Different ways to develop Plug-ins for InDesign

Different ways to develop Plug-ins for InDesign

InDesign is a powerful desktop publishing software that enables users to create a variety of print and digital media. InDesign supports plug-ins, which are additional modules that extend the functionality of the software. In this article, we'll discuss different ways to develop plug-ins for InDesign along with some code samples.

1. ExtendScript

ExtendScript is a JavaScript-based scripting language that can be used to create plug-ins for InDesign. It allows developers to access and modify InDesign's internal objects, such as documents, pages, and text frames. Here's an example of an ExtendScript code snippet that creates a new document in InDesign:


2.InDesign SDK

The InDesign SDK is a C++ based software development kit that enables developers to create plug-ins for InDesign using C++. This approach offers more control and flexibility over the plug-in's functionality and performance. Here's an example of a C++ code snippet that adds a new menu item to InDesign's menu bar:

3.InDesign Server

InDesign Server is a server-based version of InDesign that enables developers to create plug-ins for InDesign using scripting languages such as JavaScript, VBScript, and AppleScript. InDesign Server also offers more advanced features such as automation and batch processing. Here's an example of a JavaScript code snippet that imports a CSV file and creates a table in InDesign:

4.InDesign Scripting DOM

InDesign Scripting DOM (Document Object Model) is a set of JavaScript-based objects and methods that provide access to InDesign's internal components, including documents, pages, text frames, and graphics. It offers a high-level scripting interface and is ideal for developers who are more familiar with scripting languages. Here's an example of a JavaScript code snippet that changes the color of a text frame in InDesign:

5.InDesign Plugin Builder

The InDesign Plugin Builder is a tool that simplifies the process of creating InDesign plug-ins using the InDesign SDK. It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows developers to create custom plug-ins by simply dragging and dropping components. Here's an example of how to use the InDesign Plugin Builder to create a plug-in that adds a new menu item to InDesign:

  • Open the InDesign Plugin Builder and select "New Plug-in Project"

  • Select the location and name of the new plug-in project

  • Select "Add Menu Item" from the "Add New Component" dropdown menu

  • Enter the name and ID of the new menu item

  • Save the project and build the plug-in

  • InDesign HTML5-based Extensions

InDesign development services also supports HTML5-based extensions, which can be developed using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This approach allows developers to create cross-platform extensions that can be used on both desktop and mobile devices. HTML5-based extensions can also be easily deployed through Adobe's Creative Cloud Marketplace. Here's an example of an HTML5-based extension that adds a new panel to InDesign:



6.InDesign Scripting with Python

InDesign also supports scripting with Python, which is a popular high-level programming language. Python can be used to automate tasks and create custom plug-ins for InDesign. Here's an example of a Python script that changes the color of a text frame in InDesign:

7.InDesign CC Libraries

InDesign CC Libraries are a way to share design assets between Creative Cloud applications and collaborate with other users. Developers can create custom plug-ins that interact with CC Libraries and automate the process of adding, updating, and deleting assets. Here's an example of a JavaScript code snippet that adds a new graphic to a CC Library:

8.InDesign Third-Party Libraries

InDesign also supports third-party libraries that can be used to create custom plug-ins. These libraries offer additional functionality and can save developers time and effort when creating plug-ins. Examples of third-party libraries for InDesign include:

  • Adobe ExtendScript Toolkit SDK: a set of tools for developing and debugging ExtendScript code

  • ScriptUI for ExtendScript: a library that simplifies the creation of user interfaces for ExtendScript scripts

  • InDesign JS Library: a library that provides additional functionality for InDesign Scripting DOM

  • InTools: a collection of tools and utilities for InDesign


InDesign offers a variety of ways to develop plug-ins, including ExtendScript, InDesign SDK, InDesign Server, InDesign Scripting DOM, InDesign Plugin Builder, HTML5-based extensions, InDesign Scripting with Python, InDesign CC Libraries, and third-party libraries. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and developers can choose the one that best suits their skills and project requirements. With the ability to create custom plug-ins, developers can enhance the functionality of InDesign, automate tasks, and improve productivity for users.

About The Author


Mr. Amit Gupta

MetaDesign Solutions

Mr. Amit Gupta, Vice President – Sales at MetaDesign Solutions, who adepts in Strategic Planning and Project Management with 18+years industrial cross-functional exposure. He is Engineer by professional who completed his graduation degree from Delhi College of Engineering. He is responsible for delineating the road map for all innovation, Sales activities at MetaDesign Solutions.

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