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This article is from December 22, 2013, and is no longer current.

Adobe to offer .folio format under free license. What’s it mean?


Last week, in a sort of under-the-radar blog post, Adobe announced that it would begin offering the .folio file format under a free license. In case you don’t know what that file format is, it’s the format that Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) publications are saved in. I’ve been asked by a few people what it means and and my first response was “I don’t know, but it’s exciting.”

Why is it exciting? Because it opens up possibilities to outside developers to come up with additional solutions beyond what Adobe has. Just look at the PDF format. There are any number of applications that can read and create PDFs. Does this mean we’ll have scores of .folio readers? Maybe. Does it mean that some clever developer will come up with a way to create .folios from PowerPoint? Maybe. Could it open a new marketplace for digital publications? Maybe. Could .folio replace PDF for interactive documents? Maybe.

Right now it’s all conjecture but at the top of my wishlist is a way to create Single Edition apps for iPhone as well as Android, Kindle and Windows 8.1 devices.

If you’re working with DPS, what would you like to see happen once the file format is openly available?

Bob Levine is a Southern New Jersey based graphic designer and consultant He provides guidance in developing efficient, collaborative InDesign and InCopy workflows as well as a full array of graphic design services including WordPress-based web development. For more background, visit his website, or his blog,
  • I’m fascinated by this move. It could mean nothing, or it could become a major step toward far wider adoption of the folio format for tablet and mobile apps. It’s interesting that they’re saying that they’ll offer a free license; that means there will be significant restrictions in its use — very different than PDF.

  • Bob Levine says:

    I think they’re being intentionally vague about this but it’s exciting nonetheless. I love how far DPS has come in just three years and I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of these developers come up with once they have more access to the file format.

  • Angie Lokotz says:

    This will be fantastic if it provides a format for files that can be created specifically for a client and which can be hosted on the client’s site (or even hosted on the creator’s site for use by the client) rather than having to go through a storefront for a particular device. There are so many uses for DPS that are not necessarily for sale or distribution to the public. I believe this capability is only available with an enterprise option at this time.

  • A couple of thoughts:

    1. This could really impact corporate publishing efforts. Corporations sometimes want to offer a single app that does several different things. For example, a corporation may want an app that interacts with corporate databases in a certain way, but that also contains a “bookshelf” of sales materials. With the .folio format being open, they could create a custom app that does everything they want, but also reads the .folio from a corporate server that distributes the folios into the app.

    2. 3rd party companies could, in theory, create apps that can display the .folio format, and develop their own distribution methods to push the folios into the app. Perhaps someone will do this in a more agile manner, with lower distribution costs to the user, than Adobe. However, the fact that all the major players in the digital publishing space, such as Mag+, Twixl, etc. all charge approximately the same for issue distribution, makes me think that it costs what it costs, and it will be hard for someone to enter the market significantly cheaper and still have a robust system.

    3. The thing to remember in all of this, is that there is no way, currently, to save or export a folio file out of Adobe DPS or InDesign. So it isn’t like people will be able to just create a .folio, put it on their Web site, and then click on the .folio file in mobile Safari and have it open in “Bob’s Folio Reader” or anything like that. Maybe someday, but I don’t see that happening soon.

    • as says:

      What do you mean by 3 how can you use .folio format if indesign can’t export to that?

      • To clarify my point number 3: Adobe DPS and InDesign do not currently EXPORT in the .folio format. When you create a folio with Adobe DPS, the assembled folio is not something you can locate as a file on your hard drive. It exists solely in the Folio panel in InDesign. The individual InDesign files that make up the articles in the folio exist, of course, wherever you put them, but the assembled folio is not something you can “touch”. I know this sounds strange. It’s kind of hard to get your head around this until you’ve used DPS a bit.

  • as says:

    A comment about 2.
    I think the reson that Mag+, Twixl, etc has almost the same price is that they need to develop ther own file format. The need there own plugin for many versions of indesign. They need to have there own app, reviewer, compiler server, and distribution system.

    Now they can at least skip indesign plugin and own format so the cost for have a system for a “new” company will be lower?

    What do you mean can’t export to .folio are you sure, why do Adobe release .folio for free if nowone can export it?

  • Akshaye says:

    The folio format spec is now available.

    “Commercial publishers can extend their content through a variety of marketplaces that accept the .folio file format specification. Publishing to .folio as a universally accepted digital publishing file format will allow magazine publishers to more efficiently produce digital content for mobile devices by eliminating the need to create and publish interactive, digital content in multiple, individual proprietary file formats supported by each unique marketplace. Newsstands and marketplaces that accept the license for the .folio file format specification will be able to create their own native viewers capable of displaying digital magazines available in the .folio file format.” – Adobe

    I am interested to know:

    1. If an application developer like mag+ or Magzter can choose to read folio

    2. If app developer can choose to self host the folio file

    3. If app dev can choose to use their publish portal to distribute folio

  • Gusgsm says:

    As conventional wisdom says “can’t is the cancer of happen”. So, what was impossible up to now will be happening rather likely if the balance bewteen benefits (monetary or otherwise) and investment (in money or informatic knowhow) goes in favour or the first. To me, that could mean that:

    – Folio would eventually establish itself as a ‘de facto’ standard for publication-like apps.

    – Readers and Coders for / from folio could and would be developped by third party companies.

    – If that solutions exist, the lower part of the market (ie: folks with lower technical needs in their woks and less budget for them) could go for these non-Adobe solutions.

    – If that happens, the benefits of developping plugins and assets for the use of folio (inside or outside Adobe’s software umbrella) will increase and so it’s reasonable to expect in the medium time the aparition of some of them.

    – And, last but non least: The main rub of all this App Brave New World is that Apple still stands in the way when it comes to a big share of the market. You’ve got to play by their rules, even Adobe.

    But if Adobe manages to make Folio and its siblings somehow the PDF of interactive design and you can bypass App. Store and its rules… That’s good news to me.

    Woulda, Coulda… Whatever may come ot, I think Adobe has hit the nail with this move. How, we will see.


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