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I asked this question on SuperUser nearly four months ago, but despite several edits to bump it to the top and even offering a bounty, it has only received two comments (by the same user) and no answers at all. So now, even though I think it’s a better fit for SuperUser than here, I’m re-asking here in the hopes that someone here knows the answer. It is of course rather tech-heavy; but on the other hand, biggish XML-import jobs in InDesign tend to be something graphic designers deal with a lot, so hopefully it’s not very off-topic here.

The following is a slightly edited version of the SuperUser question:


I work for a small publishing company, and we regularly create catalogues, brochures, etc., where we feature various hand-picked subsets of our available titles.

Based on the titles that are to be included in a catalogue, I create (in PHP, on my localhost, so very flexibly) an XML file with all the metadata of each book, including a link to the cover of the book.

All our cover images, named by the ISBN of the book in question, are located in a folder on a network drive that I log on to via Samba (authenticating with user name and password) and then mount on the desktop of my working machine (a Mac running OS X Yosemite/El Capitan; the mount itself is done through Finder’s Connect to server function, not manually through the Terminal).

I then import the XML file into an InDesign (CS6 or CC) document to layout the actual catalogue.

Everything about this work flow works perfectly and very elegantly—except for the fact that InDesign seemingly refuses to find any image whose href path leads to somewhere not on the local hard drive.

Various places online, I have found references (like page 6 of this PDF by Cari Jansen) that say that InDesign expects the href path to be formatted as follows (leaving out the href= bit and the quoting):

Image is in same folder as XML file: file:///image.jpg (or file:image.jpg)
Image is in a subfolder: file:///images/image.jpg
Image on hard drive, absolute path name: file:///Users/username/ Documents/Blablabla/images/image.jpg
Image is on another volume (server/network drive): file:///Volumes/VolumeName/RestOfPath

That’s as much description as I can find anywhere, but that does not work. At least not with files on this network drive.

If I give a relative path to a file in the same folder where the XML file is, or a subfolder, then it works fine. If I give an absolute path to a folder on the OS drive (i.e., /Users/username/Blablabla/...), it works fine, too.

But if I link to the file on the network drive, in the format file:///Volumes/NetworkDrive/CoverImages/9781234567890.ext, InDesign does not find the file. It just gives me a “Find file” dialog box where I can then select the image in the file list. Once I select the image and hit “OK”, it works fine: the image shows up. But the same dialog box pops up again for the next image, and the one after that, etc.; and that’s not particularly practical when I need just 60 or 70 out of ~2,500 images in that folder.

The “Find file” dialog box remembers which folder it was last in, so unfortunately it doesn’t tell me anything about what folder InDesign thinks I’m specifying in my path.

I have of course made sure that the file I link to is actually there in the folder—in two ways. First, the path in the XML file is created automatically in PHP based basically on a glob search in the file list of that folder; and second, using cp (with the path copied from the XML file) to copy the image file to a folder on my local drive works just fine (so at least the OS X Terminal sees the /Volumes/NetworkDrive/CoverImages/9781234567890.ext as a completely valid one).

This happens with all files.

Is there no way of getting InDesign to accept image paths on (SMB) network drives?

(I have read and understood this question, but that deals with Data Merge, which—annoyingly—uses a different format for linking to files. And yes, I realise my method would mean the link to the images would break if I open the document while the network drive is not mounted—that’s a calculated drawback I’m willing to live with.)

  • Folder sync (even a manual sync) is a decent way to get around it. It's about the same as storing the files in Dropbox or something. The files are there in your local drive, but also in the server or whatever. – Joonas Sep 29 '18 at 0:54
  • @Joonas The folder on the network drive is larger than the entire SSD in my computer (about 800 GB), so that’s sadly not really a realistic option. My workaround has thus far been the script mentioned in the question, which copies the files I need on to my local drive; that’s just a fairly annoying extra step that I’d like to get rid of. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 29 '18 at 1:00
  • I'm sure one Indesign project is not 800GB though. Sync only what you need. Your script solution sounds a lot like folder syncto be honest. Some folder syncs allow you to pick and choose or filter files. I've had like the whole Indesign project on a server, just like it would be on my computer, though all the linked files were relative to the indd file and then I just sync when I start working on it and sync again when I'm done. Or the same thing but I had just the images files in a single folder in a server that I synced downstream to my drive only.. – Joonas Sep 29 '18 at 1:09
  • I have also tried some automatic sync applications, but I never really felt I really needed that. Manual click to sync was good enough... I guess because it never took too long to sync the files. – Joonas Sep 29 '18 at 1:16
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It's specifically for these reasons why Adobe does not recommend working from a server. They can't test every environment.

I realize it's frustrating and annoying. But unfortunately some networks work, some don't. If you are unlucky in that, you are unlucky.

Without altering the network itself, there's not much which can be done. And even if you are to alter the network, it's a hit or miss type of issue.

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The problem I've had is that recent versions of Mac OS no longer address mounted SMB volumes directly, like "MyServer/folder/file.doc"

It now goes through the invisible, and no-longer-universally-writable "volumes" folder at the root of the system. So your path would be more along the lines of "Volumes/MyServer/folder/file.doc" (I'm paraphrasing here, since I don't have a sample file in front of me to try it out. But the MacOS has gotten very annoyingly opaque and troublesome.

I miss OS9 more and more every upgrade.

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