Letting a Non-Designer Edit Text in an Adobe InDesign Project
April 30, 2014 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on an Adobe Indesign project with a designer friend. The project incorporates lots of text, and I want to save him the hassle of having to enter/update my constant revisions of text content. I know nothing about design, generally, or this software, specifically.

Alternatives we've come up with:

1. He finds a way to export the style sheets into Word or something for me to edit and then plug back in.

2. I sign up for a few months of Indesign in the cloud (not sure about my learning curve on this, and/or the peril of my entering changes which screw stuff up).

Any other suggestions?

Versioning isn't important, and we don't necessarily need to work on the project at the same time (i.e. we both work in spurts).
posted by Quisp Lover to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had to use InDesign for two years in a college newspaper office. I started out with no knowledge of InDesign.

The learning curve is very short and editing text is very easy. I would sign up for the free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud and go for it.
posted by topoisomerase at 8:52 AM on April 30, 2014

I did this about 2 years ago so I don't remember all the details, but IIRC it's pretty easy to set up your inDesign file so that it links from the word document directly, so that you can make changes in the word document and they will be reflected in the inDesign file. Let me know if you need more details, I am at work and don't have access to my inDesign files at the moment.
posted by matcha action at 8:58 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

matcha, thanks, I think that's what my designer friend is hastily trying to set up now. I was hoping to save him the aggravation, but if it winds up going that way, I'll PM you, thanks. One problem is that my only copy of Word is ancient, so I'd need to fire up a Parallels emulator to run it in Mountain Lion.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2014

This is a problem that we often run into at work. You would have 2 different versions of the files, but we have found that having the designer friend save the file as a PDF is best. You would just need the ability to edit PDFs in this case.
posted by lovelygirl at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2014

Adobe Acrobat is super-expensive, alas.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:12 AM on April 30, 2014

Hmm...I can edit PDFs with PDFpenPro for $99....
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:24 AM on April 30, 2014

Sign up for a free trial of InCopy, not InDesign—you'll be able to edit the text without touching the design. And all your changes can be tracked.
posted by editorgrrl at 9:26 AM on April 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Incopy sounds perfect. One problem: he's using CS5.5, not CS6 (and doesn't want to upgrade).

If I sign up for InCopy in the cloud, would I be screwing up his stuff?

Is there a non-cloud version of InCopy that's strictly 5.5 (if it's older, that may be good...can get it cheaper)
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2014

Both my InDesign & InCopy are CS5.
posted by editorgrrl at 9:49 AM on April 30, 2014

Wow, InCopy sounds great - I wish I'd had that when I was working on print projects.

I'd contact Adobe to ask about compatibility. I'm not sure what their answer will be. InDesign CS5 documents were not backwards compatible with CS4 which was really annoying. Don't know if they changed that with CS5/CS6, or how that works with InCopy.

Oh and one thing about the "Creative Cloud" - it's a stupid name that Adobe came up with when they switched to a subscription model for CS6. It's still desktop software, you just pay monthly.
posted by radioamy at 10:39 AM on April 30, 2014


InDesign is never backwards compatible, because it is essentially a very complicated, and proprietary XML table that gets rewritten with every new feature.

InCopy plugs text into a specific part of that table, following the correct XML markup that InDesign expects.

I suspect InCopy is similarly not backwards compatible. If you can actually purchase InCopy 5.5, thats what you should do.

If that is not possible, and getting both onto CC isn't an option, Word isn't such a terrible idea. I feel very very dirty for saying this, but hear me out.

Your designer will need to do some setting up of the document to export stories to InCopy, and his life will be easier if he's done some basic groundwork. (Assuming hes not some kind of savage animal that doesn't use Paragraph or Character Styles.)

That said, you're doing the same thing when you export a Word doc. Word docs are again, just XML. Except they're stupid weird Word XML. InDesign can map the stupid-weird-.doc XML into InDesign intelligible XML and map the Word Paragraph/Character Styles into InDesign Paragraph/Character Styles. Word XML has issues where it doesn't always close Character Style tags. This has gotten better in recent updates.

Either way, good luck.
posted by fontophilic at 1:07 PM on April 30, 2014

Why aren't you doing everything in .txt or .rtf files and having him Place them? Is the design based on, like, text clouds or something where the changes in the text would fundamentally change the layout beyond just reflowing it?
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on April 30, 2014

Oh, and InDesign is backwards compatible for the most part in CC; I have to work with printers who haven't upgraded, so you can still save your files as ID5 or whatever. You lose some of the flash bang whizzers of the new stuff, but it's not a big deal in my experience.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on April 30, 2014

Yeah, klangklangston has the answer here. No reason to get a new version of anything. Just edit the text in outside documents in Word or Notepad or whatever, then place the text object into your InDesign document. Then you just edit the text file and the InDesign document updates automatically.
posted by wondercow at 6:01 AM on May 1, 2014

…but don't use Word. Their nonsense formatting bullshit is something that designers have to frequently strip out to get clean copy. Microsoft Word is for ruiners to ruin design.
posted by klangklangston at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2014

A problem with Incopy is that it seems the project needed to be initiated there in the first place. This one is already in indesign, and it is apparently not feasible to make preexisting style sheet text editable with Incopy from this direction.

Also, jury is out whether initiating in Incopy would allow him to keep working in cs5.5 with indesign. It would surely work if I used an older version of Incopy, but system requirements are very narrow: I'd have to be running one of two specifically stated older OSes, both way previous to the 10.8.5 I'm running.

posted by Quisp Lover at 7:46 AM on May 2, 2014

Uh, that doesn't hold true with my experience using InCopy. Regardless...

So, again, I half consider making this an anonymous comment to protect my reputation, but Word isn't such a bad option here. What you are NOT doing, is putting a raw word doc into ID. That will make your designer sad.

What you are doing, is exporting an RTF from ID, and open it in Word.

If you've got p&c-styles going in your ID doc, those get brought into Word. Now you just need to define those p&c-styles in Word, add them to the Word Doc style template and use those styles correctly as you edit your doc. When you import from Word to INDD, you map those styles, and save the custom mapping. Now you can swap files and have the import work pretty well.

Pretty well, does not mean perfectly every time. I mentioned some common shortfalls of Word's shitty XML above.

This is better than just placing an RTF that updates, because it gives paragraph and character style control to the designer.

So all of this is assuming that you are doing some fiddly nit-picky edits and expect to do several rounds of edits where it is worth the trouble of doing all this junk. It will also be less cumbersome if you just make proof-editors marks on a printed copy, borrow this guys computer for an hour or two and edit it yourself using the indesign story editor.

If you are drastically re-writing vast swaths of this stuff, it's probably not worth getting it laid out until the edits are comma level edits.
posted by fontophilic at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2014

(From working on the MeFi mag, I know that current versions of Word will even save RTFs with a bunch of broken formatting noise that often needs to be cleared out of the text before it can be properly formatted. People did send in Word RTFs that made Brandon sad. We found it faster to just do the edits in the RTFs in Text Edit or Notepad, then resend. Maybe custom styles gets around this, but ugh, it just seems like a lot of work to make Word into a functional program for design rather than using the right tools from the outset.

And with a placed file, if I recall correctly, you can still do paragraph and character design tweaks within ID. Is this just CC? I was doing it for some legislative fact sheets the other day, and it worked fine when we had to reflow after cutting a bunch of text to pick up lines.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2014

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