20 Free Must-Have Scripts for InDesign Users


Excerpted from InDesign Magazine, August/September 2012 (issue 49). Subscribe now! In addition to the HTML version of the excerpt below, you can also download the excerpt as a PDF that retains the full design of the magazine. This PDF is best viewed in Adobe Acrobat or the free Adobe Reader.

Congratulations: By starting to read this article you have taken the first step towards making your life far easier! I’m going to uncover a secret that can transform you from a regular InDesign User to a super-powered force of nature! The trick is based on what I (immodestly) call Blatner’s First Rule of Publishing: Take a little time now to save far more time in the future.

One of the best ways to apply this rule is to find a script or plug-in that does your work for you. Most scripts are extremely easy to use and can save you hours of time. The hardest part is knowing what’s available and where to get them. Fortunately, I’m going to make it easier for you by providing a list of twenty awesome scripts. Of course, I’m not saying you need all of them, but you do need to know about all of them! You never know when one will come in handy.
By the way, if you don’t know how to install and run scripts, you’re not alone. Fortunately, it’s really simple. Here’s the really quick version: Open the Scripts panel (Window > Utilities > Scripts). You’ll find pre-installed scripts inside the Application/Samples/ Javascript folder in the panel. To run one, double-click on it.

If you want to install a script you have downloaded from the internet (it should have a .js or .jsx extension), right-click the Users folder in the Scripts panel and choose Open in Finder (or Open in Explorer in Windows) from the context menu.

Put your scripts inside the Scripts Panel folder (not the Scripts folder). Make sure it ends with .js or .jsx (sometimes scripts get a .txt added to their name when you download them from the internet). Next time you look at your Scripts Panel, you’ll see the script inside the User folder—no need to restart the program. Double-click it to run the script.
Note that these scripts are in alphabetical order, not order of awesomeness or functionality. Click on the script name to jump to a web page from which you can download the script. Or go to http://InDesignSecrets.com/free for the full list of links to the sites where you can download the scripts. In most cases you’ll find other scripts worth checking out, too. I want to thank Mike Rankin, Anne-Marie Concepción, and Erica Gamet for pointing out some of these that I hadn’t seen before.


One of the most stunning examples of a free script available is CalendarWizard, a tour de force by Scott Selberg that he has posted at the popular open source SourceForge site.

CalendarWizard can create calendars in a wide variety of forms, and with a wide range of options — including holidays, phases of the moon, and calendars in over 20 different languages (Figure 1)! Best of all, the calendars are all based on paragraph, table, and cell styles, so it’s extremely easy to customize them. Scott has created a number of simple and excellent tutorials to help you through the process. Note that I also wrote about CalendarWizard in Issue 21 of InDesign Magazine (December 2007).

Figure 1: Calendar Wizard’s dialog box is huge, but doesn’t take long to figure out.


Do you run the same find/change queries repeatedly? Do you have ten different find/ change queries that you have to run one after the other? You need FindChangeByList, and the good news is that you already have it—it’s one of the free scripts that are installed by default into the Samples folder inside the Scripts folder. The hardest part of using this script is the text file you have to create to control the script. The text file tells the script what it should find and what to replace it with. It’s not rocket science; but it does take some time and effort to figure out (see my lynda.com movie for details). You can save a lot of time if you use some additional scripts, mentioned in this blog post: Find-Change Scripting Goodness. But honestly, you can save even more time if you use an inexpensive third-party product called Multi-Find/Change.


Do you need endnotes in InDesign? Tough luck, because InDesign only offers footnotes! Fortunately, there is a cool workaround, involving cross-references. And even more fortunately, Peter Kahrel has made a script that can convert your footnotes into endnotes! Even better, he has other scripts that can convert footnotes into side notes (which sit in the margins) and more!

History scripts

Have you ever needed to undo back 20 steps? And then you get there and realize, nah, you were better off redoing 18 of them? There are several History plug-ins out there, but Harbs at In-Tools created two simple free scripts that give you a list of all the Undo or Redo steps (Figure 2). Just choose a step, click OK, and it takes you there.

Figure 2: The History scripts let you undo or redo as many steps as you want, using a convenient popup menu.
You can set a keyboard shortcut to these scripts (or any other script) for easy access by choosing Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and choosing Scripts from the Product Area popup menu.

IndyFont beta

IndyFont turns InDesign into a font creation application—yes, you can literally design and export a font! That may sound crazy, but in fact it has some excellent uses. For example, need a custom bullet character? Or custom numbering for a fancy auto-numbered list? What about a custom icon at the end of your magazine story? All these things require a custom font. In the past, that meant not only buying another application, but learning it! IndyFont lets you do it with tools you already know, and while the free “demo” version only exports a single character in the font, it lets you create as many fonts as you want.


It’s a common request by InDesign users, especially folks who make newsletters and magazines: We want a way to run lines (rules) between each column. It’s not that hard to do manually, but it is tedious and frustrating if you ever need to change the size of the frame. Enter InGutter, a wonderful tool that uses a clever trick to add the lines for you (Figure 3). Even better, when you resize the frame, the rules change automatically, too!

Figure 3: InGutter can add guides between or around any multi-column text frame.


Did you ever wish you could take a section of your page and hand it to someone else to work on? LayoutZone lets you convert any part of your spread into an editable InDesign document; then later, after it’s edited, you can update the “zone” in InDesign or convert it back into editable objects again. You can even use it to convert any placed InDesign document into editable objects. LayoutZone needs to be installed in a different location (the Scripts panel inside the application folder, not the Scripts Panel folder), but easy-to-understand instructions on the developer’s site lay it out for you. This tool may sound complex, but it’s actually very easy and has the potential to supercharge your workflow!

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