crossbase.print and crossbase.layout: Integrated and fully automated print production with InDesign

crossbase.print is the control centre for layout specialists. It controls the automatic layouting of printed sales documents for all countries and languages – from single pages to PDFs ready for press.

crossbase.layout is the module for layout specialists and graphic designers. The layout editor can be used to generate layout templates for catalog pages, which can be structured or creatively designed.

crossbase.print controls the automatic production of pages for all print publications in any language and for any market. As well as the placement of images, text and tables, it also manages layout templates and pages.
The correction process, book functions for producing the entire document and finally editing for printout are also integrated. For production, it uses the market-leading publishing software Adobe InDesign.

The layout editor is operated in a similar way to Adobe InDesign. crossbase.layout provides a number of pre-configured layout rules. Flexible layout templates can be produced with innovative functions such as displacement and page make-up control. These can then be reused for similarly structured pages.

Key functions

Layout editor

A layout template consists of layout areas linked to images, tables and text from the database. A layout area may be displaced by one or more other areas. At the same time, one area may also displace several others. The interdependencies are shown clearly and visually in the layout editor, allowing the user to manage even complex relationships.

A layout area can be assigned a rule that defines how images, tables and text are laid out. A layout rule might for example read: "Position product photos in this layout area from left to right, leaving a gap of 15 mm, and position the images vertically on a column grid. If there are captions, position these at the bottom left-hand corner of the image with a gap of 10 mm."

Automatic placement following a layout template generates an InDesign page document. Images, tables and text can be moved, enlarged or modified later, or the user can process them in InDesign and then save the changes. This approach meets all layout requirements even in an automated print production process.

Visual production and processing of layout templates with the crossbase.layout editor

Page flow planning

Pages are stored in a publication structure based on chapters and independent of the product structure. Content can be assigned to a page in the page editor either by linking products or by directly linking images, texts and tables to the page.

Page flow planning: All links of relevance to the publication can be seen in the page editor. The page preview and layout template used are shown on the left. The images, tables and texts linked to the page can be seen in the center.

Creating tables

Product tables are created in the table editor. All requirements, covering everything from simple standard tables to complex matrix tables, are satisfied. Tables can contain features but also product images and texts. As with the layout template and page layout, the table template and table layout are decisive for tables.

Adaptations in the table layout can also be saved back to the database for subsequent updates and language changes. Complex table layout rules can be defined to minimize the number of table templates. These include rules such as dynamic column widths, functions for cell composition and grouping rules.

Page and book production

The corresponding page documents and production languages are selected in page management for page production. Fully automated page production can then be started at the click of the mouse.

Once all the pages for a chapter are complete, they are combined to form an Adobe InDesign book. The following fully automatic functions are available for books:

  • Pagination
  • Definition of page cross-references
  • Production of item index
  • Production of table of contents
  • Creation of a list of key words (sorted by specific language)
  • Type area control for left and right pages and placement of thumb index
  • Editing for printout as PDF and packaging for forwarding to the printers

Changing language

The increasing international focus is a good enough reason to start using a PIM system. Multi-lingual media production is therefore a central feature of the crossbase solution:

  • Language version: To use this function, the catalog range must be identical for all countries. The image and text frames cover the same areas in the individual language levels. Then only the key plate has to be changed when printing, which cuts costs considerably.
  • Language variant: This function has the same requirement as language version in terms of catalog range. But since the texts in some languages are longer than others, text breaks affect where images are positioned and the number of pages. Separate documents are therefore created for each language.
  • Country variant: The content differs from the master catalog because photos or catalog ranges are not the same for all countries. Country-specific catalogs are duplicated from the master catalog.
  • Language mixer: In these catalogs, different languages are shown on the same page. The foreign-language texts are positioned according to configurable language mixer rules.

Example of language mutation mode with levels

Example of language variant mode

Two-way integration offers freedom of design in InDesign

crossbase has been providing the complete integration of Adobe InDesign in the print process since 2000. Automatically generated page layouts are saved in the crossbase database alongside the InDesign page document. This makes it easy to update the content (changes or language changes) and also to upgrade to newer versions of Adobe InDesign while fully retaining the layout.

This complete integration enables the following functions:

  • Layout specialists can make any adjustments to an InDesign document or produce a creative layout and then save it in the database. This process is often used during the production of marketing brochures or mail order catalogs.
  • The traffic light switching detects and flags changes to layout-relevant data such as images, texts, product features or tables to facilitate the change workflow.
  • Free placement using the Adobe InDesign library. Through free placement, crossbase is the only solution to allow the benefits of free layouting to be combined with those of database-supported catalog production right from the start. New technology from Adobe InDesign allows all elements assigned to the page flow to be placed in their own control panel, that can be freely moved across the document. Another benefit of this is that images, tables and texts can be clearly depicted and grouped.

Free placement using the Adobe InDesign library

Traffic light switching

Traffic light switching was designed with the layout specialist's needs in mind. Events are continually logged from data maintenance and their impact on existing catalog pages displayed using the colours of a traffic light system. The layout specialist can therefore see at a glance which pages need checking and updating.

Explanation of traffic light symbols

Page management with visual status information ("traffic light switching")

Multi-layer architecture

In the crossbase database, layout and content are strictly separate items. Changes in one do not affect the other. Unlike many other systems, the layout is also split into two components. The layout templates contain placement rules and link content (text types and image categories) from the database with the layout templates. The page layout is then produced automatically in InDesign on the basis of the layout template. This contains the coordinates and settings for all placed content. Since the layout templates and the final Adobe InDesign page layout are saved independently of the page document created in Adobe InDesign, changes in all layers can be logged in detail. Content can be quickly and easily updated in the Adobe InDesign page layout and page document using automated processes. Updates to new Adobe InDesign versions can also be undertaken with ease at any time.

Graphic: multi-layer architecture

Advanced functions

Book preview

The book preview can be used to check the document prior to book production, pagination and type area control. It provides a clear, visual overview of all pages in the document, divided by chapter, with single- and double-page layouts, pagination and page breaks.
For the user, this stage saves an enormous amount of time because the InDesign book only needs to be created once during the catalog production process.

The book preview function simulates the make-up and pagination of all pages and highlights any make-up problems that may arise, e.g. if double pages are split up or if a chapter incorrectly starts on the right-hand page rather than the left.

Batch and finishing module

The batch module integrates all the steps required to produce print-ready and web-enabled PDF catalogs - from multi-lingual table and page production to pagination and type area control.
It includes functions such as adding thumb indexes, defining specifications for left and right pages, correct pagination and automatic insertion of product and page references - even across several InDesign book documents.

Document import

Manually created InDesign documents, for example elaborately designed brochures produced by an agency or layout specialist, can be saved to the crossbase PIM database with just a few clicks. All content and layout information is automatically retained.
Content such as images, text and tables is split according to user definitions and stored in the database as text and media elements. Text can then be efficiently translated and language changes produced automatically.

Page workflow

The module supports the correction process in catalogs or brochures with a function that allows layout specialists, graphic designers, product managers and editors to add processing information to pages. The required processing steps are entered and then e-mailed to the appropriate person with a start and end date and a to-do list.
As well as structured planning and control data such as processing status, sign-off and tasks to be completed, it is also possible to add comments and attach documents.

crossbase print server

The production time is greatly reduced using the crossbase print server, which is able to bundle several production computers. Available computers report their availability to the crossbase print server, which distributes production jobs in parallel to the available PCs. The process is intelligently controlled by a load balancer module. The server farm is especially useful for large production volumes, for example when different language versions are being produced.

Handling text overflows

Text overflows in the foreign languages can be corrected manually in Adobe InDesign and permanently saved back to the database. Text overflow corrections can however also be automated. If a text overflow is detected, the content of the field can be reduced in size using predefined text modification methods.

Configurable modifications include horizontal and vertical scaling, font size and line spacing. Using a threshold value, you can set the limit to which certain parameters may be adapted. This has the effect of maintaining the overall look as far as possible.

The text is adapted by the automatic modification of various character formats in Adobe InDesign. The user can specify exactly which character format parameters are changed, in what order, and in what steps. User-configurable characteristics include horizontal and vertical scaling, font size and line spacing. A threshold value defines the limit to which certain parameters may be adapted. This retains the overall look of the document as far as possible.

Example: Any parameters can be defined, so for example a text can first be scaled horizontally by up to 40% in steps of 1%. If this does not resolve the overflow problem, the next rule comes into play and the font size is reduced by 2 points. Other parameters include vertical scaling and line spacing.

The wide range of parameters and settings available minimises the occurrence of text overflow. Any remaining text overflows are automatically highlighted to make them easier to spot. This process is particularly useful when dealing with foreign language texts and significantly reduces the amount of rework required.

Example of text shrinking and overflow


crossbase.list, which provides an efficient method for producing price lists, can be used independently of the crossbase PIM system because it does not require a direct link to a database. As Microsoft Office is installed in many cases, Excel was chosen as the configurator for the automatic price lists. This eliminates the need for complex configuration methods. Text formatting and media are exported once for one or several projects, so they do not need to be supplied separately for each project.

Price lists can be created with the help of an Excel spreadsheet populated with data from crossbase and (optionally) the ERP system, as well as supplied image files. Because it is not dependent on a database, crossbase.list can also be used by your local branches or foreign subsidiaries. If your subsidiaries do not use the PIM system, exporting to Excel is an effective way of generating a price list at low cost.


Thomas Kern
Managing Partner, Project Manager
+49 (0)7031 / 714 – 720


Herby Tessadri
Head of Sales, Authorized Signatory
+43 (0)5574 / 64880 – 39

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