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Free Layout Zones Add-On is Incredible Productivity Tool


Let’s say you’re working on a layout but you need to get a colleague to design a piece of the spread — perhaps a coupon, or a sidebar, or an ad. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just hand a piece of the layout to them? InDesign CS3 makes this possible by letting you import an InDesign file just as easily as you can place a graphic — so they can work in one InDesign document and you can then import their file into your layout. But a new, free add-on from Martinho da Gloria makes this process a hundred times easier and more efficient.

Technically, this “feature” is a set of scripts, but because they appear in the Edit menu instead of in the Scripts panel, no one would ever know that this feature is actually powered by a script.

And, if we’re going to be precise: It’s actually two features, not one.


The first, Edit > Layout Zone > Objects to InDesign Document, converts a whole page or the selected objectes on a page to an InDesign document for you (it asks you for a file name and a location to save it). The file it creates is exactly the same size as the objects.

But there’s potentially a problem: Sometimes text falls outside the text frame — for example, the descenders on the last line of a paragraph my stick out past the bottom of the frame. Fortunately, the Layout Zone scripts adjusts for this, automatically creating a bleed area the proper size for the text.


I’m not going to get into all the details of the features in the Options dialog box above, but you get the idea that you can create a bleed area around the selected objects to capture anything else that might be sticking out. For example, if you have a drop cap that is nudging out the left side of the frame, you’ll probably need to adjust the left bleed manually to accomodate that.

Anyway, once the Layout Zone feature creates the InDesign document, it places it back on your InDesign page, in exactly the same place as the original objects. It’s uncanny.

If this were all it did (as the song goes), it would be enough! But no, Martinho went further: The second option in the Edit > Layout Zone submenu is Linked InDesign Page to Objects. This actually converts any placed InDesign document back into editable objects in your document!


In fact, this works even if you’ve rotated, scaled, or skewed the placed InDesign document. In fact, lets say you cropped the InDesign document down so that not all of it is visible. You can choose Paste Into Selected Frame (in the dialog box above) and the editable objects become nested inside a frame so that they’re editable, but “cropped” in the same way as the placed INDD file was.

Now, this process of converting a piece of your layout may sound familiar to you, because this was the great promise of QuarkXPress 7’s “composition zones” feature. But Quark mangled that feature so badly that it’s nearly impossible to use. (I’m not being biased here; even some folks at Quark have admitted this.) Of course, QX’s Composition Zones is not round-trippable. That is, you can’t convert the composition zone back into editable objects. This little, free script gives you the best of all worlds.

The Workflow

So, back to the original premise: You’re working on a layout… you have some text and graphics, but you want someone else to design them nicely. Now you can select those objects, choose Edit > Edit > Layout Zone > Objects to InDesign Document to convert them into an INDD file which replaces the original objects. Give the INDD file to the designer to make pretty.

When they’re done, you can just click Update in the Links panel (to update the InDesign document). Or you can choose Edit > Layout Zone > Linked InDesign Page to Objects, to convert that person’s design back into editable pieces in InDesign.

In my opinion, this script is life-changing.

Where to Get the Script

Now, where do you get it? Why, right here, of course! As Tim Cole mentioned on his BackChannel blog, Martinho da Gloria has generously made this available to anyone. Just visit automatication’s web site to download it. (If you like Layout Zone, pay special attention to the Donate button on that page!) click on the button below to download it. (You may need to right-click on it to save the file.)

After you download it, unzip it, and put the LayoutZone folder loose in the Scripts folder (inside the InDesign application folder). Next time you relaunch InDesign, you’ll find the Layout Zone features in the Edit menu.


If you think this is amazing (I do), and you’re looking for someone to do custom scripting, feel free to contact Martinho via his Web site.

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, CreativePro Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world.
You can find more about David at

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  • Eugene Tyson says:

    This looks quite cool. Downloading now, can’t wait to try it out.

    Is it getting to the stage where the user will just program InDesign themselves?

    That’s what I like about InDesign, it’s very customizable.

  • Wa Veghel says:

    Installed it here on a Dutch version of InDesign CS3 5.02. Starting InDesign results in a dialog javascript error: ‘Object does not support menu-items’


  • Robert says:

    Of course I wanted to try-out this great thing immediately. But to my regret I get an error on my german CS3 with OS X Leopard. Translated by me the error says: No 55. Object does not support attribute or method “menuitems” Line: 13. This error appears when InDesign is starting and the script should by loaded (as I understand it). Therefore it does not appear in the files-menu.

  • Tim Cole says:

    I’m guessing that the script in its current form isn’t going to load into non-English menus. We’ll have to check with Martinho to see if this can be remedied or not.

  • Tim Cole says:

    Martinho says he’s testing a new version that should work in non-English versions. Stay tuned.

  • Wa Veghel says:

    I contactd Martinho. In one hour time a had a new version that worked fine here in my Dutch InDesign!
    now that is GREAT support!! And: for free.
    It is like QXPress comp-zones – but as it should be. (Comp zones in QXPress always are rendered as images at print and PDF time.)

    I LIKE it!!

  • Tim Cole says:

    Martinho is a very good developer, and this script is sort of a resume he’s passing around. I’ve been playing with it for a while now as it’s evolved, and have found it to be very, very useful. The ability to convert to native InDesign objects is killer.

  • Fritz says:

    Wow, this script is amazing. I can’t beleive that they are able to have the linked ID file come back as individual pieces. I imagine it is using some crazy paste in place commands on acid to make this happen behind the scenes.

    Did they show this off at the conference?

  • Tim Cole says:

    I demo’d it today at the conference. I had an older version that still had some stacking order problems when converting back to native objects, but the latest versions appear to have solved that issue. I like it lots.

  • Wa Veghel says:

    >The ability to convert to native InDesign objects is killer.

    Exactly. In the last few hours I already recieved two updated versions that solved (little) problems. The man is my hero of the day :-)

  • I have updated the script links above with the new script Martinho fixed.

  • Fritz says:

    I realized something amazing about this script. If you simply place any ID file inside another ID file you can use this script to break it apart back into editable files. You do not have to use it first to create the file to be able break it back apart.

    It is amazing.

  • Fritz, yes, that is quite amazing. It also has an interesting side-effect: It makes a very easy way to transform an entire layout. For example, you can use the script on a whole page of objects. Then rotate, scale, or even skew the INDD file. Now when you convert back to editable objects, the whole layout is transformed.

  • If you want more information about how to use the LayoutZone script, check out Tim Cole’s detailed instructions.

  • Robert says:

    Great support. Complaining before going to bed here in Germany, patched in the morning. Many thanks

  • Klaus Nordby says:

    No matter what kind of objects I have selected, using the script only gives me this error:
    Error: Invalid font style ‘BoldItalic’
    (Source code Line: 1080)
    (And I’m using all-English stuff!)

  • Wa Veghel says:

    I showed to a classroom students today: amazing! I copied the placed frame, scaled both, then reverted one back: they are absolutly identical in textflow etc.

    This should be standard in CS4, Hell, it should have been standard in CS3.
    What AM I saying: I have it now standard!

  • I have finalized a new version of Layout Zone (1.0b14) to fix an issue that Windows users have been reporting (Error: Invalid font style ?BoldItalic?). This new version should be available for download soon.

  • Okay, the download version above is now 1.0b14. :)

  • Layout Zone 1.0b14 also corrects the position of the “Layout Zone” sub-menu in InDesign for Windows. Please look for the “Layout Zone” sub-menu under the “Edit” menu.

  • Qing says:

    Hi Martinho da Gloria,

    Layout Zone ? Very Cool script! But It’ll get Error to the users of InDesign CS3 in CCJK Versions :

    Error: Object does not support the property or method ‘documentPresets’
    (Source code Line: 355)

    BCZ: it’s not such a property method of ‘documentPresets’ for CCJK Versions !

    Anyway, thanks for sharing such a good script!

  • Qing, The script have not been tested for CCJK versions of InDesign. There is maybe some differences in the object model. I’m willing to make the script work with CCJK versions but might need your collaboration. If you are interested please contact me thru my website ( Thank you. Martinho

  • Qing says:

    Martinho, I’m working with Win XP SP2 and CCJK versions of InDesign CS3, How do I make collaboration with you? Email you for some details?

  • Qing, please email me at :
    “info AT automatication DOT com”

  • Fritz says:

    I noticed a problem with the script. If I place a layered ID file into a layout and I try to convert it back into ID objects it converts back, but it gets the layers all wrong. I have to reorder everything to get it back in the right order.

  • Tim Cole says:

    Fritz, which version of the script are you using?

  • Fritz says:

    I am running the latest version 1.0b14. I am on a macbook pro running OSX 10.5.2 and ID is patched to 5.0.2.

  • Martinho sent me b15 and the link above is now linked to this version.

  • ruebi says:

    Hello! I´m using 1.0b15. The problem with the wrong arrangement of the layers exist furthermore but not in either case?!

  • Tim Cole says:

    Ruebi, not exactly sure what your post means, but I’m guessing that you’re still getting some incorrect layer stacking when converting the placed ID file back into native objects.

    Managing objects on layers is not an easy thing to do via scripting, and the author has to work within the limitations of what the scripting commands enable him to do.

    That said, I find the feature extremely useful, even if I have to correct some object stacking order when I convert the placed file back into native objects.

  • I’m releasing a new version later today to correct the layers issue.
    Special thanks to Fritz for sending me sample files so I could figure out what the problem was.

  • gerd says:

    Your script is amazing. Your dedication and helpfulness in the refining and perfecting this script are astounding. Thank you so very much.

  • Tim Cole says:

    I’ve been testing Martinho’s latest update, and so far no stacking order or layer problems. When he officially releases it, be sure to go grab it.

  • Shirley Reul says:

    When I have tried to place the Layout folder into the scripts folder it says can’t find fild specfiied. Please advise. I work off of windows.

  • Tim Cole says:

    Not exactly sure what your problem is, Shirley, but here’s how you install the script:

    ? Extract the .zip file
    ? Put the Layout Zone scripts folder in the root level of the Scripts folder in your InDesign application folder.
    ? Do not put the Layout Zone folder in the Scripts Panel Folder

    ? Relaunch InDesign. You should see the Layout Zone command in the Edit menu.

    Note: This script requires InDesign CS3 in order to work. It will not work in earlier versions.

  • Scott says:

    Layout Zone is an unbelievable gift to all InDesign users! Many thanks for making this available to the community.

  • Jean-Claude Tremblay says:

    When I saw Tim doing a demo of this at the Indesign Conference Keynote I was so excited that I wanted to fly back home right away to try it… But the sun of Miami was so good that I have wait until I came back.

    I love this add-on a lot.

    Two little thing it does not seems to do well.

    1. You cannot select more than one placed page to use the “Linked Indesign Page to Object”. You have to do it one by one.

    2. This one is a bit more important. If you rotate a placed page, then turn it to object. The shadow angle is not recalculate but repositioned instead. Same thing happens if the page use effect with “Use Global Light” different than the one in the document you are placing it when you ask to turn it into objects. I understand how this can probably not been corrected, but at least It would be great if the add-on could bring a warning dialog.

    Anyways, Martinho thanks a lot.

  • Jay Nelson says:

    There’s a little bit of misinformation about Quark’s Composition Zones feature in the comments on this page.

    First, it’s not correct that “Comp zones in QXPress always are rendered as images at print and PDF time.” Composition Zones are always maintained as native, editable QuarkXPress items. They print and export exactly as other page items do.

    Second, “you can?t convert the composition zone back into editable objects” isn’t correct either. While the feature isn’t at all obvious, it’s possible to do that. A Composition Zone is always maintained as a separate Layout within a QuarkXPress Project. It’s hidden, but it’s there. A checkbox in one of the dialogs that control the Composition Zone lets you see that Layout. If you want, you can then copy and paste the items from that layout back on top of the Composition Zone. Clumsy, but it works.

  • Jay, I appreciate your points. However, the first point you make is more a matter of semantics, and the second point is somewhat silly. (I’ve known Jay for enough decades that I can use that word with him.)

    I think what Wa meant was just that it’s a static area when you go to print or export. It’s more or less what a placed INDD file is in an InDesign document: It acts like an image, but it really isn’t.

    The “open the original layout and copy and paste the objects back in and delete the composition zone” trick is so clunky as to hardly warrant a response. This is, of course, pretty much just what the script does. But LayoutZone does it with a precision that would be difficult to match manually in ID or QX.

  • Alan G says:

    On a nift scale of 1-10, I’d give this an 11 (i.e., really, really nifty).

  • Taysh says:

    Wow!! I can’t believe it. I’m amazed. Martinho, you deserve a knighthood for this one! :)

  • Sonja Jackson-Newton says:

    Is there a script that can take the name information from an image link and place it on a page with the image automatically?

  • tom johnson says:

    So it works in CS4, but only convert objects to InDesign page. When I try to break apart a linked InDesign page, the menu option to do that is grayed out.

    I used this in CS3 and it is a huge help when resizing A4 to Letter (or vice versa). Are there plans for a fully functional CS4 compatible version?

    I hope so.

  • […] PostsFree Layout Zones Add-On is Incredible Productivity Tool by David Blatner Printing Documents 2-Up (or n-up) on a Page in InDesign by David Blatner Exporting […]

  • Chuck Klasek says:


    This site was emailed to me from a Craigslist chat room, and it ROCKS! The only thing is, whilst this may work on a PC, I have no InDesign Scripts folder in my Mac…only a single folder labeled “Scripts.” Do I just drop it there?

    I work in a small ’boutique’ print shop with 2 old rotary AB Dick printing presses about 35 years old, plus 4 big copy machines. I was trained on CS2 and CS3 (I use 3), but am forced to use Corel Draw at work, and so bought a copy of CS3 for my work PC…but I have troubles setting up a perfect 12-up business card page in CS3 apps, whilst Corel does it automatically (in the “print” command). This is Corel’s one and only good point I’m convinced, and I’m champing at the bit to eliminate it altogether by going strictly to CS3.

    It wouldn’t hurt to be able to use it on my Mac Pro at home, either, for freelance work.

    Thanks to whomever may help!

    Chuck Klasek
    Norman, Oklahoma
    [email protected]

  • Sheri says:

    Layout Zone is fantastic. My only small gripe: if only it knew where I saved my last INDD object, instead of defaulting to the same folder every time. I even tried putting a shortcut into that default folder, and the Save box didn’t recognize the shortcut as such. I am converting a LOT of components so I get really tired of finding the folder over and over again.

    Some questions, which are more in the nature of InDesign questions than Layout Zone questions: Layout Zone makes a document that is sized perfectly to the contents. But if I change the size of the contents, can I make the document size update accordingly? Alternatively, could I change the document size by dragging on the document borders?

    If I have placed an INDD object, and it changes in size, can I update the size of the frame automatically, to fit the new contents?


  • Nelson says:

    This sounds like a useful script. But what are the pros/cons of Layout Zone versus InCopy? Im currently on CS3 with an InCopy workflow.

  • Jeff Chan says:

    This script is really cool!
    But it seems doesn’t work for CCJK version of InDesign CS4.
    always get error:
    Error: Object does not support the property or method ?documentPresets?
    Script: 8
    (Source code Line: 927)…

  • Bruce says:

    I just found this and I this it’s a great script!
    I think it would be great though if you could also create linked .ai file as well. Sometimes you need to create a border or pattern in .ai because it would be too cumbersome to do in Indesign

  • colin flashman says:

    how have i used indesign for so long and not seen this script? this script is the gun! my only comment would be to be able to choose a folder where the indd files are saved, rather than always going back to my desktop. yes, i can create a shortcut to my working folder, but i like my idea better :)

    besides that, this is one tip-top script!

  • Glad you like the script, Colin! I liked it so much that I added it to the default scripts that ship with the Blatner Tools plug-ins. (Of course, in BT, Layout Zone shows up in the Extras menu, not the Edit menu.)

    Yes, LZ has been updated to work with CS4.

    @Nelson: LayoutZone is very different than InCopy. InCopy is all about editing text. LZ actually takes chunks of the page and turns them into other InDesign pages. InCopy would be best for working with editors; LZ is better if you need to hand off a part of a page or spread to a designer.

  • Tina says:

    I need the “Layout Zone” for German Indesign CS3. Can you help? Thank you.

  • Jan Bendix says:

    First time I’m using Layoutzone in ID4. No problem to assing zone, but when I tried to convert zone, InDesign got the error: Stopped working.
    Can anyone help me?

  • sami says:

    Is there a script that can take the name information from an image link and place it on a page with the image automatically?

  • Jongware says:

    Sami: if you are using CS5 (or newer), that’s a built-in function: Live Caption.

    It’s pretty annoying to ask random questions in an otherwise totally unrelated blog post. Next time please use the Forum.

  • […] on it. InDesign itself doesn’t have this, but Martinho da Gloria created a free add-on called Layout Zone (described here) that does all that, and more. Every InDesign user should check this tool out. Very […]

  • […] Best way, of course, is to make each story a separate file, but check out uctivity-tool.php […]

  • wil says:

    Call me an InDesign neophyte but I can’t determine from the comments if two people can work on the same InDesign document at the same time.

  • Jongware says:

    Wil, the idea is that the selected objects are saved as a new file, so someone else can work on that one.
    InDesign itself does not support opening the same file on two different systems at the same time.

  • Zoned Out says:

    This has been killed by Adobe’s latest update (CC 2014).

    I’ll keep my old InDesign just for this great addon, but would love to see an update! Thanks Martinho…

  • sayed says:

    Mr David Blatner ..
    I download the script on indesign CS5 and CC2015 dose not work at all with me..
    Why? I`am waiting for the answer….

  • DBLjan says:

    Neat! Awesome tool, but I definitly miss an multi page support: Now I have to extract every page by hand, if a collegue wants to fill pages 4-8 of 12.

    Also I dislike the default “option” after linking the .indesign-file to use the hi-res-preview instead of the document/ui default – a complex document slowed down my floppy mac to 1 frame in 30 sec while moving the picture frame.

    Mabe this is something for a 1.3b6

  • Soorya Townley says:

    I just donated money but am completely LOST. I cannot find Script on my ID program and I also can find where to download the “free” Layout software. Can you guide through? I have a MAC.

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