One of the benefits of Adobe products has always been how well they can be extended to do the things you need. Scripting and plug-ins are two examples of ways you or others can add to InDesign's functionality to make the program work harder for you, not the other way around.
InDesign supports scripts written in Visual Basic on the Windows side and AppleScript for Mac users. Both are programming languages, but they are very easy to pick up and start working.
The benefit to scripting, which is like writing a computer miniprogram, is that you can create scripts to perform everyday or not-so-everyday tasks for you. After you work in InDesign for a while, you find there are certain tasks associated with certain types of documents that you have to perform over and over, ad nauseam. Sometimes these tasks can get so mundane that they can overwhelm the creativity you have and make your project feel like drudgery.
It's worth it to get your programming feet wet and write a script to automate processes like these. Check out http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign/scripting.html for more information about creating scripts, as well as a link to the InDesign Scripting guide, a PDF of scripting instructions. You can also jump to the Adobe Studio Exchange site, where you can view scripts that have been written and sharedand maybe even download one that can help you.
When Adobe decided to develop InDesign and move away from PageMaker as its default layout program, it also made a huge fundamental change to the way the application was coded. Not to get too detailed about programming, but under the hood InDesign is composed of hundreds of plug-ins held together by a basic application framework.
A plug-in is a program that works within an application to perform a specific function.
This is actually a really good thing for users, because it makes it easier for third-party vendors to create plug-ins that can extend InDesign's functionality in very specific ways. There are a number of vendors out there who have programmed ways for InDesign to perform tasks such as imposing your InDesign documents into printers' spreads or batch-converting PageMaker or QuarkXPress files into InDesign. And that functionality can be yours by simply ordering and installing a plug-in.
For more information on some of the companies who work with Adobe to add functionality to InDesign, visit http://www.adobe.com/products/plugins/indesign/main.html or do an Internet search for InDesign plug-ins. You'll find a wealth of information and potentially some ways to save yourself time and effort.
One of the most-used InDesign plug-ins is InCopy. InCopy was originally developed by a third-party provider, but has, with this version of InDesign, been taken over by Adobe and is available for sale through the Adobe website.
InCopy adds text editing functionality to InDesign by enabling users to open files and make text changesbut only that. For example, if you have a document you have designed, but there is also a copywriter and editing group who will be working on the text, it's usually not a very appealing idea to turn the application file over to the word people and let them have at it. Letting another person change the text also means you run the risk of someone accidentally moving or changing something that has nothing to do with copy.
InCopy creates a workflow that enables specified users to open a file and make any changes to text, but not to styles or any other items on the page. If overset text is created by adding copy, for example, you as the designer are the only person who can make a change to deal with that overset text. It's a great way to give copy control to those who need itreally, don't you have better things to do with your time than add commas and correct misplaced hyphens?while still maintaining your control over the ultimate appearance of the document.
For more information about InCopy, visit http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/main.html.