Targeting tablets: Adobe InDesign and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

by David Rich

Many traditional publishers, like Martha Stewart and Conde Nast, are taking advantage of new digital publishing opportunities on tablet devices. And they are not alone. Business publishers — organizations who make their money in ways other than selling content — are using digital publishing to extend their brand and engage their audiences. Take a look at major brands like Mercedes-Benz, EMI Music, and Red Bull. They are using tablet publications as a way to hook and engage consumers. But how does a print designer go about creating both a print and an online reading experience?

Print designers often follow a complex design and editorial workflow with the end goal of generating compelling and informative magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and product guides. With the rising popularity of mobile devices and tablets, designers are now tasked with creating both a print and digital reading experience. To do this, designers frequently hand off design assets to a web team, therefore relinquishing control of the experience, which results in the production of an online experience that fails to convey the same aesthetic and consistent brand quality inherent in the original print design. Often, the brand experience is completely lost.

Adobe InDesign CS5.5 software, in combination with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, aims to solve this problem. This latest release of InDesign provides an integrated workflow to package engaging page layouts as digital magazines, corporate publications, and advertising on devices such as Apple iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook, and a wide variety of Android tablets including Motorola Xoom. Using your existing InDesign skills, you can create a completely new genre of digital content that continues to include rich layouts and sophisticated typography bolstered by a new level of interactivity to deliver a highly engaging reading experience on tablets.

InDesign CS5.5 also is tightly integrated with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, a hosted solution for tablet publishing that includes the ability to publish, monetize, and optimize your content. Available in both Enterprise Edition and Professional Edition, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite includes support for analytics to track editorial and advertising engagement.

Note: With InDesign, you can design and test content, but you need Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to publish and deliver content to tablets.

In this article, I give an overview of the InDesign CS5.5 and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite workflow for tablet publishing. I also provide a short tutorial on how to use InDesign CS5.5 to create digital content for publication on tablet devices.

How it works — Integrating InDesign CS5.5 with Digital Publishing Suite

It all starts in InDesign CS5.5. With the new Folio Producer tools, you can create, preview, and bundle digital documents for tablet devices. Let's take a quick look at the key components of the Folio Producer toolset; then we'll see how Digital Publishing Suite factors in.

When you're ready to collaborate with the production team or share, manage, and publish your content, you use Adobe Digital Publishing Suite hosted services. Here are the key components of Digital Publishing Suite:

Tutorial: Repurposing print assets into digital content for tablet devices

The new features in InDesign CS5.5 make it easy to repurpose print assets into digital content for publication on tablet devices.

First, you'll need to download a trial version of InDesign CS5.5. Next download the sample files (25MB, ZIP). Use the sample files to experiment with the Pan & Zoom and Image Sequence features described later.

If you want to publish .folio files to devices, you must sign up for one of the following:

Otherwise, you can use the integrated Content Viewer for Desktop to preview the files locally on your computer.

Using the Overlay Creator panel to add interactivity and effects

The Overlay Creator panel enables you to select multimedia that you've placed on the page (such as standard MP3 audio or MP4 video files) and configure the controls to define how they will play on the device. Apply interactive overlays to placed image files to create panoramas and enable panning and zooming functionality. You can also select a folder containing multiple image files to quickly set up slideshows and create image sequences to display animations and 360-degree rotation effects.

Begin by launching InDesign CS5.5. Open an existing print document or create a new document by clicking the corresponding option in the Welcome screen.

Then open the Overlay Creator panel by choosing Window > Extensions > Overlay Creator.

Take a moment to review the options available in the panel. You can add any number of overlays to the same page. Notice that you can also apply overlays to add links to buttons and load external or local web pages inside frames (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The top-level view of the Overlay Creator panel displays the available features.

Figure 1. The top-level view of the Overlay Creator panel displays the available features.

For example, you can use the Rectangle Frame tool to draw a frame on the page in the location where you want it to appear in the layout. Choose File > Place to place a large high-resolution image within the frame. Resize the frame to make it smaller than the image to enable viewers to explore the details interactively. Select the Pan & Zoom option from the Overlay Creator panel (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Enable horizontal panning in the Pan & Zoom panel or enable viewers to pan and zoom (to display a magnified view of the image).

Figure 2. Enable horizontal panning in the Pan & Zoom panel or enable viewers to pan and zoom (to display a magnified view of the image).

As you are configuring overlays, you can always click the Reset button located at the bottom of each overlay panel. This action reverts the overlay to its default state — which is a helpful time-saver when you need to start over and reapply the settings.

Click the Preview button to invoke Content Viewer for Desktop, which is included with the Folio Producer tools. Content Viewer enables you to interact with the digital content to test the functionality and see how your content will display on a device. This feature enables you to test an article or a complete .folio file directly on your desktop. The Preview button is located at the bottom of the Overlay Creator panel (see Figure 1).

After Content Viewer for Desktop launches, use your cursor (in place of touch gestures) to interact with the digital content. Zoom in to see a detailed view of the image when previewing the digital content on the desktop (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Test the Pan & Zoom effect by previewing the document in Content Viewer.

Figure 3. Test the Pan & Zoom effect by previewing the document in Content Viewer.

When editing most of the overlays, you can click the Clear button (which is the trash can icon) to remove the currently applied overlay from an object. This enables you to reassign a different overlay if you made a mistake and applied the wrong type. (All overlays can be cleared except for audio, video, hyperlinks, and slideshows because those object types cannot be reassigned.) The Clear button is located at the lower right corner of the Content Overlay panel (see Figure 1).

To create an image sequence, draw a frame on the document. Click the Image Sequence option in the Overlay Creator panel to apply it to the frame.

The panel updates to display the configuration options. Click the folder icon and browse to select the folder that contains a set of prepared images (photos taken in a series or circling around a central subject).

Use the options in the Image Sequence section of the Overlay Creator panel to enable features like auto play and hand gestures. This section contains more settings that enable you to control how the sequence will play (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Define the behavior of the image sequence by configuring the panel options.

Figure 4. Define the behavior of the image sequence by configuring the panel options.

Click Preview to test the image sequence in Content Viewer. Use your cursor to interact with the sequence. You can use this feature to create a 360-degree rotation effect for a product in a digital catalog. In this example, the pages of the book appear to flip as you move your cursor horizontally across the viewer (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Preview the image sequence to watch the animated series of image files.

Figure 5. Preview the image sequence to watch the animated series of image files.

Using the Folio Builder panel to create and share .folio files

After adding interactive features to the digital content, launch the Folio Builder panel by choosing Window > Extensions > Folio Builder. Note that on first launch of the Folio Builder panel, you will be instructed to download an updated panel.

This panel enables you to create .folio files. The .folio files are consumed on a tablet device through a publisher's branded application. The Folio Builder panel enables you to create new .folio files and add articles to existing .folio files. Each article contains individual page layouts and included assets, such as audio and video files.

When you first launch the Folio Builder panel, you'll see the top level of the panel. Click the top-right menu to create a new .folio file.

In the window that appears, name the new .folio file, choose a resolution (using a preset or custom size), and pick the desired default image format. When the Folio Builder panel generates the .folio files, they use the default image format to create a stack of flattened images. Choose PNG to use a lossless image type or PDF if the digital content is all text (such as an eBook). Many digital magazines use JPEG as the standard type because it provides a good balance between quality and small file size. If you are not sure, choose Auto to let the Folio Builder panel analyze the content in your InDesign file and select the ideal default image type for your project.

The top level of the Folio Builder panel displays a list of your current .folio files. Hover over the name of a .folio file to see a tooltip display the details related to that item.

Drill down to edit a specific .folio file by double-clicking an item in the list. This causes the second level of the panel to display. The breadcrumbs at the top of the panel show you where you are in the hierarchy, such as: .folio filename/article name.

You can add a new article to an existing .folio file using one of three methods:

Whenever you add content to a .folio file, you can optionally include both a horizontal and vertical layout of the content to allow the digital magazine to display in both portrait and landscape orientations on the device.

Sharing digital content

If you don't have a Digital Publishing Suite account but you're using the free service, you can still participate in team projects; you can share one .folio file with others, and you can preview and add articles to an unlimited number of shared .folio files that are shared with you using the Folio Builder panel.

When someone shares their .folio file with you, it does not transfer the actual InDesign document to your local machine, so you cannot edit its existing contents. You can also preview and review .folio files locally that others have shared with you, using Content Viewer for Desktop. The sharing feature facilitates a team's ability to review and discuss specific content at meetings or via email while working together to create digital magazines or catalogs for publication.

Individuals can also log into Content Viewer on their device using the same credentials as those used to log into Folio Builder panel and This is another mechanism to preview content that has been shared with you, directly on a device. This feature is a huge time-saver, and many teams are leveraging it as a localized sharing mechanism.

The first time you share a .folio file, you enter the recipient's email address in the dialog box. The recipient receives an email message and must click the link to accept the share request. Once the connection is established, the email notifications do not continue; the recipient's Folio Builder panel simply updates with the revised content whenever it is republished to the cloud.

You can also choose the Copy To option. This feature enables you to copy articles from one .folio file to another .folio file. Print houses typically use a workflow to incorporate PDF files (approved ad copy from advertising companies) in their print magazines. Using the Copy To and Share options, digital publishing companies are using similar workflows to add the final version of the ads to the digital content they are publishing.

You'll notice that the shared .folio files in the top-level of the Folio Builder panel display a green corner icon. This identifies the .folio files that are in active production and are slated to be published. This designation is set using Digital Publishing Suite.

As you create .folio files and add articles, this content is automatically stored in the cloud.

Using the new Folio Producer tools in InDesign, you can intuitively author layouts targeted for tablet devices, create and update .folio files, share .folios with other stakeholders in the publishing process, and preview content on the desktop or device.

The next step toward publishing your content for consumption on a tablet device is to access Adobe Digital Publishing Suite and leverage these new hosted services to commercially deploy your content.

Where to go from here

Learn more about Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Find inspiration and explore more examples of digital publications in the Digital Publishing Gallery and the Digital Publishing Suite Showcase. And get the newest information about product updates and viewers by reading the Digital Publishing blog.

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David Rich is Director of Worldwide Product Marketing at Adobe Systems, Inc.