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Using Adobe Publish Online

Interactive publishing from InDesign to the web, made easy

This article appeared in Issue 81 of InDesign Magazine.

Once upon a time, a creative pro/publisher had a dream. She dreamt she could take her beautifully-designed InDesign print document, perhaps add some interactivity—buttons, slide shows, or animations—then publish that document out to the world, so that anyone with a browser, on any device, anywhere, could view and experience the document.

With Publish Online, this dream becomes reality. This “technology preview” feature, first available in InDesign CC 2015, allows you to publish your InDesign document to the web, including interactivity, while keeping your layout intact.

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Diane Burns

Diane Burns

Diane Burns is an author, trainer, consultant, and founder of San Francisco-based TransPacific Digital, a leading print and digital localization company. She is an Adobe Certified Instructor in InDesign and DPS and provides custom training and consulting services to corporations and publishing companies worldwide. A regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, she is the co-author of Digital Publishing with Adobe InDesign CC and an author for
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22 Comments on “Using Adobe Publish Online

  1. Quote: “Also, keep in mind that Publish Online pages are not responsive. That means, for example, that while most documents will look fabulous on an iPad, they may be too small to read easily on an iPhone without zooming in and out.”

    That, in a nutshell, is precisely what’s wrong with digital publishing. It fails to accomplish what should be its most important objective: displaying well on all sizes of devices. Attention has been devoted everywhere but to what matters.

    First there was a silly madness about multi-media. Anyone who’s actually done publishing knows that 99% of the time, that’s a non-starter. It costs lots of money to do video poorly. It costs a Hollywood budget to do it well. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter.

    Now it’s easy to see that Silly #1, multi-media, is being supplemented by Silly #2, interactivity. True, the cost curve for that is not nearly as awful. No expensive team, location, and actors are required. The same person doing layout can make it interactive.

    But for what purpose? I have laid out and published dozens of books for myself and others. I can think of only one, my Lord of the Rings chronology, Untangling Tolkien, that would benefit from an significant interactivity. Most books and magazines only need the modest interactivity already provided by a table of contents. Any more than that simply overwhelms users with choices they have no need to make. It turns what should be a clean and attractive screen into something cluttered and distracting.

    What is needed is precisely what that quote above describes. People read digital publications on a wide variety of screens from a smaller smartphone through tablets up to large desktop screens. One size fits all formats such as these make no more sense that making one size of shoes for everyone.

    What’s needed isn’t more multi-media or interactivity. What’s needed isn’t even new. It’s much like what Framemaker offered in print media in the late 1980s.

    With Framemaker, the flexibility came with added content. Add a new paragraph to a 1,000-page technical document, and the entire rest of the document would reflow, Dealing intelligently with illustrations and tables. That’s because an illustration wasn’t locked to a specific place on a specific page as with ID. The person who placed it specified where it was to go in a broader sense, i.e. at the top of the next column. Adding text merely shifted the page where it appeared not how it appeared. The basic layout remained the same. For tech writers, that saved a lot of time.

    Digital documents need to display similar intelligence with screen size changes. The person doing the layout shouldn’t be stuck with designing it for an iPad, knowing the result will look awful on an iPhone. The layout and the display software should be smart enough to adapt.

    For example, what’s two columns on an iPad, with the illustration at the top of the second column, not only becomes one column on an iPhone, it deals intelligently with that illustration. The person doing the layout can choose how that illustration displays on smaller screens. If it matters that readers see it, he can have it appear on the next screen on which it fits without triggering awkward screen breaks. If it doesn’t matter, he can have a placeholder icon that, when tapped on, displays that illustration full screen. Whatever the choice, the result looks professional.

    In much the same fashion, text needs more flexibility as to whether it is hidden or displayed. Currently, those laying out an ebook face three choices about supplemental information:

    1. Leave it out.

    2. Place it into the text.

    3. Use a clumsy and (in iBooks) ugly pop-up screen.

    Allowing a feature much like the accordion text of webpages would solve that problem in a far more elegant way.

    I could go on and on. What neither Adobe or anyone else is offering is a way for those doing digital publications to control how they appear. They’re faced with two choices, Both equally bad.

    1. One is crude, reflowable formats that give almost no control over appearance. Thus far, no on seems to have even made them smart enough to handle windows and orphans.

    2. The other is a fixed layout designed for only one specific screen size and unsuitable for any other.

    This is really crazy. The first reflowable formats started off right, breaking lines of text to fit onto a screen. But they stopped there rather than move on. Guided by whoever is doing the layout, they should be able to adapt, intelligently and attractively, to any size display. Webpages can already do that to a great extent. Why not other publications?

    Only when that can be done will genuine digital publishing be available.

    • Michael, I appreciate you weighing in on this, but I think you’re missing several important points:

      • InDesign can already export documents in a format that is reflowable to different media sizes, called EPUB.
      • InDesign is not Framemaker, and probably never will be. You can create highly-structured documents in InDesign, but that’s not its core strength. (There are, however, many systems based around InDesign that do what you describe, such as Typefi.)
      • Just because you don’t care for interactivity or find it useful doesn’t mean that other people don’t like it. Your argument could be made for any design, including fonts. I have, in fact, heard people say that choosing any font beyond Courier is frivolous and unnecessary, because what really matters is the text. If interactivity doesn’t help your document, then don’t use it. But if an animation or pop-up (or drop cap or color or any other design element) helps the communication and the design, then by all means you should take advantage of it!
    • Michael, thanks for your well-considered post. As far as responsive design, I picture something like the Liquid Layout rules used for alternate layouts. Except with more choice on the part of the user as to the re-layout priorities and strategies. Just as we can adjust Justification settings for text, with percent values and limits, etc. determining how it flows.

      Or is this sort of dynamic responsitivity currently doable through HTML5 and alternate style sheets? (In which case it seems like the logical upgrade to Adobe’s Publish Online feature/service.)

    • The hosting of the published document is not tied to your active subscription — only the ability to create and publish the document is.

      • The Adobe FAQs have a different answer.

        What happens to my published documents if I cancel my membership?

        Your documents will continue to be hosted on Adobe servers for at least 90 days after your membership expires. Adobe may choose to stop hosting after the 90-day period.

  2. @Annette — I am the source, as the Sr Director of Product Management for the Web and Graphic Design products at Adobe, including InDesign.

  3. This article helped me so much with my project! thank you so much… although i had few people telling me that on Microsoft Surface the MSOs are not working any thoughts?

  4. Bonsoir,
    Un article bien intéressant et des commentaires bien à propos.
    Je n’ai pas vu s’il était possible d’utiliser la fonction “Livre” d’InDesign avec Publish Online.
    Quelqu’un sait ?

  5. • Any plans to allow users to host Publish Online files? Currently, docs can only be hosted on Adobe Servers. In other words, we can’t host on our website or internal intranet. Our IT dept. may have security concerns

    • Also, is it possible to publish a book (INDB) using Publish Online.

  6. I am new to the Publish Online/Interactive side to InDesign, so forgive my relative ignorance of the subject.

    Can the Publish Online feature be used for email marketing? That is, is it possible to design a document in InDesign, publish online, and use the embed code to create an HTML ready e-blast with usable links?

  7. Is it possible to publish a book-file in any way? I can only see how to publish each document separately.

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