InDesign has great features for importing XML data from a database, or for exporting the contents of pages to XML format for re-use elsewhere. If you think that a project you're working on might someday become part of an automated XML workflow, here are some things to take into consideration as you set up your InDesign files.
General file setup
Your InDesign file should use master pages, margins and guides intelligently. Use margins and guides on your master pages to guide placement of text frames on your document pages.
Try to "flow" text in threaded text frames as much as possible, as opposed to individual text frames containing standalone bits of text. Your design and the type of data it contain will affect this, but it's a good rule in general.
All text must be fully styled with Paragraph and Character styles, and objects should be assigned Object styles where possible. No local formatting of text is allowed.
Rules for naming XML tags
XML data consists of text marked up with "tags" that look like this:
There are a few rules for how these tags can be named:
• Tag names cannot contain spaces
• Tag names are case-sensitive
• Tag names can’t start with “xml”, a number, or punctuation
Matching tag names to styles
A big part of any XML workflow, either into InDesign or out of InDesign, is to match up InDesign’s character and paragraph styles with XML tags. This can be done automatically if you’re lucky enough to have your XML tag names and your InDesign character and paragraph style names be exactly the same. So, when naming your InDesign styles, it's a good practice to follow the above rules for naming XML tags. If data with XML tag names already exist, consider naming your InDesign character and paragraph styles to match. If you’re in charge of creating XML tags, give them the exact same names as existing InDesign character and paragraph styles. This isn’t absolutely necessary, as there are other ways to map InDesign character and paragraph style names to XML tags, but it makes the process a whole lot easier.
Click here to read about four recent XML-InDesign automation projects I worked on, and the unique problems solved by each.