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Understanding XML and InDesign

From: InDesign CS4 Beyond the Basics

Video: Understanding XML and InDesign

XML is all the rage among publishers these days and it seems like everyone wants to move into an XML workflow. But what is XML? Why would you want to use it? XML is all about separating content from the form of that content. So where something like HTML is all about telling a web browser what the text and graphics should look like, XML says I don't care what it looks like. Let me just tell you what it is. Now that's important because these days we don't know where our content is going to end up. It could be a newspaper one day and a cell phone the next. If you are doing one little ad for the local grocer, you may never need to worry about XML.

Understanding XML and InDesign

XML is all the rage among publishers these days and it seems like everyone wants to move into an XML workflow. But what is XML? Why would you want to use it? XML is all about separating content from the form of that content. So where something like HTML is all about telling a web browser what the text and graphics should look like, XML says I don't care what it looks like. Let me just tell you what it is. Now that's important because these days we don't know where our content is going to end up. It could be a newspaper one day and a cell phone the next. If you are doing one little ad for the local grocer, you may never need to worry about XML.

But if you are creating that ad every week, and the content is changing and you have to produce in four different sizes, well then XML maybe the answer to your dreams. I will be showing you a quick overview of how XML works in InDesign in this movie and then I will be going into more depth in the later movies in this chapter. But before I start, there are four things I need to tell you about XML. First of all, XML is a huge topic, there is just so much that could be said about it. So I am only going to be covering a quick version of it. This is sort of just an introduction to XML in InDesign. If you need more information about XML, definitely check out the XML Essential Training here at the lynda.com Online Training Library. Also, Olav Kvern and I wrote a book called Real World InDesign CS4 and you can get much more information about XML in that book.

There is another book that you should definitely check out if you want to know more about XML. It's called A Designer's Guide to InDesign and XML, by Jim Maivald with Cathy Palmer and that book has lots of information about XML and InDesign along with lots of good exercises for learning XML. So those are good resources to look for after you get this basic introduction to XML. The second thing I want to tell you is that XML is so complex that it really takes a village. You want to get a team of people working together including XML consultants and trainers, everybody working together in order to make an XML workflow work for you. There are a lot of companies that just say, oh, we are going to start doing XML, we will just make it work. Hey Joe, you do XML and it doesn't work that way. You got to get everybody on board in order for an XML workflow to work. It's very complex.

The third thing you need to know is that XML requires a nearly obsessive attention to details. You have to find that person in the office; every office has one person who is just like a style-fascist. Someone who just winces whenever you use local formatting and you want to find that person and make them in-charge of XML. You got to find the person who just loves paragraph styles and character styles and that's the perfect person for XML, because if you are not like that, you are going to really get yourself in trouble with XML. You got to be careful with every aspect of your templates and your styles and everything.

Finally and I can't emphasize this enough, XML is all about structure. You have to find the structure inside of your documents. A lot of people make InDesign documents all over the place, there is no structure at all, just like an illustration. That's not for XML. XML is really for structured documents and then I am not talking about only large 4,000 page technical documents, even one or two page documents as we will see in a minute can have structure. But you need to identify that structure or else there is no way that you will use XML for it.

All right, I want to show you XML in action here in InDesign. I have a basic template. I have got some graphic frames and some text frames. I want to put some headers up here and all kinds of information through here. I also have some aspects of this template that are going to be the same on every page, the logo, this Nutrition Facts and so on, and I would like to populate this with information. But that information is currently living in an XML file. Let me show you. This is the XML file and I don't want to get into the details of how XML is written and what applications you should use and so on, but I just want to point out that XML is just text, plain old text. For example, you can see the text for the header right here, Chocolate Ganache. That is inside some XML tag that's called Header.

I have some other paragraphs in here inside tags called bodytext, images down here that I am going to be importing, a caption that I am going to be importing and so on, and all of that data needs to go into a template in exactly the right place with exactly the right styling. So I will switch back to InDesign and in order to import this, I need to show something called the Structure pane. So I will go to View > Structure > Show Structure and I am going to click on the Root of this. I am going to get into the details of this in later movies in this chapter. For right now, I will just follow along and I will show you how it works. I am going to choose Root, go to File and choose Import XML and I am going to pick that XML file that I was just looking at.

Now I will click Open and it will give me all kinds of XML Import Options. I don't want to get into the details of all of these right now, but I am going to turn on a few of these checkboxes and then I will just click OK. In one second, all of that data gets imported and placed in the template. Everything is styled and it's ready to go. I love that. But part of the power of XML is not just that you can format one of these, it's that you can format a lot of them. So let's go and grab that Root element again. Go back to File, choose Import XML and I am going to pick a different XML file. It's structured exactly the same way, but has different data in it and because there is different data, when I click Open and then click OK, I get all that new data in the same template. It literally threw away the old stuff and put the new stuff in, in exactly the right place.

Now if the whole point of XML is to separate content and form, then I should be able to take the same content and put it into a different form, right? Well, we can do that. Let's go open the ChocolateSheet2 document from the Exercise Files and I am going to put the same content into a completely different form. This is a 640 x 480 thing that I am going to be exporting up to SWF or a PDF or I don't know something, but I want to drop that same data into here. So I will choose Root, I will go to Import XML, grab one of these, it doesn't matter which and I will click Open, let's go ahead and turn these on, click OK and the same data came in here but in a completely different format. In fact, some of the data didn't come in at all. You don't have to use all the data in an XML file when you are importing it.

So in this case, I left out this longer story and just took the heading, the image and the subhead and I dropped it in here. Again, this all works because we have content that is completely separated from its form. So now we could take that same content and flow it into a web page or a page suitable for a cell phone or insert it into a database. In the next few movies, I am going to be deconstructing these files showing how you can assign tags in your documents, import XML and even export your InDesign content to XML.

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This video is part of

Image for InDesign CS4 Beyond the Basics
InDesign CS4 Beyond the Basics

90 video lessons · 24738 viewers

David Blatner
Author

 
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  1. 2m 11s
    1. Welcome
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 8s
  2. 25m 16s
    1. Reviewing Control panel shortcuts
      8m 34s
    2. Managing panels
      6m 14s
    3. Letting InDesign do the math
      2m 52s
    4. Using Selection tool clicks
      1m 39s
    5. Using Quick Apply shortcuts
      3m 2s
    6. Setting up context shortcuts
      2m 55s
  3. 23m 51s
    1. Using column guides
      3m 42s
    2. Formatting and positioning guides
      5m 15s
    3. Setting first baseline options
      5m 30s
    4. Using the Document grid
      3m 13s
    5. Setting bleeds
      3m 3s
    6. Using slugs
      3m 8s
  4. 48m 2s
    1. Shuffling pages (or not)
      2m 47s
    2. Scaling objects to a specific size
      2m 32s
    3. Aligning objects to a page
      4m 41s
    4. Using advanced libraries
      4m 5s
    5. Using advanced anchored objects
      11m 21s
    6. Setting non-printing objects
      3m 10s
    7. Creating notes
      5m 23s
    8. Using Data Merge
      10m 41s
    9. Creating templates
      3m 22s
  5. 39m 32s
    1. Creating polygons and starbursts
      2m 35s
    2. Setting custom stroke styles
      5m 15s
    3. Using advanced effects
      8m 46s
    4. Making masks in InDesign
      4m 10s
    5. Integrating InDesign and Illustrator
      4m 59s
    6. Setting compound paths
      5m 4s
    7. Using advanced clipping paths
      6m 6s
    8. Using advanced image transparency
      2m 37s
  6. 55m 26s
    1. Using advanced text formatting
      5m 37s
    2. Using other languages
      4m 22s
    3. Setting advanced paragraph numbering
      3m 12s
    4. Using GREP to find/change
      6m 54s
    5. Managing glyphs
      5m 6s
    6. Finding and changing glyphs
      2m 39s
    7. Adding footnotes
      7m 57s
    8. Creating outlines
      3m 39s
    9. Setting conditional text
      9m 16s
    10. Creating cross-references
      6m 44s
  7. 33m 3s
    1. Advanced text importing
      7m 49s
    2. Using Apply Next Style
      5m 4s
    3. Advanced text styling
      6m 9s
    4. Setting load styles
      2m 58s
    5. Linking to text files on disk
      4m 1s
    6. Understanding GREP styles
      7m 2s
  8. 1h 4m
    1. Building a multi-document book
      4m 42s
    2. Setting page numbering across books
      7m 53s
    3. Setting chapter numbering
      6m 7s
    4. Using the Section Marker feature
      6m 53s
    5. Creating "Continued On..." numbers
      4m 44s
    6. Synchronizing documents in a book
      5m 41s
    7. Creating a table of contents
      11m 24s
    8. Indexing documents
      7m 24s
    9. Generating an index
      6m 47s
    10. Printing or exporting a book
      3m 10s
  9. 46m 4s
    1. Creating hyperlinks
      12m 53s
    2. Setting bookmarks
      6m 7s
    3. Creating buttons
      11m 16s
    4. Making movies
      8m 24s
    5. Creating sounds
      4m 51s
    6. Setting page transitions
      2m 33s
  10. 25m 59s
    1. Setting up swatch and style defaults
      3m 24s
    2. Using mixed ink colors
      6m 16s
    3. Working with duotones
      4m 23s
    4. Overprinting
      2m 10s
    5. Ink aliasing
      4m 50s
    6. Using the Kuler panel
      4m 56s
  11. 50m 27s
    1. Creating the transparency blend space
      4m 6s
    2. Understanding InDesign color settings
      9m 8s
    3. Assign Profile and Convert to Profile
      3m 26s
    4. Working with RGB images
      7m 54s
    5. Working with CMYK images
      6m 28s
    6. Soft-proofing
      5m 18s
    7. Managing color at print time
      7m 25s
    8. Managing color in a PDF export
      6m 42s
  12. 42m 1s
    1. Embedding preflight profiles
      5m 1s
    2. Using the Transparency Flattener preview
      3m 23s
    3. Reviewing Transparency Flattener settings
      6m 30s
    4. Setting print presets
      3m 35s
    5. Setting PDF presets
      3m 21s
    6. Exporting to XHTML
      7m 42s
    7. Exporting to SWF
      6m 45s
    8. Exporting to XFL
      5m 44s
  13. 25m 58s
    1. Understanding XML and InDesign
      6m 51s
    2. Structuring InDesign content
      4m 17s
    3. Importing XML
      6m 57s
    4. Exporting to XML
      7m 53s
  14. 34s
    1. Goodbye
      34s

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