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Inside IDML

An IDML (InDesign Markup Language) file is a type of XML-based file format used by Adobe InDesign, a popular desktop publishing software. IDML files are used for the exchange and collaboration of InDesign documents between different versions of InDesign or with other software that can parse and work with the IDML format.


Here's a breakdown of what you can find inside an IDML file:

Document Structure

Page Setup

Information about the document's page size, margins, and columns.

Master Pages

Definitions of master pages used in the document, including page elements like headers, footers, and layout grids.


Information about the layers used in the document, including their names and visibility settings.


Text Frames

The content of text frames, including text, formatting (font, size, color, etc.), and positioning.

Paragraph and Character Styles

Definitions of paragraph and character styles used in the document, which define the appearance of text.

Story Threads

The organization of text frames into linked stories, which determine the flow of text through the document.

Links and their destinations within the document or external URLs.


Information about tables, including content, formatting, and structure.

Images and Graphics

Embedded Images

The actual image files (JPEG, PNG, etc.) that are used in the document.

Image Placement

Information about the positioning and scaling of placed images within the document.

Graphic Styles

Definitions of graphic styles used for vector graphics and shapes.

Colors and Swatches

Swatch Definitions: Information about the colors and swatches used in the document, including their names and color values (e.g., CMYK, RGB).

Objects and Shapes

Shapes and Objects: Definitions of vector shapes and objects on the pages, including their attributes, transformations, and layering.

Document Metadata

Document Properties: Metadata such as the document's title, author, description, and creation date.

Document History

Undo Information: A history of user actions, allowing for the potential restoration of previous states of the document.

XML Structure

The entire IDML file is structured using XML (eXtensible Markup Language), which provides a way to represent and organize all the elements and their attributes in a hierarchical and human-readable format.

IDML files are essentially a collection of XML files and assets (like images) bundled together in a compressed archive. This format is useful for transferring InDesign documents between different users or software applications that support IDML, as it maintains most of the document's structure, content, and formatting while being more portable and versatile than the native InDesign file format (INDD).

Package parts

Here's a detailed explanation of some common package parts you might find in an IDML file:

META-INF/ (Metadata Information)

This directory typically contains metadata related to the IDML file. The specific files you might find include:


This file is essential for identifying the root content of the package and specifying the location of the main content file (typically designmap.xml).


This file lists all the parts (XML files and assets) within the package and their relationships.


If the IDML file is digitally signed for authentication or verification purposes, this file contains information related to the digital signature.

designmap.xml (Document Structure)

This XML file serves as a manifest for the entire IDML document. It lists all the components and resources in the IDML package, providing a high-level overview of the document's structure.

Resources/ (Asset Repository)

The "Resources" directory contains various assets used in the document, such as images, fonts, and color profiles. These assets may include:


Graphic files (e.g., JPEG, PNG) that are embedded in the document.


Font files (e.g., TTF, OTF) used in the document.

Color Profiles

Profiles specifying color spaces and color management settings.

If the document contains links to external assets, these links may be referenced in this directory.

Stories/ (Text Content)

The "Stories" directory contains XML files representing text stories within the document. Each story corresponds to a specific text flow in the document. These XML files include text content, formatting, and structural information.

Spreads/ (Page Layout)

The "Spreads" directory holds XML files representing individual pages or spreads in the document. These XML files define the layout and content of each page, including text frames, images, and other objects.

MasterSpreads/ (Master Page Layout)

Similar to "Spreads," the "MasterSpreads" directory contains XML files representing master pages. Master pages define the layout elements that can be applied to regular pages throughout the document, such as headers, footers, and grid structures.

Styles/ (Styling Definitions)

The "Styles" directory contains XML files defining various styles used in the document. These styles include:

Paragraph Styles

Definitions for formatting paragraphs of text.

Character Styles

Definitions for formatting individual characters or text spans.

Object Styles

Definitions for formatting objects and graphic elements.

Table Styles

Definitions for formatting tables and their cells.

XML Structure

These are the core XML files representing the document's content and structure, found within directories like "Stories," "Spreads," and "MasterSpreads." These XML files contain elements that define text frames, images, graphics, colors, and other document components.