Where to start with InDesign scripting? Is it dead?

Participant ,
Feb 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021

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Hi. I have stuck my head into Adobe Scripting for InDesign a couple times but could never figure out where to start exactly. I know Javascript pretty well (front end developer) but there seems to be no one place I can find, not even a blog post, on the "101" of how to get going. I have Peter Kahrel's book but it seems outdated. I can't even find the "ExtendScript" IDE. I had even bought a few other older like CS3 or CS5 or something scripting books...but seemed useless.

 

So 2 questions:

1) Is scripting for InDesign basically dead in the water?

2) Where is a simple up to date "how to get started" post from anyone, anywhere on the web?

 

Question 1 seems legit because if it was something actively supported, you'd think finding simple resources would be easy, but a lot of information I find is very outdated. For example, I think the ExtendScript IDE might be 32 bit or something can't run on newish Macs that are 64 bit. 

 

Is scripting here to stay but so niche only older nerds (I am one) who learned it 10 years ago can really do much with it today? Or is it just floating downstream into oblvion and no longer something Adobe cares about or is investing in?

 

I'm baffled by this "we support it forever but won't talk about it ever" approach Adobe has with something that seems so powerful and useful.

 

THANKS IN ADVANCE for you insights to help clear me up once and for all!!

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Scripting, SDK

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021

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It's not dead. Sure, there are some shiny new(ish) powerful plugin tools like CEP and UXP, but there's so much legacy code built on Extendscript that I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. 

 

The most up-to-date API is available here (Thanks Gregor!): https://www.indesignjs.de/extendscriptAPI/indesign-latest/#about.html

 

How to get started is really a matter of reviewing the sample code shipped in InDesign, understanding the DOM-API, and building applications from that. I can't really speak to Adobe's approach to talking about Extendscript. The guides they wrote for CS3 haven't really changed substantively, so they are still a fine starting point. 

 

It is ufortunate that the ES Debugger is no longer available on Mac. There are alternatives, like VS Code and the Extendscript Debugger tool built for it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021

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Scripting is completely not dead!

The main reason to feel it is is because of this issue that ESTK (Extendscript Toolkit) doesn't work on new Macs. That's a real pain.

Visual Studio Code is where you're supposed to do your scripting, but it's nowhere near as intuitive as ESTK.

If you're serious, get Windows installed on your Mac, and install ESTK.

At that point, under the Help menu in ESTK, you'll find 2 very useful PDFs (they're probably available on the web somewhere too): (1) Adobe Intro to Scripting, and (2) Javascript Tools Guide CC.

Read them (an easy read if you're familiar with Javascript already) and you'll be more than half way there.

Then, also in ESTK, open the Object Model Viewer. The link in the previous post is good, but I find the built-in OMV more accessible. It will show you the object model for all the versions of Adobe products you have installed on your computer.

If you have Peter Kahrel's book, use it! Not a great deal has changed with Adobe scripting, and 95% of what's written there should still be completely relevant. Ditto for any info, especially from CS5 up.

There is some talk of Extendscript eventually being dropped in favour or UXP. But that will not happen for several years yet. And even when it does, the knowledge you gain of InDesign's DOM while scripting will be 100% necessary whatever language or system it's wrapped up in.

HTH,

Ariel

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Participant ,
Feb 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021

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I think this page at Medium.com did not exist the last time I waded through Adobe forums. It seems to be the best "101" scripting page I've seen yet:

 

Power from the People: InDesign Scripting | by Mike Zahorik | Adobe Tech Blog | Medium

 

This page has a bunch of resources including Gregor's API. I think I have enough here to keep me busy for a long while!

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 17, 2021 Feb 17, 2021

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As Ariel and Brian mentioned, InDesign scripting is certainly not dead. Some people would say that scripting keeps InDesign alive in many respects.

 

My book has a new edition. The one you have may be outdated, but as Ariel mentioned, not an awful lot has changed. But if you're interested, here's a link to the latest edition (2019):

https://sites.fastspring.com/publishingsecrets/product/JSID2

 

I'm baffled by this "we support it forever but won't talk about it ever" approach Adobe has with something that seems so powerful and useful.

 

Yes, it's an absolute disgrace that Adobe have done nothing to keep ExtendScript up to date with modern versions of JavaScript, and that the ESTK was never properly maintained. The ESTK is still pretty good,, though, I use it every day. Its small problems you learn to live by. And I agree with Ariel that for exploring the DOM, it's better than the link that Brian posted. That link is very popular. The ESTK's object-model browser has very few friends (Ariel and I are probable the only ones), but it is still the only browser that exposes the extensions to InDesign's DOM provided by plug-ins. In other words, if you have a scriptable plug-in, the ESTK is the only one that exposes them.

 

Peter

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Participant ,
Feb 25, 2021 Feb 25, 2021

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Thanks Peter, I do have the latest version of your book. 

 

Someone must have an inroad with right Adobe people to have a conversation about this? With JavaScript now the predominant language of the web and more and more things by the day, how can they not capitolize on this in some way?

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