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20 February 2020

Adobe InDesign’s big brother: Adobe InDesign Server

Tim Melis
Media Workflow Consultant bij Catena Company

Anyone working as a designer or marketer will undoubtedly be familiar with the Adobe InDesign program. Solid tools ensure that this application is one of the most exquisite solutions for print related challenges such as business cards, catalogs, product sheets, etc. For more than 15 years this application has been the default solution for all those who work professionally and creatively with page layout. Annual updates ensure a constant supply of new possibilities and features.

What is much less known is that Adobe InDesign also has a big brother, Adobe InDesign server. This robust solution has untamed performance for any graphics challenge.


InDesign desktop vs. InDesign server

What you could already deduce from the name, is that this big brother is intended to be installed on a central server or in the Cloud. The desktop version consists of a core engine on which a user-friendly user interface was added, allowing designers to visually build the most beautiful designs quickly and efficiently. The server version uses that same underlying powerful engine, but the front-end was replaced with a robust SOAP interface. This gateway allows developers to execute instructions on that same server through programming code. By removing that “ballast” that a user interface brings, a whole lot of performance is delivered in its place. In addition, the desktop version has the limitation that only one document at a time can be processed. Several instances of the server version can be activated simultaneously, which can then be addressed on the fly. This makes it possible to process several documents concurrently, as if you had several physical servers at your disposal.

So if you want to process thousands of documents within a limited amount of time, this solution is the right one for you.


Customized automations

If you want to generate documents in PDF from an ERP, PIM or your own business application and are looking for available technologies, you will often end up with one of the many free or commercial PDF modules. These often all have the same limitations in graphic possibilities or require an enormous amount of programming work.

Therein lies the strength of Adobe InDesign Server. Anyone who wants to generate documents automatically wants them to perfectly match the corporate branding. Whether they are technical sheets, catalogs or personalized documents such as invoices, they all have to reflect the corporate identity. So anyone who can rely on a designer can sleep on both ears. Designs developed by creatives can quickly be adopted by the development team. But even companies without the availability of creative professionals need not fear. Developers can work by themselves, creating new documents. The ability to use templates provides the necessary flexibility. Whether it is to modify existing documents, process them or generate new files, Adobe InDesign Server contains all the necessary features to include this without problems.

Often graphic studios and marketing teams have a large amount of time-consuming repetitive tasks, of which they can be relieved easily. Adobe InDesign Server has all the assets to be a solid solution in the creative automation process.

Also for those who develop an online shop or portal that offers personalized solutions – such as generating their own business cards or personalized labels, editing Adobe InDesign files online, placing print-related orders with real-time previews, downloading personalized brochures and catalogs – Adobe InDesign Server is the perfect solution.

Those who want to integrate Adobe InDesign Server into a new or existing solution can use scripts written in Extendscript, an older variant of Javascript, via SOAP calls. Those who have already written scripts for the Adobe InDesign desktop application will not notice any difference. Extendscript is relatively approachable and accessible.



Adobe InDesign Server is available for macOS and Windows. Note that system requirements depend on the number of instances used.

For the latest technical specifications, visit here.



Adobe InDesign Server licenses are available in different variants. Regardless of the solution chosen, they are renewable or terminable annually.

The 4 main licenses are:

  • Premium license: Publicly available, internet or intranet based application with annual subscription
  • Limited license: Internally available, (semi) automatic publishing solution, available within the own network with annual subscription
  • Developer license: Release or testing of Adobe InDesign Server-based solutions by software developers, allowing them to evaluate the software. Live production is not allowed and all generated PDF files contain a watermark. This license is free with an “Adobe Technology Partner” or an “Adobe Enterprise Partner” membership
  • Demo license: Free 90-day demo license that allows customers to test Adobe partner solutions.

Each form of license has its specific pricing. It is important to note that some software manufacturers that use Adobe InDesign Server in their solution have enforced special terms with Adobe for its use. So good advice is incredibly important to determine the right price.



Maybe you are looking for a solution to automatically process Adobe InDesign files, but there is no perfect match between the needs of your company and the features of this solution. Then there is an alternative available. Enfocus Switch offers the ability to quickly develop robust automations, without programming knowledge. This solution can integrate both an Adobe InDesign desktop and Adobe InDesign Server application into the roadmap of tasks to be performed. If you choose Adobe InDesign Desktop in combination with Enfocus Switch, the lack of simultaneous file processing – and thus lower processing speed – will be more than compensated by a user-friendly interface and a lower license cost.



Adobe InDesign Server is a graphically powerful Enterprise solution that handles large volumes of documents just fine. Because it handles Adobe InDesign documents originating from the desktop version flawlessly, it is the most appropriate solution for creating and processing graphic files quickly and automatically. Because the solution runs autonomously on a central server, tasks that might previously have been performed on local workstations can now be processed automatically in the background. As a result, efficiency gets a huge boost.


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