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New InDesign Automation book

At the InDesignSecretsLive Print and ePublishing Conference this week I did two presentations: “XML and InDesign Demystified” and “Data Publishing with InDesign”. I was amazed by the interest in these topics from many in the sold-out conference crowd.

At the conference David Blatner told me about a new book he had just received: InDesign CS5 Automation Using XML & JavaScript by Grant Gamble. I eagerly downloaded the eBook (Kindle only) edition to read on my iPad on the trip home.

Though I think the title should contain “JavaScript & XML” instead of “XML & JavaScript”, this ambitious book fills a large hole in the InDesign how-to book landscape. The book covers a LOT of ground. The first twelve chapters include an introduction to scripting, how to use InDesign’s script editor, and a thick section on understanding InDesign’s unique JavaScript object model. The next seven chapters delve into XML: what XML is, where it comes from, how to import it into InDesign, an extensive section on XSLT, and then a thick section on automating XML workflows via scripting.

The book is equal part lessons, reference, examples, and “try it for yourself” tutorials. While the size and scope may intimidate some, if you want to learn about automation or XML and InDesign you’ll benefit by reading at least parts of this book.

I prefer to purchase this type of book as an eBook, so I can easily search for terms and concepts. One shortcoming of the eBook version of this title is that some of the screen shots and illustrations are so low-res as to make them unusable. Aside from that, the eBook version works well with the Kindle app on my iPad.

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert

Keith Gilbert is a digital publishing consultant and educator, Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for various publications. His work has taken him throughout North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. During his 30 years as a consultant, his clients have included Adobe, Apple, Target, the United Nations, Best Buy, General Mills, Lands' End, and Medtronic. Follow him on Twitter @gilbertconsult and at
Keith Gilbert

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17 Comments on “New InDesign Automation book

  1. I have recently taken a course at Grant Gambles training facility in London. It was a 3 day course in InDesign scriptning. We also used his book in the training.
    I can highly recommend the book. Grant Gamble writes so it is easy to understand. With the book and the course I can now JavaScript InDesign and use JavaScript in other programs.

  2. G’day Keith & Anne-Marie
    I attended the conference in Washington and sat in on your sessions, Keith, as I was really interested in the XML workflow and how to use it.

    The reason? I have a number of clients with php/mysql content management systems and wished to use XML output from those to create some data-heavy brochures (like your train timetable example).

    Unfortunately the existing knowledge of the majority of the audience and the time limitations allowed you to only just get past how to write XML tags (and you forgot to mention the self-closing tag BTW ….)
    So I didn’t really get to see what I really needed to – the actual step-by-step workflow.

    I do, however, intend to buy this book (sorry for hijacking your thread!!)

  3. @John, see the link to the book on Amazon for the current pricing. Today it is $42 US for the print and $35 US for the Kindle edition.

  4. I would love to be able to reach the author to talk about an ePub version but Grant Gamble apparently does not have a web page on the Internet … at least not one that Google can find. Is there contact info in the book?

    Looks like this one and the other one he wrote on Dreamweaver CS5 are both self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace service.

    Unless there is DRM on the book, you should be able to convert it a MOBI or AZW to EPUB with the free Calibre utility. The video and comments here are useful:

  5. @Anne-Marie: There isn’t any contact info in the book for Grant, except for “”

    The book is DRM-free. The first thing I did with my copy was convert it to ePub with Calibre.

  6. Me again. While I’ve been using InDesign for a number of years, designing for print, the area described above is completely new to me.
    Both here and in the Amazon blurb it would be useful to know something of the pay-off for gaining the knowledge contained in the book.
    We hear of xml, java-script and something called xslt, but nothing about what they can achieve.
    So, briefly, once I’ve read the book, what will I be able to do that I can’t do now? A couple of examples?

  7. @John: Briefly, JavaScript is all about automating repetitive tasks in InDesign. If you have any routine tasks, projects, or portions of projects that are highly repetitive, and you begin to think “Geez, I could train a chimpanzee to do this”, you should be looking to see if the task could be automated by writing a script using the JavaScript language.

    The primary use of XML and XSLT is for importing database or spreadsheet data into InDesign for the production of directories, catalogs, price lists, schedules, listings and the like, or for exporting data out of InDesign for use by other systems. A knowledge of XML can also be useful for ePUB and website production from InDesign.

  8. Hi I am Vijay

    Can someone help me out on a workflow for the below mentioned scenario.

    Input: School books in word document (Each and every time in different formats and styles)
    Tools used for processing: Indesign
    Output: PDF

    Could someone suggest me an automation system/XML workflow which makes the job simpler and easier and ofcourse create more room for automation, in turn it should increase the productivity and meet the short turnaround time.

    Please reach me on

  9. Hi all, I downloaded a sample chapter through the Kindle app on my iPad last year when this was posted. But it seems now that the Kindle edition has been pulled and only the paperback edition is available. I tried to reach Grant but the contact form on is throwing errors. Anyone know the status of the Kindle edition of this book?

  10. Hello All,

    I bought this book a while back and have only just got round to reading it.

    The links to download the sample scripts seems to have vanished, does anyone know where these samples can be downloaded from?

  11. @Simon ? I know, it’s a little late commenting, but the links mentioned in the paperback version of the book are working well. At least for me.


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