Go in deep for a long overdue examination of InCopy, the features new to version CS2, how InCopy cut one major publisher’s 60-day book production schedule down to 9 days, and how it will save you time, man-power, and money over Microsoft Word in a collaborative creative and editorial workflow.
Concurrency = Efficiency
Adobe calls it the “LiveEdit” or “parallel” workflow. Working in InDesign CS2, designers assign portions of the layout content to editors for editing in InCopy CS2. From there, it’s hands-off those sections for the art department until the final layout check.
Previous versions of InCopy worked with stories, single or threaded text frames forming a single text flow. Each story was exported from InDesign as an InCopy INCX file. Writers and editors worked on stories in InCopy while the Bridge plug-ins (not to be confused the Adobe Bridge digital asset management application) used a check-in/check-out system to lock stories from concurrent editing by both other InCopy users as well as the InDesign-based designers. When editing was completed, the InCopy user checked the INCX file back in, releasing it for modification by other editorial personnel or allowing designers to update the InDesign layout.
One or many stories could be edited in InCopy simultaneously, which was necessary because stories and INCX files were limited to a single text flow each–one story for the body copy, the headline in another, a third for the byline, the kicker was another story, yet more INCX files for each photo caption, callout, and pull quote, and so on. A single editor often worked on a dozen stories comprising a single article. Designers had to export and manage every editor’s dozen stories.
Recognizing that articles are laid out in multiple text and image frames, and that editors are often responsible for editing the content of more than one frame, Adobe has significantly improved the collaborative InCopy-InDesign workflow. Version CS2 introduces assignments.
Individual stories may still be delegated to InCopy users, but most often multiple stories and even their accompanying artwork are handed off to editorial in the form of assignments or groups of stories. InDesign creatives simply select the frames to assign, and, on the new Assignments palette, delegate the level of control and, optionally, to whom the material is assigned. The LiveEdit plug-ins then automatically generate INCX InCopy documents and an INCA assignment file to wrap them together with a snapshot of the layout. Editors working in InCopy then open the assignment file via the matching Assignments palette in their application, check-out the content, and edit all stories in the article simultaneously.
To help limit the confusion for editorial personnel not accustomed to seeing an in-progress layout, the InDesign creative has control over what is visible in InCopy. When making assignments, creatives may choose to include all spreads, only those spreads containing assigned content, or merely the assigned content, which consists of only spreads on which appear assigned content and also greys out non-assigned frames.
Throughout the process, a live link between the story and layout allowed editors to view a frozen snapshot of the InDesign layout from within InCopy.
In both the InCopy Layout view as well as the actual InDesign document, are optionally visible frame adornments that communicate critical information about assigned content. Colored borders corresponding to the individual InDesign and InCopy user identity colors give at-a-glance information about what content is assigned and to whom. Icons at the top of assigned frames denote the status of the content–whether it is checked-out and editable by the current user, checked-out by another team member, available for check-out, or out of date.
Keeping assignments and layouts in synch is similar to updating linked images, with the Assignments palette taking the place of the Links palette in this case. As an InCopy user checks in a story, the InDesign Assignments palette and, if visible, the frame adornments, change to denote that the content requires updating. The same holds true in InCopy: When the production department saves its InDesign document, InCopy reports that the layout is out of date. InDesign can even push layout updates to InCopy.
Designers and editors work concurrently and independently, coming together only when actual layout–not content–revisions are required. Finally, genuine efficiency is injected into editorial and production collaboration.
Stories and assignments managed by the LiveEdit plug-ins–either at the direction of an InDesign user or by simply opening an INDD in InCopy–are secured through a check-in/check-out system. Before editing the content of frames, InCopy users must first check-out the story or assignment, which prevents other InCopy or InDesign users from simultaneously editing the same material. When the writer or editor has completed her work, she simply checks the story or assignment back in, releasing it to check-in by other team members.
Although checking material in and out for editing may sound like a hassle, it’s actually an easy and almost instant process. And, as with most features of InDesign and InCopy, there are several ways to do it.
Once content is delegated by the InDesign user for editing within InCopy, either InCopy or InDesign may manage assignments via the new Assignments palette. Highlight an assignment or individual stories within an assignment, and click the Check Out Selection button. On the File menu InCopy users may check-in one or all stories instantly, or cancel the check-out, reverting the content to its prior state while releasing the lock. Context-sensitive menu entries (right-click or CTRL-click [Mac]) as well as keyboard shortcuts are fast and easy. Even more facile is the ability to simply click in a story in any of InCopy’s three editing views, and begin typing; an alert will popup asking if the user would like to check-out the story. Provided the assignment isn’t already checked out to someone else, which is indicated in Story and Galley views as well as on the Assignments palette, the process is near instantaneous.
Like InDesign, Illustrator, and all of the Creative Suite 2-version applications, InCopy CS2 includes support for Adobe Version Cue. Version Cue managed files, which includes support for InDesign INDD files as well as InCopy Assigment INCA and InCopy document INCX files, are given an extra level of protection from double-modifications. And, of course, Version Cue can be configured to create automatic backups and multiple restorable versions of InCopy-edited content.
The InDesign creative is in the driver’s seat of the LiveEdit workflow, and may cancel assignment checkouts or force a check-in at any time. By putting InDesign in control of LiveEdit, Adobe has ensured that the production department isn’t left hanging when a writer forgets to check-in an assignment.
Not Your Father’s Word Processor
Those making the leap from Microsoft Word to InCopy will find the path easy.
In addition to its tight integration with InDesign, its copyfitting features, and its safety features, InCopy holds numerous other advantages over Word in collaborative creative-editorial workflows.
At some point, nearly every writer and editor must insert accented or non-keyboard special characters such as the Euro symbol or a middle dot into a story. InCopy contains InDesign’s Glyphs palette. Accented or special glyphs may be inserted on the fly with just a double-click, as opposed to Word’s Insert Special Characters function buried two levels deep on a menu, then spread among a tabbed dialog that must be invoked for each and every new glyph insertion point.
What truly makes InCopy superior to Word on the editorial desktop is as much what it doesn’t have, as what it does. There are no mail-merge features, no forms functions, no address book, and no mangled code Web page design tools. Themes, text-to-speech, and document maps are irrelevant to writing, so InCopy doesn’t include them. InCopy is a purpose-built editorial word processor. It fulfills that purpose elegantly, powerfully, and without the head-spinning tool glut of Microsoft Word.
When considering a change in mission critical applications there are five primary concerns for any workflow: Direct equipment (or software) cost, cost of requisite collateral equipment and software, cost of user education and loss of productive time during that education, compatibility with other users, and support for legacy documents. Adobe has taken great care to address those concerns.
Making the Switch
The direct cost of equipment or software when moving to InCopy is simple: US$249 retail and $89 upgrade per copy. Volume discounts are, of course, available.
Collateral equipment costs are non-existent: InCopy requires no other product to replace Word; it can make its own PDFs and export its own XML. And, to be used within a parallel workflow with the art department, requires only that InDesign be installed on the creative team’s computers. Editorial need not have InDesign installed to participate in LiveEdit collaboration.
The cost of user education is minimal, even if a professional trainer is brought in to ease the transition. Because InCopy works like any other word processor, experienced Word users will find themselves instantly familiar and almost instantly productive.
One of the most important features of InCopy speaks directly to the concern over compatibility with other users in the workgroup and with other workgroups: It’s cross-platform. Any mission-critical application must have platform parity, with mirrored interfaces and functions between the leading operating systems. InCopy looks and acts exactly the same on a Macintosh, the preferred operating system of designers and journalists, as it does on Windows, which is steadily penetrating not only the business production sector but all areas of publishing. More to the point, the LiveEdit workflow is platform homogenous: Creatives may create assignments in InDesign on the Mac (or Windows), then seamlessly hand those off to editors working on either Mac or Windows without the slightest alteration in the workflow.
Finally, support for legacy documents is crucial. If the workflow has used Word for ten years, amassing a library of content, that can be a powerful inducement to maintain the status quo. Fortunately, InCopy not imports Microsoft Word and ubiquitous Rich Text Format documents, but it can export to them as well. It can also import and export application-independent XML to move data in to, or out from, a database, Web design application, or for any other purpose. Thus both legacy support and workgroup compatibility is addressed.
Like InDesign’s ability to use QuarkXPress or PageMaker keyboard shortcuts to ease users’ transition from those applications, InCopy includes a keyboard shortcut set for Microsoft Word users, reducing the learning curve while increasing comfort level.
Word users will find InCopy’s clean interface and purpose-built word processing commands a refreshing change from the kitchen-sink-too Word. The transition from proficiency in Word to proficiency in InCopy is remarkably easy, and brings with it a new level of productivity in its collaboration with InDesign creatives.