How do I link a bunch of documents into a formatted binder of sorts?
June 11, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How do I link a bunch of documents together into a binder which automatically updates when changes are made?

I’ll be turning in my dissertation in a few months and my chapters are in various stages of completion. Some are fully done (published) and others are in draft form. I would like to be able to link all the documents into a binder so at any given time I have a formatted dissertation ready to print, share or just (gasp) submit. Also, I don't want to scramble to do this at the very end.

Chapter text is currently in word 2007 format [can be easily saved as pdf]. Figures are in Adobe Illustrator format [can be easily saved as eps or pdf]
I want to have single formatted document with a table of contents and continuous page numbers. My goal is to have the individual chapters (and figures) linked to this document so any changes made to a individual file will update in this binder. As you can guess, some will not change [the ones already published] and others will change quite frequently. How do I do this?

I have Adobe Indesign but I am open to other software suggestions.
posted by special-k to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
if you're rather savvy, I'd suggest using Makefiles. Of course that requires you to be able to manipulate many command line utilities. On the other hand, this situation is tailor-made for some sort of build-automation software.
posted by Monochrome at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2008

LaTeX and makefiles (re: Monochrome) sound like a great solution.
posted by SirStan at 1:49 PM on June 11, 2008

Best answer: InDesign CS1, 2, or 3? In CS2 and up (I haven't used v1), you can create a Book (File > New > Book). That will bring up an empty list which you can then populate with the chapters, front matter, back matter, and cover in the form of plain old .indd files which you can edit separately. The Book pane's context menu will let you create continuous pagination over all the files and export everything as a single PDF.

Before laying out your chapters, make sure you have a solid master page. Changing it later is annoying since there's no easy way to synchronize them between files (at least in CS2). Styles, however, synchronize easily through an icon at the bottom of the Book pane. Place the figures in-line with the text so they flow with it. Whenever you change one of the Illustrator files, you do need to open the chapter and have it autofix the link. The container with the table of contents (in a separate .indd within the book) will likewise need to be told to update as well. If you just remember to sync styles, open-fix-save for links, and kick the ToC before you export, it's otherwise painless. Quite handy when managing something so big. Word may have a binder option as well, but I don't know if it will offer to update the images automagically for you -- the versions I've used just embeds them on import.

I've done a few 600+ page books with dozens of chapters; feel free to email me if you're stuck on any part of layout or assembly. (I'll do it for you if it's a dissertation on puppies.)
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:50 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If your chapter text is in Word format, create a Master Document in Word. The link is to a Microsoft support page, but there is also a full description in Word Help. I used this for my own PhD dissertation. You can edit subdocuments and the master document (when expanded to show all the sub-document contents) also updates. You can get sequential page numbering and a Table of Contents, when the master document is expanded.
posted by Susurration at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: Susurration: But the figures are in eps and that rules out this approach. Thanks for the suggestion though.
posted by special-k at 2:25 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: cowbellemoo: I have CS 3. Thanks for the offer to help!
posted by special-k at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2008

You might not even need LaTeX. If you're conscientious about exporting to PDF every time you work on a file, you can write a Makefile that will use something like GhostScript, xpdf, or pdftk to concatenate all the individual chapters into one big document. A table of contents can be generated with maybe a five-line shell script.

I don't know about cross-references, though. Maybe you can't do without LaTeX.

It would help to know what field this dissertation is. Some departments (math, physics, linguistics for some reason, etc.) will have lots of LaTeX/make-savvy people, and others won't.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:48 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: d. z. wang: I am in ecology. Most people in my field (including me) are quite naive when it comes to LaTeX.
posted by special-k at 9:29 PM on June 11, 2008

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