InDesign was built more than a decade ago as a tool for creating printed documents — not for creating digital documents and electronic books. As of InDesign CS6, however, Adobe added the capability to create digital documents for distribution on tablets, e-readers, and on the web. The overwhelming majority of the new features added to the previous version of InDesign were focused on creating digital documents.

Because publishing on tablets is still relatively new, the workflows, tools, and features are still in their infancy. In some cases, we find the process a bit clumsy — and the tools added to InDesign feel like an afterthought — but unless you want to learn to code HTML5 and CSS3, the Creative Cloud tools are your best bet for getting your content delivered onto a tablet or e-reading device.

Digital documents can be optimized to appear on a variety of devices, and in different formats. Two such formats are

  • HTML: HTML is emerging as the standard way to distribute electronic versions of documents that are distributed on the web, as web pages, replacing PDF and SWF (Flash) for two primary reasons:

    • Unlike PDF and Flash, HTML can be displayed on any device with a web browser.

    • The emerging standards of HTML5 and CSS3 allow for content to be customized depending upon the device or browser being used to view the document. For example, a different layout can exist for vertical and horizontal display.

  • EPUB: Although HTML is becoming the favorite way to distribute documents in a web browser, the standard for electronic books that can be viewed online and offline is EPUB.

Creating a digital document requires more than just selecting an output type and pressing the Export button. To make effective documents, you must design them according to the needs of the device upon which they will be viewed.

To do this, you can either design the document’s layout for specific devices, such as an iPad vertical or iPad horizontal layout, using alternative layouts. Alternatively, using Liquid Layout you can create a set of rules that adapt the layout to work on various devices.