A Newsletter Designer Looks at InCopy CS2

A Newsletter Designer Looks at InCopy CS2


Adobe’s InCopy promises benefits from increased collaboration, with Adobe’s famed integration with InDesign CS2, for editorial/creative layout workflows as a stand-alone application for workgroups of 2-12 members. Does it deliver? Associate Editor Sam Klein gives it the acid test, finds the benefits.

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Adobe’s InCopy promises benefits from increased collaboration, with Adobe’s famed integration with InDesign CS2, for editorial/creative layout workflows as a stand-alone application for workgroups of 2-12 members. Does it deliver? Associate Editor Sam Klein gives it the acid test, finds the benefits.

To anyone who has an idea of what the concept of the workflow means when doing print layout, certain bottlenecks and potential obstacles come to mind, from editors waiting on layout artists to get layout proofs to designers waiting for knowledge on how much space they’ll have to insert ads. Certainly the layout world of today is different and more efficient than it once was, but the workflow between editors and layout artists is frequently still a pipeline-editors give content to layout who place pictures, text, and ads, who return a PDF to editors with comments the copy’s fit, which is further edited (usually in Microsoft Word) and returned to the designer. It all either goes one way or the other.

Adobe’s editorial program InCopy CS2 intends to address this by enabling editors and designers to work on layouts simultaneously–a parallel flow. By being able to assign content, designers can enable editors to work out copy fitting while leaving the design sacrosanct.

This, at least, is the promise and the goal. Does InCopy CS2 deliver on its promises? Come along with me as I put InCopy through its paces. I found out some useful things and came to some unexpected–and happy–conclusions.

The Testing Ground


The Columbia Overlook (which I have designed from the Winter 2004 issue forward) is a quarterly periodical, the publication of of the Columbia Group of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, a group that serves NW Oregon. The Overlook, delivered as an insert to the Oregon Chapter’s Oregon Conifer publication, has an estimated circulation of about 25,000.

The workflow is essentially a pipeline. Me, the designer, receive content from my editor (who I’ll refer to as Editor Mark) via various email routes. The textual content is prepared, as in many places, in Microsoft Word. Through a series of cycles, content is imported and arranged and edited to fit, a PDF is generated, sent to Mark for proofing and revision suggestions which are then sent back to me and are committed to the design, and the cycle begins anew.

According to Adobe’s InCopy CS2 FAQ file (http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/pdfs/faq.pdf), this is a possible solution that is right up our street. Though not necessarily appropriate to an email-based workflow it’s not at all unreasonable to expect that at some near-future time the editor and the designer (a 2-person workgroup) can collaborate on the same machine for producing this publication.

Therefore, let’s play a “what-if” game, where myself (as “Designer Sam”) and Editor Mark are working from different accounts same machine. We can imagine Editor Mark networked in. Our tools will be InDesignCS2 (for myself) and InCopyCS2 (for Editor Mark). The platform is a PowerMac G4 running Mac OS X 10.3.9.

Breaking Open the Layout

From my account I open the layout for the Fall issue and save it to a directory off the root directory so Mark has access to the files I’ll be generating. InCopy’s Live Edit workflow depend on me setting up assignments and defining users, so I’ll go there next.

The front page needs a little work. In trying to fit the content in, I’ve made the leading of the bottom story too big and it really stands out against the narrower leading of the top story. I adjust the text frames on the bottom story and the gray sidebar immediately to its right, and fix the leading on the bottom story. I now have overset text in those frames. I could do copyfitting and PDF the results to Editor Mark, but InCopy will let me assign these frames to him so he can make the changes where he feels best. I also want his input on the top story as well, but I want to lock down the big photo that’s the centerpiece–both me and Editor Mark think it has great impact.

Getting the Editor into the Loop.

InCopy’s Live Edit plugin for InDesign provides new functions in the menus and a new “Assignments” palette. I undock the Assignments palette from its original position and dock it below the toolbox on the left side to keep it in a convenient position.

Initiating assignment from the screen menu after selecting text frames

I then Command-click the frames of the two stories and the notice in the gray sidebar. A right click (CTRL-click) brings up the contextual menu; going to the bottom I find an “InCopy” item, and I do InCopy>Add To Assignment>New…. In the New Assignment dialog that comes up, I specify “Editor Mark’s Front Page.inca” as the Save As name, and in the succeeding options dialog, tell InDesign that it’s assigned to “Editor Mark”. I decide to only export the assigned spreads to him for this round, and choose an assignment color of Cyan.

Clicking Save I’m treated to one more dialog box. InCopy expects to find two sets of files, an .inca (assignment) file, and content for the assignment in a series of .incx files. I tell the interface I want to create a new folder for organization’s sake, “Editor Mark’s Front Page Content”, for the .incx files. clicking Save completes the process–I’ve created an assignment for Mark to copyfit.

Check out from he designer’s perspecive. Note the “In Use” pencil icon

The little symbols next to the assignment components–adornments–decorate the text frames in the layout and match to the symbols in the assignment palette, telling me at a glance that all assigned frames are available for checkout by both me and Editor Mark. At the last moment, I decide I want to tweak the top story, so, using the selection tool, I select a text frame in that story and select Check Out from the flyout menu on the Assignments palette. The Available adornment in the Assignments palette and next to each frame becomes the “checked out” adornment a tiny yellow #2 pencil.

Now, it’s time to invite Mark to the party.

Editor Mark Chimes In

Whilst I’ve been doing this, I’ve been having Mark fire up InCopy. He creates a User identity (File>User…) of Editor Mark, matching the user name I’ve given him in InDesign, and choosing a color to identify his assignment. He then does File>Open…, navigates to the folder where I’ve told him to find his assignment, and opens the file “Editor Mark’s Front Page.inca”.

Editor Mark sets his user name in InCopy

The assignment file opens. Mark is presented with the Story view, which looks very much like the Story Editor in InDesign. This view has a great deal of useful information-the title bars tell whether the story is available for editing and if it isn’t who has it (one story is marked as “In Use by Designer Sam” because I checked it out in the last section). Mark immediately knows where the story goes over due to the bold “Copyfit” line and the red “Over ~1 line” warning on the bottom toolbar. I’ve showed him how to customize his display to make working in it easy on the eye (He likes his type in Optima and with green on a black background, with ample space between lines).

He switches to the Layout view. He sees at a glance which stories he can edit with the “available” adornment and which story I have checked out (the In Use adornment is the pencil symbol crossed over with a red line). Mousing over the story that’s checked out by me displays a tooltip-style note saying that I have it in use. He knows it’s part of his assignment, though, because the frame is colored cyan and the fill of the frame is a screened-back cyan (all this is configurable by the user-my editor can turn frame edges or assigned frames display off in the view menu, or switch over to preview mode by going to View>Screen Mode>Preview)

Editor Mark Gets Busy

The edited story in InCopy story view, showing tracked changes and alternate text saved as notes

Editor Mark goes to work copyfitting the “Combined Disposal Facility” story. there’s not much editing to do; just get the rest of an email address into the frame. There could be some cleaning up too. He sees a soft return near the end of the article and figures that’s a good place to start, so he places his insertion point and hits delete.

But wait! He hasn’t checked out this story yet. No worries! The program sees him trying to make a change to an available story and flashes up a dialog box asking if he wants to check it out. He says “yes”, the story is checked out to him and he can start to edit.

Mark also likes to see what it is he’s changed, so he presses Command-Y on the keyboard (or Changes>Track Changes in Current Story from the menu bar) and change tracking is enabled. Now, when he presses delete on the soft-return, it turns red, and the display updates to show how much text is left to copyfit. There’s still some work left to do. The red text indicates something that’s been deleted, and it won’t show up in the layout, but the editor will still see it until changes have been accepted (which can be done at anytime from the menu bar by Changes>Accept All Changes or the keyboard shortcut CTRL-SHIFT-OPTION-O).

We still need to cut down a bit. Mark identifies a part of a sentence that could be a little more concise, and decides he wants to delete it but he thinks maybe he’d like to preserve the original text just in case further edits open up room for it. InCopy makes it all very easy by storing alternative text as a note. This note travels with the story, and the designer (or anyone who has access to the layout) will be able to see them, if the editor wants opinions or input. All Mark has to do is highlight the text and press F8, and the text springs out into a box in the Story view. In the layout view the location of the note is market by a small hourglass shape, and the contextual menu allows viewing the note-which pops up in a little box of its own with complete identification and editing capabilities. Mark adds a word; it’s marked as an addition. He goes on, deleting and saving alternative text, until he’s got the copy within the space I’ve defined.

Mark Updates Me

Alternative text note in popup display

While all this has been going on, I’ve been working with the other story. InCopy allows this freedom for me to simultaneously alter the design while Mark’s working on changes to the copy, eliminating him having to ask me to edit a change into the copy he’s sent me, regenerating a PDF and shooting it off to him.

About this time, though, I’m wondering how his copyfitting is going. I ask him to push the changes my way. He does this simply by Saving (Command-S) the file. On the layout I am notified instantly the content changes by the appearance of the warning triangle next to the adornment; on the Assignments palette I highlight the story he’s working on and, using the flyout menu, select “Update Content”. The story is updated in the layout display. It’s looking pretty good. I also see the places where he inserted notes and can view them the same way that he did in InCopy (this is Adobe’s “shared code base” concept in action).

Similarly, if I make a change to the text frames and redefine the text frame space, I push the changes back to him by updating his assignment, and in InCopy he does a “Update Design”.

He also notices that the byline has lost its original formatting. I needn’t bother with this-Adobe’s shared code base to the rescue again! By placing his I-beam in the byline, which is its own paragraph, and by hitting Command-Return–the exact same keyboard shortcut that InDesign uses–a Quick Apply dialog exactly identical to the InDesign dialog appears, and he can apply the byline style just like that. Saving the file pushes the changes my way instantly.

Take the aforementioned example and repeat it as many times as needed. The impmortant thing to remember is that my editor and me are working on the layout simultaneously-he on content, me on layout design and sometimes content-responding to each one’s changes almost instantly. This is true collaboration in action, and just a glimpse of the efficiency that can be had.

And it’s all due to adding just one component-InCopy-to the editorial/design mix.

Moreover, all this activity doesn’t even cover all the features InCopyCS2 offers. Dynamic spell checking–just as in InDesign. The new Galley view takes the Story view one better by showing how many column units (inches, points, and other units) each story involves, and dictionaries that allow for adding of nonstandard words and abbreviations with just one or two clicks just wait for the learner discover.

A Workflow of One?

In modeling the possibility of me and my editor actively collaborating on the production of the quarterly, I noticed something quite unexpected. InCopy is being marketed as a workgroup application but I was seeing that it provided to me things that the InDesign Story editor did not.

Don’t misunderstand me here–the InDesign Story Editor is a brilliant addition, and as good as any improvement Adobe’s added to InDesign. Considered in the context of a single user workflow, which is what I am in reality, InCopy provides an incredible amount of control over copyfitting content, far and away surpassing the Story Editor. It really kicks the individual layout artist’s copyfitting and formatting power up to the next level.

The Dreaded Learning Curve

One other thing that must be mentioned are two words that make beginning users tremble in abject fear: “learning curve”.

Just about any new application, regardless of intuitiveness, requires orientation. Few users can intuit all the benefits an unfamiliar program can provide to them, regardless of how ‘natural’ the interface is designed.

Adobe makes orientation a snap, however. All one has to do is download the Adobe hands-on files from the InCopy website and work through the examples provided, and before you know it, you too will be building assignments for you, your editor, your spouse, and all your pets with impugnity (you can even try before you buy, with the 30-day trial version).

Not only that but the shared code base of InCopy and InDesign provide for all but identical interfaces for such things as Quick Apply, Preferences, Story and Galley display, and a great many other functions. If you know how to use InDesign, you already know some things about using InCopy.

The Bottom Line

Adobe InCopyCS2 touts tight collaboration and cooperation through a new assignment model. My own tour and test shows that these are more than mere claims. And now, since Adobe sells InCopy as a stand alone application, anyone who needs to collaborate can join in. Even the solo designer can use InCopy as a supercharged Story Editor, with the ability to track changes and preserve alternate text that Story Editor only wishes it had. I can easily see myself using it in building future layouts.

Adobe has apparently decided to stop hiding InCopy’s light under a bushel, and I have no reservations in saying it’s high time they let it shine. InCopyCS2 should become a valuable part of your toolkit no matter what the size of your workgroup is. This is definitely a must-have application.

InCopy CS2: In Production 6-Part Special Report:


Part 1: InCopy CS2, the World; World, InCopy CS2


Part 3: Proposing Efficiency with InCopy CS2


Part 4: How-To: InDesign/InCopy Collaboration: The Designer

InDesign, InCopy, InDesign CS2, InCopy CS2, Adobe, Microsoft Word

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