Useful InDesign Scripts And Plugins To Speed Up Your Work

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Few applications feel as complete as Adobe’s InDesign. First released in 1999 as a direct attack against the then-industry standard, Quark, the page-layout application has been made faster and more feature-rich with each iteration. But even the best applications lack some features. Luckily, Adobe realized this some years ago and opened the doors to allow designers to expand this beloved set of tools through plugins.

Many designers don’t realize how powerful InDesign can be, especially when expanded through plugins and scripts. So, we’ve put together a small collection to show a bit of what InDesign can do. More than anything, these will help you work through your documents and publications much faster, automating the repetitive parts, and freeing you to focus on the fun stuff.

Working With Text

As designers, we spend most of our time dealing with text, ensuring that it’s inviting, easy to read and easy to navigate. We often give the finest attention to text, working with spacing to give the text balance and rhythm, sometimes letter by letter. What follows is a collection of plugins to help you tend to these details.

Line Numbering

Line Numbering1

This line-numbering plugin does exactly what it says on the box: it gives every line on a page a number. While InDesign is very capable of working with numbered lists, this plugin comes in handy when you don’t want the main text to display the numbers as you’re typesetting it — for example, because the text is lengthy and you’re still editing it. With this plugin, an extra text frame is added just for the numbers; so, once you delete it, the main copy won’t reflow. This makes editing much easier. “Please change the 34th line of copy” becomes a lot easier than “Please change the copy about three quarters of the way down the page.”

Fitting Text

Text Fitting in InDesign3

Sometimes you’ll have set up a grid and want a bit of text — say, a heading or pull quote — to fit the available space to get a sense of how big the text should be relative to the page. You would normally do this by holding down the “enlarge text” shortcut or by punching in random sizes until you get one that fits. With this tool, it’s done for you at the click of a button.

All Caps to Small Caps

All Caps to Small Caps Script5

Small caps aren’t simply full capitals made smaller. They’re specially crafted to sit beautifully on a line of text. As Robert Bringhurst says in his brilliant Elements of Typographic Style, “They differ from large caps in stroke weight, letterfit, and internal proportions as well as in height. Any good set of small caps is designed as such from the ground up.” In other words, they add polish to typesetting and prevent awkward strings of capital letters. This script runs through your text and replaces string of full caps with small caps. The best part? Character styling is automatically applied to them (a little extra tracking on small caps is a beautiful thing), so you can tinker as needed.

Proper Fractions

Proper Fraction7

Just like the small-caps script above, this one will polish your type by rendering proper fractions, rather than leaving fractions in the clumsy format of two full-sized numerals divided by a slash.

Convert Footnotes to Sidenotes

Convert Footnotes to Sidenotes9

Adding footnote is a nice way to clarify information. Even nicer is hanging notes in the margins. With this plugin, footnotes will be converted to sidenotes and put into their own anchored frames; so, as the text reflows and moves about, the sidenotes will move with the text.

Convert Footnotes to Endnotes

Convert footnotes to endnotes11

From the same developer as the footnotes plugin above, this one will move your footnotes to the end of the article to which they belong. This is excellent if you’re working on a magazine or journal and the design calls for notes at the end of the article or essay.

Convert Multicolumn Text Frames to Individual Frames

Convert Multicolumn Text Frames to Individual Frames13

While confining multi-column text to a single frame is usually best, sometimes breaking each frame into its own box makes the text easier to handle, especially when working with complex grids and formats (in newspapers, for example).

Merge Text Frames

Merge TextFrames Extension for Adobe InDesign15

Other times, you’ll want to do the opposite and convert multiple frames to a single one to keep things neat.

Easy Diacritics

Easy Diacritics Characters17

This script lets you combines any letter with any accent or diacritic using simple mnemonics — no arcane codes to remember, and no need to open the glyphs panel. If the combination exists as an actual glyph in the typeface, the script will insert that; if not, then it will automatically insert both glyphs and then intelligently kern them to look like a single character. InDesign Secrets explains18 how this works.

Working With Graphics And PDFs

Second only to text, links are what we spend most of our time on, sometimes creating them right in InDesign, and other times bringing them in as PDFs and TIFFs. The plugins and scripts below will supplement the importing options for both images of PDFs, as well as create graphics in InDesign itself.

Choose Object Style While Placing Pictures

Choose Object Style While Placing Pictures20

Placing an image and applying a style is a two-step process that gets boring very quickly (especially if you’re producing a 200-page book for a gallery exhibition). With this script, it’s all automated. Just select an object style and start placing images. The style will automatically be applied, so that you can keep working quickly. (Note that this script was written for CS5.)

Easily Modify PDF Importing Options

Modify the PDF Import Options Very Easily22

InDesign has come a long way in how it places PDFs. But once a PDF is placed, the options you’ve selected are locked. This script enables you to configure those options (such as which page of the PDF to show), even after the PDF has been placed.

Import Both PDF and INDD Files

MultiPageImporter for Importing both PDF and INDD Files24

Automatically place the pages from a PDF or INDD file onto multiple pages in a document. Quick tip: Both types of files are treated like graphics; so, if you wish to view changes, go back and refresh the original files in the “Links” palette.

Place All Pages of a PDF in InDesign

Placing All the Pages of a PDF Inside InDesign 26

This PDF-placing script enables you to choose a page range from the PDF you’re placing, as well as the crop type. You can also specify which page in the InDesign document to start placing on (adding new pages as needed), where to place it on the page (with an optional offset), and whether to scale the PDF to the page’s size. If a document isn’t open, it will create one at the size of the PDF and then place the pages.

Column and Bar Graph Tools

Column and Bar Graph Tools28

The bread and butter for a lot of designers are things like annual reports, which are often filled with charts and graphs. This script helps you quickly and easily create clean bar graphs based on given values.

Pie Charts Wizard

Pie Charts Wizard30

Create pie charts with various options (color tint, size, radio and angle, labels, color mode, etc.). Coolest of all, as you adjust the size of the oval, each segment is automatically recalculated. Also consider testing the beta of Claquos 231.

Automation: Making A Lot Out Of A Little

If you perform the exact same task more than a few times, chances are the process can be automated somehow. Setting up the same type of job over and over (say, when designing calendars) can feel mundane. What follows are plugins and scripts that cut down on some of the repetition in your day.

Adobe InDesign Calendar Wizard

Adobe InDesign Calendar Wizard33

Around the same time every year, every other client of ours seems to want a calendar of some sort. This feature-rich script creates a number of different calendars, from simple one-pagers to 12-month multi-page calendars with text, complete with holidays and moon phases.

Font Catalogue

Font Catalogue35

Create a simple catalogue of all of the fonts on your system, including all weights and using your own sample text.

Wordalizer

Indiplugins :: Wordalizer37

Wordalizer is a word cloud generator for InDesign, available as a free trial or a pro version. It supports six languages, has a full word list editor, remembers your settings, lets you control word length, and more.

Scribbler Makes Text Look Shifty

Scribbler - A Shifty Look to Your Text39

Wanna give your text some bounce? Set maximum top and bottom gap values, and Scribbler will randomly shift the characters. This is great if you’re working on something with a lot of illustrations, such as a children’s book or an editorial.

FontReporter

FontReporter41

FontReporter collects information on the fonts used in your files, checks to see whether some fonts are missing, and tells you whether anything has gone wrong. You can choose to run it on just the current document or on a folder of documents.

MultiDo

MultiDo43

The MultiDo plugin enables you to perform multiple undo or redo operations in one step. It automatically tracks the 100 most recent operations. This is incredibly handy when you’re quickly mocking up a design and are fine-tuning the text or images. If you want to jump far back quickly, you can do so, without having to watch as each bit of kerning and tracking you performed in the last hour is undone.

EasyHistory

EasyHistory45

The “History” palette in Photoshop is incredibly handy and is one feature that is missing in InDesign. Luckily, while we wait around for Adobe to rectify this, EasyHistory does the job well, showing all available undo and redo steps in one convenient palette. It’s available as a limited demo or as a commercial version.

Multi-Find and Multi-Change

Multi-Find/Change47

We often have to clean up the text that clients give us, whether because content is spaced out by multiple tabs, or every sentence is double spaced, or dashes and other typographic marks are not where they should be. This plugin will be incredibly useful for those who work with the same clients repeatedly and see the same issues come up. Multi-Find/Change enables you to batch run saved find-change queries. It’s available as a limited trial or, if you find it handy, a commercial version.

Professionalism With A Click

Who doesn’t like to be seen as a professional? From tracking time spent on work to setting up a job for printing, plugins are available to help you manage your relationship with clients.

Compare Two Documents

Compare two documents49

Have you ever had a document crash and then weren’t sure what changes were made between the recovered version and your latest backup? Or perhaps you have multiple designers working on the same document? Or perhaps, during a particularly tense day, you weren’t careful about naming, versioning and saving your files and, thus, got a little lost the next morning? This script lets you compare two documents and see the differences between them, saving you from having to comb through nearly identical files for the slightest changes.

Indys Timer

Indys Timer51

Depending on how you track time, something like this could be a lifesaver. It automatically starts when you open a document and stops when you close it. It’s available as a limited free version, or you can pick up the commercial version.

MakeCropMarks.jsx

MakeCropMarks.jsx53

Occasionally, you’ll have to set up your own job for printing, at the very least to give the prepress operator a sense of what you’re aiming for. This script adds crop marks, with options for length, offset, bleed, stroke weight and more.

Print Tools Library

Print Tools Library55

Here is a collection of printing aids (for color bars, registration marks, crop marks, fold marks and trim marks). Just drag and drop where needed.

Convert All Text to Outlines

Convert All Text to Outlines57

Some printers still require text to be outlined before going to press. Rather than go through it page by page, you can just use this script, which outlines all text in the document and puts it on a separate layer.

IndexMatic

IndexMatic59

Setting up an index can be incredibly laborious. IndexMatic makes the process much easier, with its collection of powerful features and varied options. Boasting an impressive amount of documentation and help, the script will grow on you quickly.

Panel-Based Web Browser

Panel Based Web Browser for InDesign CS561

All too often, you’ll need to load a Web browser to grab some content, verify some information or find a placeholder image. But getting off track in your usual browsing environment is easy. This plugin will keep you focused on the task at hand by opening up a browser window with InDesign’s palette.

Interactive Shortcuts Guide

Interactive Shortcuts Guide63

InDesign is simple to work with, but learning all of the shortcuts can be complicated and time-consuming. This interactive guide is worth bookmarking; regular visits to it will help you learn the shortcuts to routine tasks.

Last Click

Tetris for InDesign

Tetris for InDesign65

With all the time you’re now saving with these plugins and scripts, why not play a little Tetris in InDesign?

Conclusion

InDesign is a tool like no other in Adobe’s Creative Suite. While features are added to each version of Illustrator and Photoshop to help you create more varied kinds of graphics, InDesign seems to be focusing on streamlining and making the designer’s work easier. It is, then, as much design should be: quiet and out of the way. It’s seemed to me to always lie in the shadow as we apply our design and communication skills to the blank pages before us, keeping all of the best features accessible with a few key strokes.

We’re hoping that with these plugins and scripts, InDesign will become even easier, and quieter, for you to use, helping you to focus on the design at hand, rather than on the tool you’re using to bring it to life.

(al) (ea)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://in-tools.com/article/plugins-blog/line-numbering/
  2. 2 http://in-tools.com/article/plugins-blog/line-numbering/
  3. 3 http://in-tools.com/article/plugins-blog/fun-with-text-fitting-in-indesign/
  4. 4 http://in-tools.com/article/plugins-blog/fun-with-text-fitting-in-indesign/
  5. 5 http://in-tools.com/article/scripts-blog/all-caps-to-small-caps-script/
  6. 6 http://in-tools.com/article/scripts-blog/all-caps-to-small-caps-script/
  7. 7 http://www.danrodney.com/scripts/properfraction.html
  8. 8 http://www.danrodney.com/scripts/properfraction.html
  9. 9 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/sidenotes.html
  10. 10 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/sidenotes.html
  11. 11 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/foot_to_end.html
  12. 12 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/foot_to_end.html
  13. 13 http://indesignsecrets.com/convert-multicolumn-text-frames-to-individual-frames-script.php
  14. 14 http://indesignsecrets.com/convert-multicolumn-text-frames-to-individual-frames-script.php
  15. 15 http://ajarproductions.com/blog/2008/11/28/merge-textframes-extension-for-adobe-indesign/
  16. 16 http://ajarproductions.com/blog/2008/11/28/merge-textframes-extension-for-adobe-indesign/
  17. 17 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/compose.html#accents_bel
  18. 18 http://indesignsecrets.com/easy-diacritics-and-other-tough-glyphs.php
  19. 19 http://www.kahrel.plus.com/indesign/compose.html#accents_bel
  20. 20 http://inditip.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/choose-object-style-while-placing/
  21. 21 http://inditip.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/choose-object-style-while-placing/
  22. 22 http://www.scriptopedia.org/en/js-indesign/120-pdfoption-editor-en.html
  23. 23 http://www.scriptopedia.org/en/js-indesign/120-pdfoption-editor-en.html
  24. 24 http://indesignsecrets.com/zanelli-releases-multipageimporter-for-importing-both-pdf-and-indd-files.php
  25. 25 http://indesignsecrets.com/zanelli-releases-multipageimporter-for-importing-both-pdf-and-indd-files.php
  26. 26 http://indesignsecrets.com/placing-all-the-pages-of-a-pdf-inside-indesign.php
  27. 27 http://indesignsecrets.com/placing-all-the-pages-of-a-pdf-inside-indesign.php
  28. 28 http://www.sobolewski.biz/dtp/indy.html
  29. 29 http://www.sobolewski.biz/dtp/indy.html
  30. 30 https://sites.google.com/a/lapay.biz/www/pie_charts_wizard
  31. 31 http://www.indiscripts.com/post/2010/06/claquos2-pie-chart-builder-for-indesign
  32. 32 https://sites.google.com/a/lapay.biz/www/pie_charts_wizard
  33. 33 http://calendarwizard.sourceforge.net/
  34. 34 http://calendarwizard.sourceforge.net/
  35. 35 http://kid.net78.net/?p=174
  36. 36 http://kid.net78.net/?p=174
  37. 37 http://www.indiscripts.com/category/projects/Wordalizer
  38. 38 http://www.indiscripts.com/category/projects/Wordalizer
  39. 39 http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Graphic/Graphic-Plugins/InDesign-Scribbler.shtml
  40. 40 http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Graphic/Graphic-Plugins/InDesign-Scribbler.shtml
  41. 41 http://indisnip.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/script-fontreporter%C2%AE-collect-used-fonts-info-from-multiple-files/
  42. 42 http://indisnip.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/script-fontreporter%C2%AE-collect-used-fonts-info-from-multiple-files/
  43. 43 http://65bit.com/products/multido/multido.shtm
  44. 44 http://65bit.com/products/multido/multido.shtm
  45. 45 http://65bit.com/products/easyhistorycs/easyhistorycs.shtm
  46. 46 http://65bit.com/products/easyhistorycs/easyhistorycs.shtm
  47. 47 http://www.automatication.com/index.php?id=12
  48. 48 http://www.automatication.com/index.php?id=12
  49. 49 http://kasyan.ho.com.ua/compare_two_documents.html
  50. 50 http://kasyan.ho.com.ua/compare_two_documents.html
  51. 51 http://www.indystimer.com/it_download.html
  52. 52 http://www.indystimer.com/it_download.html
  53. 53 https://sites.google.com/site/dtpscripting/indesign-scripts/makecropmarks
  54. 54 https://sites.google.com/site/dtpscripting/indesign-scripts/makecropmarks
  55. 55 http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&loc=en_us&extid=1046363#extinfo
  56. 56 http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&loc=en_us&extid=1046363#extinfo
  57. 57 https://sites.google.com/a/lapay.biz/www/convertalltexttooutlines
  58. 58 https://sites.google.com/a/lapay.biz/www/convertalltexttooutlines
  59. 59 http://www.indiscripts.com/category/projects/IndexMatic
  60. 60 http://www.indiscripts.com/category/projects/IndexMatic
  61. 61 http://indisnip.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/panel-tomaxxibrowse-panel-based-web-browser-for-indesign-cs5/
  62. 62 http://indisnip.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/panel-tomaxxibrowse-panel-based-web-browser-for-indesign-cs5/
  63. 63 http://webarena.rs/InDesignShortcutsGuide/
  64. 64 http://webarena.rs/InDesignShortcutsGuide/
  65. 65 http://www.dtptools.com/product.asp?id=ttin
  66. 66 http://www.dtptools.com/product.asp?id=ttin

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Previously Smashing Magazine's Typography editor, and currently on the Experts Panel, Alex Charchar has had his writing published and sourced in some pretty cool places. He wants to help you be a better designer, so he's currently working on a free eBook that'll help you work smarter, build creative habits, and be more productive. Check out Retinart to get your free copy when it's released, and to find more of his writing.

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  1. 1

    Nice these are great. Definitely a time saver and I’ve shared them with my colleagues at work.

    0
    • 2

      Alexander Charchar

      September 2, 2013 5:30 am

      Hi Alex,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! A couple of colleagues of mine mentioned getting something out of this list too – I hope it helps!

      0
  2. 3

    Thank you for a great list of useful resources.
    I can recomend Grid Calculator by Designers Bookstore. A professional tool for working with grids in InDesign. Another plugin that I can’t live without is the Active Tables by DTP Tools (mentioned above). Great for creating Excel-like tables in InDesign.

    0
    • 4

      Alexander Charchar

      September 2, 2013 5:32 am

      Hi Jörgen, thanks for the introduction to Grid Calculator and Active Tables – tables are something myself and others in my studio are always having to grapple with, so anything that can help handling data in tables is always going to be welcome!

      0
  3. 5

    Thanks for this! I had no idea most of these existed. Proper fractions? Squee! (I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing the Tetris any time soon, though.)

    0
    • 6

      Alexander Charchar

      September 2, 2013 5:33 am

      Don’t rule out Tetris just yet!

      The proper fractions is a huge time saver – I’ve seen designers who would use a math based typesetting program (for lack of a better description) to write up what they were after, then copy/paste into InDesign, or even worse, take a screenshot. Always messy – at least this helps a little bit :)

      0
  4. 7

    hi,

    Thanks a lot for the quotation of scribbler. Just to let you know, the true author of the “Easily Modify PDF Importing Options” script is indeed JR Boulay, an acrobat expert ;)

    0
  5. 8

    Thanks for sharing this information and your article is very informative and impressive.

    0
  6. 9

    An excellent list – fitting text is a must have! Thanks

    0
  7. 10

    Nice list. A quick way to easily convert *all text to outline* (while not actually changing the entire InDesign document) is to create a new Transparancy Flattener setting. It has a checkbox ‘convert all text to outline’. That way, when you export to PDF, the PDF will have no text anymore.

    0
    • 11

      Alexander Charchar

      September 2, 2013 5:34 am

      Wow, *excellent* tip Marco, thank you so much – I’ve never been happy with selecting everything and then converting to outlines, page by page. It’s a messy way to work, especially when some people like to save an original InDD document that isn’t outlined, then save an outlined version as well. Will pass this tip around my studio, thanks!

      0
  8. 12

    Ricardo Muniz Crespo

    August 20, 2013 3:18 am

    I have never even thought about doing a calendar with InDesign and have usually designed them with Photoshop. Why haven’t I heard of this plugin before?
    I am not quite when I could put scribbler to a good use though. Maybe as decoration for a background?

    0
    • 13

      Alexander Charchar

      September 2, 2013 5:37 am

      Hi Ricardo! It’s always best to stick to InDesign for pretty much any kind of layout, even though Photoshop (and Illustrator) can be smoother/easier to use in some regards. Though a plugin makes things MUCH easier, rather than having to draw up and type in every date/day and making sure everything lines up.

      I know what you mean about Scribbler – I’ve done various kinds of InDesign training in the past, and one of the biggest things you start to notice is that everyone uses InDesign in very different ways for very different outcomes. There are some plugins/features/scripts around InDesign that I might think are really handy, worthwhile and essential to my personal workflow, but others would see as a complete waste of effort (and vice versa, of course!).

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :)

      0
  9. 14

    Regarding the line numbers script: You’re doing your readers a disservice by not mentioning this line numbers script:
    http://www.freelancebookdesign.com/scripts/display-line-numbers-in-indesign

    It has many more features than the free script you link to.

    Thanks,
    Ariel

    0
  10. 15

    question.. is there a script out there that deals with indenting dialog text in books. i see that there is a first line and a last line indent only, other than there the left indent button indents the entire paragraph . what if i wanted to indent 3 or 4 lines in quotes without using the space bar?any solution

    0
  11. 16

    Hi

    is there any possibility with the script to keep the last page header on next page as continued (or as a variable) in index.

    Please suggest

    0
  12. 17

    Hi,

    This site is awesome. I couldn’t quite find what I’m looking for, but maybe someone can help me.
    I’m looking for a script that will create check boxes centered under each image in an Indesign CC file.
    The checkboxes will also need to have show/hide properties to “onclick” hide the check box
    and show two radio buttons labeled “blank” and “random” displayed inline. It’s for an approval form for art proofs.
    We create pdf proofs with images of promotional products on them for our customers to approve or request
    revisions and we’re looking to turn those pdfs into pdf forms and we want to automate the creation of the checkboxes and radio buttons. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    0
  13. 18

    Great list, thanks!

    I would love a script that stopped CS6 from opening everything full screen, across my entire, giant monitor. Application Frame is just as clunky. Should’ve been a preference!

    But, alas, wrong forum.

    Cheers~!

    0

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