… (not to mention, that the Creative Suite CM implementation needs also a complete revision).
    sRGB-only files would limit the whole showcase to the web, where you don’t know what the screens’ color spaces are — so you care less. If you want to present something in a more predictable environment, with wide gamut screens, reducing to sRGB is a no-go criteria. Use cases can be product presentations (design company to customer) and approval processes for future products with Flash based applications.

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