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Adding Zoom and Print to InDesign SWF Files

I love the SWF export feature from InDesign, but it’s missing some really important features, including:

  • A way to gather two or more SWF files together into a “project” frame.
  • A way to automatically add zoom buttons so readers can magnify parts of the page easily
  • A way to embed a PDF file so that if your audience wants a print version, they can get it easily.

Adobe’s answer to this has been: export to XFL (or FLA in CS5) and whip it all up in Flash Pro. It only takes a little actionscript and a developer and a week of work and… gah! That’s crazy-talk, and I’m sorry, but as much as I want to learn actionscript, it ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

Fortunately, some developers have stepped up to make it easier for us non-coders. For example, I’ve been playing with eDocker from Prepress Center in Finland. (I have to admit, I have a special affinity for Finnish companies, as their names all seem to contain the word “Oy!” in them. I also love the irony in a company called “Prepress” making a SWF tool.)

eDocker is a way to gather one or more SWF files exported from InDesign CS4 (or later) into a container that offers zoom buttons, a way to scroll/pan around after zooming in, navigation buttons, PDF download button, a Help button… and it’s all customizable!

They’ve created this application using AIR, so it’s very easy to install and run on Mac or Windows. You apparently need to be connected to the web while it’s running (perhaps for anti-piracy reasons), which is a bit frustrating at times. But it makes the process so straightforward that any non-coder can use it.

For example, click here to open a new window showing a simple SWF I made.

If you’re reading this on an iPad and don’t have Flash, here’s what the screen looks like:

What you’re looking at above is a SWF exported from InDesign CS4, inside a frame created with eDocker. The InDesign document was “facing pages,” so you’re looking at page 2 and 3 together. Notice the buttons along the bottom to download a PDF of the document, switch to full screen mode, navigate to other pages, zoom in/out, and print.

When you zoom in, you get a Pan cursor to move around, like this:

So how hard was it to make this? From InDesign to this final packaged SWF took about 2 minutes.

If you don’t like the look and feel of the buttons (or the frame or the help image, or whatever), you can customize them all. They’re just little swf files themselves that you can drag into the packaged folder. For example, I replaced the eDocker logo in the upper-left corner with an InDesignSecrets logo — I admit that it’s not pretty, but that’s my fault.

I have heard that there are other companies out there offering similar services, though some of them require you to use their servers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I find the simplicity of eDocker very compelling. You can try it out for 3 days free here (after that, it’s 325 euros, which is a lot less than paying a Flash developer). Let us know what you think!

Are there other products or services you know about that do similar things? Let us know about them!

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27 Comments on “Adding Zoom and Print to InDesign SWF Files

  1. It was probably as hard for Adobe to make that as it is for them to make footnotes better :D

    That’s a really cool find there, David. Many thanks for the link – I will find uses for this. I did buy a similar tool called Flipping Book – but that only imports PDFs and JPGs, as far as I know.

    This Flash stuff is very intriguing, thanks for posting the link, duly bookmarked and I’ll experiment with the 3 day trial when CS5 arrives!

  2. By the looks of things, Indesigns CS5 hasn’t included this function as standard. I’ve been looking to have this functionality in some upcoming projects but it riles me a little that with the price of Adobe products being as they are, that functions like those illustrated in your article (which have been available in third party software for a while) are not a standard function in Indesign. It is not nice to constantly feel like you’re having to shell out ‘big’ money all the time.

    Though Adobe products that I’ve played about with a great, I always find I’m disappointed when the upgrades come around. But heh, this is no different to other technology I suppose – always holding something back to keep the consumers buying longterm.

  3. Currently my only gripe with exported “page turn” SWFs is that there’s no loading spinner of any kind. Zooming isn’t on the list of requirements right now, but I’m sure it’ll get asked for once I start offering this to clients. I’ll look for a cheaper solution though, when the time comes.

  4. I really don’t get the hype around this flash in indesign thing. From a commercial point of view I do understand Adobe; more and more people understand that flash isn’t the way to go as for websites. Jquery, css3 will get you most of the stuff as well and you will keep semantic code.
    I would rather see Adobe only(!) develop Indesign further to what it’s good at: page layout.
    Nonetheless, I think it’s quite fun to use it some time. Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. I think I’ll be using it. I’m using Flash at the moment to create basic Animations Presentations, and it’s quite tedious. I’m much more used to InDesign and I think it will work for what I need it for.

    Flash has too much stuff in it – most of which I don’t need. All I’m doing is creating images from InDesign, insert in a time line – fade in – pause – fade out – next slide – repeat, and it’s quite a boring job.

    Perhaps with InDesign I won’t have to take my content from InDesign – I can just reuse it in new interactive documents. Seems like a good use for it for me.

  6. This stuff is brilliant for online catalogs, weekly ad mailers, and that kind of thing. SO many companies now need to lay out the page in InDesign then get it into a Web browser in the same configuration. For example, if you go to target.com (very large retailer) and click Weekly Ad in the upper-right corner of their page, you see their weekly print ad in an electronic (flash) form.

    PDF is okay, but this kind of Flash presentation is just more compelling to readers than PDF.

    @Eelco: You say that Adobe should focus on page-layout, but that’s exactly what they’re doing: layout. What they finally woke up to is that laying out a page often requires the same kinds of tools, whether that page is a print page or an on-screen page. There are developers who will say, no, no, onscreen requires coding, etc., but to them I say “pshaw.” (Well, more accurately, I would reply, “right, complex sites and layouts need coding, but the vast majority of sites and pages don’t. Just like today, the vast majority of print pages don’t require anyone to program in PostScript or PDF.”)

    Anytime someone provides a tool that allows for powerful self-expression without coding, I’m all for it!

  7. Well, yeah I could think of some situations when it might come in handy. As for the local grocery store web shop and stuff. Use it for creating small banner ads and other smal stuff, but don’t try to build complete websites with flash. It’s just no good regarding SEO and so. Just my 2 cents as a web developer.

  8. Thanks for the tip, David!

    Will you be making a article about the new possibilities for interactive PDFs any time soon? Or can you perhaps show us what is a good way to combine the interactive PDFs and the InDesign SWF files?

    Thing is, I’m trying to convince my employer to upgrade to CS5. Lately we’ve been exploring into the realm of interactive PDF’s and I think CS5 has some great unique selling points in that regard. ;)

  9. It’s like combining a brickie’s trowel and a plumber’s pipe cutter in one tool – both can be used to build something, but you’d be much better of with separate tools if you are either a brickie or a plumber.

    As a print designer, I say give us a solid print design tool, Adobe (such as InDesign, but with some more functionality), without unnecessary bloat.

    By all means, develop tools for the web, but keep them separate for those of us who actually need them.

    After all, Adobe is keeping Photoshop and Illustrator separated.

    Remember the KISS Principle!

  10. @erique. You say “After all, Adobe is keeping Photoshop and Illustrator separated” – but the problem with this is though Adobe do excellent work in developing the product they do, it often feels like we consumers are cash cows in addition to the fact that some of us frankly have no time (or simply understanding) to learn Flash.

    I understand putting type and images into a document – self-taught by and large. I taught myself HTML and CSS.

    But when it comes to Flash or PHP or anything like that, by brain starts to hurt. Even as a subscriber to Lynda.com, I struggle to get my head around this material.

    And besides, as a starter publishing business I’m working on my business and if anything makes my job easier whilst giving me sort of edge, for as little cash as possible, that’s great.

    I might invest time and money in eDocker but there are other products out there too.

  11. @erique: In publishing, there is no print or online anymore. It’s print and epublishing. Saying you’re “print only” is like saying “I just do typesetting” in the late ’80s. Those were proud typographers, but they were all out of a job within a decade. The important thing to learn at least a little of it all and be flexible in these changing times.

  12. I know a lot of print only places are closing down now – because they have no online services to offer, like websites, epublishing, interactive, multimedia etc.

    It may not be the only reason, but it’s probably part of the reason.

    In the last year I’ve gone from a page layout/print guy and crossed over the epublishing, flash, video, sound, multimedia, interactive pdfs etc., I had never done that before – but I had to get it done.

  13. Sorry guys, I must not have made myself very clear and in the process come across as one of those “late ’80s” dinosaurs! (Thanks for that reminder, David. They were indeed hard times for some of my older friends.)

    A lot of the work we produce never goes e-anything. I’m talking educational text books, magazine ads, posters, catalogues, etc., but I certainly see the need for the interactive side of things, such as e-pubs and print-repurposed-to-web and we do produce a number of such projects.

    It is just that, in my particular case, I have my son to do all that. Besides doing straight online stuff, he’s the one with the knowledge and skills to take what I design for print and make it work as e-media. But often he doesn’t use InDesign for it … there are other, more developed apps that do a much better job of it then Indy ever could.

    In hind sight, maybe I’m spoiled for not having to think about that side of things too much and I can certainly see Webby77′s point of view. So although I stand by it, I’ll qualify my previous post by adding that it is purely a ‘in my particular situation’ piece.

    Still strongly believe in KISS, though! :)

  14. Question for David and other who already tested CS5: is there a way to do something like this using Flash Catalyst? Looking at the Adobe information, it seems possible to do this within a Catalyst project which loads SWFs generated in ID.

  15. Hi David. Thanks for the Tip. I downloaded the trial version and have been fiddiling with it since yesterday, love the customization: I’m using Sothink Quicker to modify the .SWF files and without knowing any Flash (or having flash for that matter) it’s a breeze.

    One Question: I’m having some major problems with alignment, I can’t manage to keep my spread in the middle of the screen, it’s always off centerd to the left which becomes very noticable when in full screen mode.

    The odd thing is it was fine yesterday (everything centerd automaticlly) … I must have touched something but have no idea what. I’ve noticed that the exporting SWF files from ID do give some alignment problems… and until yesterday Edocker was sorting that out for me… not anymore. Have you had the same problems ? Have you managed to find a fix or something ?

    Thanks
    Stef

  16. Hi Stef!

    eDocker (or eDocManager actually) uses an active area of 1024×768 pixels, user interface and background spreads wider but buttons and indesign SWFs will be placed on that area, and active area is aligned to center of screen. So in wide screens there will be empty space filled with background and user interface bars on the left and right side of active area.

    If you don´t do anything, eDocker will allign your indesign SWF files to leftside of active area (left side of SWF will be under the logo).
    When you gather your project in eDocManager, there´s a column called xPos, where you can input any amount of pixels. eDocManager will transform that SWF same amount to right side….

    Ok, someone will ask now why not do that automatically? InDesign writes sometimes really weird size parametres to SWF files. And they will mess up all automatic center allignments. We thougt that this would be the second best choise….=)

    petteri

    ps. Anne-Marie & David, I know that I sound like a broken record, but once again, I loved your podcast…

  17. Hello Petteri

    Thanks for the answer. It really sorted things out :)
    I’m starting to get the hang of this :) So now I can move my document horizontally… but what if I needed to move it Vertically ?? Is there any way of doing this ? Here is a link to a problematic publishing of mine: http://www.georgejsowden.com/example/ it’s all stuffed up at the top… I need to bring it down a bit… you think it can be done ???
    Sorry for being such a noob :)
    Stef

  18. …you actually can. It´s a hidden feature in current version (will be better after next release).

    Navigate to your publish folder and open lehdet.xml to textEdit(mac) or WordPad(win) or some code-editing software.

    There´s a tag 29… which means that your magazines upper edge is 29 pixels down from top… change that value, save and re-open index.html… your magazines Y-postion has changed….

    If you have published more than one SWF, every of them has their own yPos-value….

  19. ups… this forum software strips off my xml-tags…. let´s try to put it again without tag-marks

    There´s a yPos tag with value 29? which means that your magazines upper edge is 29 pixels down from top? change that value, save and re-open index.html? your magazines Y-postion has changed?.

  20. I was looking for just such a solution! Too bad eDocker’s website doesn’t really explain how it works. For something so expensive I expect better! Thank goodness, YOUR description is thorough, David.

  21. I was doing some animations on a swf files in InDesign. When I export it, everything is OK on a MAC but when I try it on a PC it doesn’t work. Is somebody can help me?

  22. I created a magazine in indesign full of animation, i added the page flip and exported. it created 3 files, the swf, the html and the folder with all the videos ect.

    I have a wordpress site and im not very technical, what I want to know is… is there a way to get the magazine loaded onto the website so when someone clicks on an image of the front cover it opens up and people can flip through the mag ect?.

    Adding navigation buttons would be a massive help plus the download as PDF feature. Can you not add nav buttons within indesign using the buttons feature?

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