InDesign CS5.5, Export Tagging and ePub export frustrations

7 07 2011

I’ve got one massive gripe with InDesign CS5.5 and it’s ePub exporting. It’s not specifically the ePub export, but also the half-done Export Tags options as well.

If you’re a CS5.5 user you would have probably noticed that you can specify tag export options for character and paragraph styles. It’s excellent, and is a massive help for producing ePub docs from InDesign.  Especially if you’re writting your own CSS for your ePubs, but once you bring tables and objects in to the document, InDesign drops the ball big time.

The problem

CS5.5’s massive failure is that you can’t seem to add export tagging to table, cell or object styles in InDesign; and what’s worse is that the ePub you export will use a new class name for every table or div (which was an object in your InDesign doc).  This defeats the purpose of adding a class altogether, it’s as if InDesign logic treats adding classes like it does adding IDs (in HTML/CSS, IDs have to be unique whereas classes don’t).

So; for example, in my case I have several docs to my Book; each document has different types and amounts of tables. These tables are for completely different things and I need them styled differently. Even though in InDesign I’ve used totally different table and cell styles, the ePub will append an incremental digit on the end of each class name for each table!!!!

This is what you would expect InDesign to do:

<table id="table-1" class="Basic-Table">
  etc
</table>
<table id="table-2" class="Basic-Table">
  etc
</table>
<table id="table-3" class="Fancy-Table">
  etc
</table>

But instead, it does this: (note the -1 and -2 after the class name… tisk tisk)

<table id="table-1" class="Basic-Table-1">
  etc
</table>
<table id="table-2" class="Basic-Table-2">
  etc
</table>
<table id="table-3" class="Fancy-Table-1">
  etc
</table>

And again, I need to re-iterate, this is only really a problem if you’re attaching your own CSS to the ePub; because when InDesign generates the CSS for you it actually creates ALL THOSE CLASSES, which is pretty stupid really but at least it works.  The shortcoming overall is that you also just can’t do as much unless you really DO write your own CSS for the ePubs, and also, who the hell really wants to have to unpack, edit, and repack their ePubs if they’ve got a workflow of hundreds of books to do? Not me, and not a lot of other people!

A partial fix

So, you can imagine where all this leaves me.  CSS3 can help!  But, again, this is really disappointing, only iBooks on Apple devices will render this properly, if you’re using Adobe Digital Editions or Aldiko eBook reader or anything else on the Android, it doesn’t work.  By using CSS3 you can capture the tables still and apply styles to them like this:

table[class^="Basic-Table"] { styleshere }
table[class^="Fancy-Table"] { styleshere }

No real solution, yet

So, the short of  it is, if you want to style up tables and objects, and have them display correctly on Adobe Digital Editions or Aldiko etc, then you either have to wait for:

  • the eBook reader companies (except Apple who have owned everyone) to get their eBook apps to render CSS3 like the above; or
  • Adobe to release a patch or upgrade to add Export Tagging to tables and objects, which would then let you specify a static class name for tables and divs.
I wonder if either will happen any time soon? I hope so….
If anyone OUT THERE has a solid fix, or ideas to try please comment.
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4 responses

11 07 2011
AMC

I share your frustration! The same thing (incremental numbering in the CSS) happens to some paragraph styles/classes when you export a book to EPUB. The very BEST thing you can do is to report it as a bug in CS5.5, I know for a fact that the produce managers for InDesign read those and pay close attention: https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform

In the meantime, it’s possible to use GREP find/changes to clean all that up in the resulting EPUB. If you use Oxygen Author, you can run a GREP find/change on all the files in an EPUB without needing to extract the files. (You can still see their contents to make sure it worked, though.)

11 07 2011
Rolley

Gday AMC!
That’s a good idea, I might get on there and submit a bug report/complaint. One positive is that I haven’t had it happen with paragraph and character styles after I started using the export tagging and giving them set class names to use – just wish we could do that with tables, cells and objects! 🙂
Great tip about GREP too I’ll look in to that! Thanks!
R

22 08 2012
Casper

This thread is a year old, but I had the same problem today and found the solution. The incremental numbering is because InDesign is detecting a difference in the styles between two different InDesign documents. So, if “Bodytext” style is different from chapter1.indd and chapter2.indd, it’s programmed to add a sequential number to the class name so it can generate two different CSS definitions, which it won’t do because you told it not to when you selected “Use Existing CSS File”. The solution is to synchronize all your styles. I’ve tested this in InDesign CS5.5 and it worked for me. There’s a catch too, when you synchronize, the style source MUST have ALL the paragraph, character, object, table, and cell styles that were used anywhere in the entire book (even if the styles weren’t used in that specific document).

Also, make sure there are no styles with the same name in the same document. Duplicates like this can only happen if you have styles inside style group folders.

29 08 2012
Rolley

Fascinating, I wonder if that will totally fix our problem.. everyone usually synchronises styles though within a book, soooo I’m not sure how we’d have cases where the styles are indeed different document to document – unless either the synchronise doesn’t work properly, or, if the authors AREN’T doing the synchronise! hahaha 😀
Thanks for posting the fix though, I’ll pass it on to the team!!! 😀
Cheers
R!

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