Docking simulations and three-dimensional quantitative structure-activity relationship (3D-QSAR) analyses were conducted on a series of indole amide analogues as potent histone deacetylase inhibitors. The studies include comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA) and comparative molecular similarity indices analysis (CoMSIA). Selected ligands were docked into the active site of human HDAC1. Based on the docking results, a novel binding mode of indole amide analogues in the human HDAC1 catalytic core is presented, and enzyme/inhibitor interactions are discussed. The indole amide group is located in the open pocket, and anchored to the protein through a pair of hydrogen bonds with Asp99 O-atom and amide NH group on ligand. Based on the binding mode, predictive 3D-QSAR models were established, which had conventional r2 and cross-validated coefficient values (r(cv)2) up to 0.982 and 0.601 for CoMFA and 0.954 and 0.598 for CoMSIA, respectively. A comparison of the 3D-QSAR field contributions with the structural features of the binding site showed good correlation between the two analyses. The results of 3D-QSAR and docking studies validate each other and provided insight into the structural requirements for activity of this class of molecules as HDAC inhibitors. The CoMFA and CoMSIA PLS contour maps and MOLCAD-generated active site electrostatic, lipophilicity, and hydrogen-bonding potential surface maps, as well as the docking studies, provided good insights into inhibitor-HDAC interactions at the molecular level. Based on these results, novel molecules with improved activity can be designed.