Proposing Efficiency with InCopy CS2

PAGE 2: Proposing Efficiency with InCopy CS2

2005
Oct
28

Optimizing a $200 million workflow with InCopy CS2 in 7 days.

Subscribe to the Discussion Surrounding This Article

Day 1 & 2: Creative personnel were already experts in InDesign, and the two-day session was much less a training class than a conversation. Designers asked questions and presented their pain points with InDesign, while I answered their questions and showed them how to overcome their pain points. Throughout, the new and updated features of CS2 were discovered, and how they may be exploited creatively was discussed.

During this time Issue 2 was resolved by teaching the designers to make effective use of: anchored objects, which tether objects outside the text flow to follow and flow with specific locations within the text flow; align to spine features that automatically reposition and realign objects and text based on their relationship to the spine of a bound document, and; object styles for storing, instantly applying, and making document-wide changes to anchored objects.

After I dispelled a number of misconceptions the team held about the printability of native Photoshop .PSD and Illustrator .AI files, we further trimmed the fat from their workflow by eliminating the need to resave original artwork in those formats into intermediary graphics formats like TIFF and EPS for placement into InDesign.

Day 3: On day three, InCopy CS2 was introduced. As the Design department was the most technically savvy of all the departments in the workflow (excepting the corporate IT personnel who were Mac-challenged), they typically acted as workflow support. Therefore it was imperative that they not only know the tools and procedures for their side of the new optimized workflow, but they also have a mastery of InCopy so they might assist other non-creative users. It took less than a day for the designers to reach an expert grasp of using InCopy CS2 as well as creating and managing InCopy assignments from within InDesign.

The project manager, who oversees the proposal process from all four departments, attended the day three training. So impressed was he at the end of the day by the efficiency of the InDesign-InCopy integration and its promise for his team, that he agreed to accelerate the workflow optimization schedule–we were going live the next day.

It’s important to note that I was initially brought in to begin what Omega expected would be a three month optimization and migration process, and that the consultation began while the team was actively working on a proposal. Although they hoped to answer several InDesign questions and frustrations for the Design department and apply them to the current proposal, they did not expect to make any significant changes to the workflow itself until after the completion of that proposal. At my urging, however, the team agreed to move the consultation out of the theoretical into the practical after the third day of consultation.

Day 4: Planned as a day to demonstrate the soon-to-be optimized workflow to IT and other departments, day four became actual deployment.

InCopy CS2 was installed on all proposal team Windows and Macintosh desktops outside the Design department, with copies on two of the four designers’ Macs. An ideal deployment would have included a customized InCopy CS2 install package with pre-configured scripts, workspaces, and default styles and preferences. However, due to the rapid acceleration of the plan, we used an out-of-the-box installation, and developed a plan for IT to later to create and push defaults and customizations to users’ machines via SMS.

I solved the font incompatibility problem (issue 3) between Mac- and Windows-based users in the workflow by converting Omega’s font library to OpenType, a format they had previously known little about. Because the majority of their Type 1 font library was published by Adobe, it was a simple matter to upgrade all but a few fonts to OpenType by purchasing Adobe’s Font Folio OpenType Edition. The remaining typefaces used by Omega were not available from their respective foundries in OpenType format, so FontLab was licensed to easily convert the Mac-only Type 1 fonts to cross-platform OpenType.

Overcoming the difficulty experienced by some users in installing and managing proposal fonts, with the added benefit of lifting font distribution from the shoulders of designers, was just as simple–I employed Extensis Suitcase Server X1, a server-based font manager with remote administration, licensing compliance control, and unmanned or directed client system font activation. Suitcase Server and the entire Omega font library was installed on the proposal document server. Copies of Suitcase Desktop Edition, which can act as standalone, local font managers, as well as clients to the server, were installed to the users’ Windows and Mac workstations. Once installed and tested, Suitcase Server was populated with the team’s OpenType font library.

Controlled by a remote administrator–in this case the production manager via her desktop Mac–Suitcase Server manages and delivers all the fonts needed by the workgroup. The production manager simply activates the proposal’s fonts or font groups via Suitcase Server’s remote administration panel, and the server pushes the fonts to client systems.

Because Suitcase includes font auto-activation plug-ins for InDesign and InCopy, even if the production manager forgets to push the fonts, the client versions of Suitcase running on the desktops will automatically request and activate the needed fonts from the server. When writers, accountants, and the rest of the proposal team open their assignments in InCopy CS2, they will never see a font missing warning; all in-use fonts will activate automatically on their systems.

Although Omega’s document server employed full hard drive mirroring at four points during the day, and a daily tape backup, the new workflow’s concurrent document access from within all departments and oversight by the project manager gave me concern for at least the initial possibility of user error leading to data loss. Specifically, I was concerned with some users reverting to old habits of copying asset files to their local computers, editing locally, then moving the files back to the server, thus possibly overwriting the work of other users. To eliminate this possibility, and to provide an extra layer of backup via file versioning, Creative Suite 2′s Version Cue technology was activated and configured on all workflow computers. Because all departments were involved in the creative process somehow–Copywriting, for example, used Photoshop to correct and touch-up photographs and proofed Web content live in GoLive while Engineering and even Accounting used Illustrator for some of their less technical conceptual drawings and illustrations, and every department required Acrobat Professional–Omega had already licensed the full Creative Suite 2 for all desktops in the workflow. Thus there was no licensing impediment to the inclusion of Version Cue in the workflow.

Concluding the day was an IT briefing and Q&A session that covered InDesign’s and InCopy’s internal saveddata backup features; nuances of working with Version Cue-managed content; discussion about extending and automating functionality with scripting in InDesign, InCopy, and Adobe Bridge, which all users would employ for basic digital asset management, and; how to resolve some of the common technical issues users may encounter with the constituent applications in the new optimized workflow.

Day 5: Originally planned as my last day on-site wherein I would provide the first half of InCopy and optimized workflow training to the Copywriting, Accounting, and Engineering departments, the new live deployment extended my visit to seven consecutive days, and day five became on-the-job training to Copywriting.

All three writers were extremely proficient writing marketing copy in Microsoft Word. Their installations of Word were moderately customized with workflow-specific autocorrect settings, document templates, style sheets, keyboard shortcuts, and simple text-insertion or replacement macros. Although they were eager to improve their workflow and gain better perspective on how their work integrates with other departments’ in the proposal layouts, the writers were skeptical that InCopy could replace Microsoft Word and apprehensive about losing their productivity.

Anticipating this, during day three work with the Design department, I had had the designers prepare InCopy assignments from an already laid-out but still under revision chapter of the current proposal. At the beginning of the writers’ training, I opened the InCopy assignment, imported and copyfit the most recently revised Word documents, and showed the changes in real-time in the InDesign layout snapshot of InCopy’s Layout view. While this impressed and excited them, my next step of creating text macros and setting autocorrect options from settings they shouted out on-the-fly was what truly dispelled their fear.

Throughout the remainder of the day, the writers learned to work in, collaborate on, and customize InCopy CS2 hands-on, employing active, mission-critical documents. During the second half of the day I brought the project manager and one of the designers to sit in so they would be aware of the Copywriting team’s concerns and new procedures and be able to act as in-house how-to support.

Day 6: Similar to the day before with the writers, the sixth day was training for the Accounting and Engineering departments; the latter consisted of four engineering and architecture team managers who each oversaw a combined staff of twenty-three people who would not be directly involved in the proposal creation process. As these departments produced less copy and more artwork, less time was spent discussing InCopy’s copyfitting and text-insertion and replacement automation features in favor of a greater focus on placing imagery and tabular data into the layout. We also spent a good portion of the day optimizing the accounting and engineering staff’s image creation procedures, including building efficient layers and layer comps in Photoshop to ease version experimentation when placing images into InCopy and how to import and batch convert various types of technical drawings, plans, and schematics into Illustrator or via scripts in the Adobe Bridge.

Again, the project manager and a representative from the Design department were asked to attend the latter half of the Engineering and Accounting education session.

Day 7: To reduce any lingering trepidation about adopting the new optimized workflow while working on actual, mission-critical deadline documents, I made the seventh day light-hearted and fun. With the assistance of the project manager and the Design department, we decorated the common areas and individual offices of the proposal team with streamers, homemade signs proclaiming “It’s Workflow Optimization Day!”, and strategically placed doughnuts, muffins, bagels, and candy throughout the team’s areas. Being a Sunday, business attire was not a concern, so I asked everyone on the team to wear her brightest, most garish attire (the result was a cacophony of tie-dyes, cartoon characters, and blinding neon hues).

We began the day with an all-hands pep rally to pump up excitement, then the team broke into their respective department groups and went to work.

During the first hour, the Design department prepared the materials. The production manager ran preflight reports from the in-progress layouts, specifying the in-use fonts to be pushed to client systems via remote administration of the Suitcase Server. While she did that from her desk, each of the three remaining designers created InCopy assignments from the first batch of proposal chapters.

The Accounting team finished up their latest batch of figures while Engineering prepped their drawings, plans, and Visio charts in Photoshop and Illustrator. The Copywriting team migrated their Word customizations to InCopy. Each took a task–user dictionary entries for one, autocorrect options for another, and text macros for the third–and distributed the results to the others when finished. In just over an hour, all three departments were setup and opening their first assignment files in InCopy.

Because the four departments and project manager were spread throughout an entire floor of a large office building, I couldn’t be within earshot at all times incase of a question. To compensate, all team members put my cell phone number on speed-dial, and I wore a hands-free headset. And, since I couldn’t see everyone’s screen at all times, and reversion to old habits was a risk, I provided an incentive for peer support–tattle-telling.

In addition to hourly giveaways of fun prizes like baseball hats, Frisbees, candy bars, toys, and similar tchatchkis for correctly answering InCopy-related questions, I offered slightly better prizes (gift certificates to local restaurants and Target, DVDs, and mousepads) to anyone who catching a co-worker reverting to using Microsoft Word, marking up a PDF, or trying to get a designer to place an image or other asset into the layout for her. While I had brought over a dozen “tattle-tale” prizes in all, I was pleasantly surprised to only give away two during the course of the day (the remainder were handed out at the end of the day to everyone who hadn’t yet received one).

By mid-day, everyone was over the hurdle of “how do I” training reminder questions, and was working–without waiting on anyone else. Copywriting had finished importing, editing, and copyfitting existing Word documents into the InCopy assignment, and were beginning to write new material directly in InCopy. Accounting had also completed its imports and conversions, and was back to crunching numbers in Excel; as the accountants finished a dataset, they imported it into InCopy, checked the story in, and moved on to the next. Most of Engineering’s artwork was placed in InCopy, although they did require some changes to the layout in terms of graphic frame resizing and the addition of several new, fold-out pages, which Design quickly implemented and re-assigned to Engineering. The project manager, working in InDesign CS2 himself, kept an eye on everyone’s progress and, as each assignment was checked in, added notes and revisions to content for review by the authors. In between, he assisted Copywriting and Design by placing photographs and illustrations.

Except for the quickly-accomplished changes required by Engineering, Design left the assigned chapters alone. While everyone else filled in, edited, and revised the content of laid-out chapters, the designers were designing new layouts and creating InCopy assignments for subsequent content sections. Without the constant interruptions caused by incoming asset changes and marked-up PDFs, the designers found themselves working so quickly that one jumped out of InDesign and into GoLive to begin the Web content creation–typically a process that would not begin for another four weeks.

We wrapped up the day early with another all-hands meeting at two o’clock because everyone felt that she had a solid grasp of the workflow, and that she was already ahead in her work.

The excitement in the room was tremendous. Everyone in all four departments expressed a strong feeling of being more connected to the proposal, more in command of her individual contributions, and more in touch with the work of the other team members. InCopy’s layout view allowed each department to see not only their contributions and Design’s, but also the work of the other departments as it was done. This lead to tighter collaboration between the departments, especially for the Copywriting team whose work had to describe and support the content from both Accounting and Engineering. During the wrap-up meeting team members were complimenting each other’s work and brainstorming ideas for collaborating–discussions they could previously only have after Design had completed the layout modification and sent out PDF proofs. No one missed Acrobat and PDF-based reviewing.

Among the group, only the writers felt that they were not yet as proficient writing in InCopy as they were in Word, although they felt it would only be a short time before they were. More importantly, everyone, including the writers, felt strongly that her work as a whole had been greatly sped up by the elimination of the linear review and change process. Design, in particular, was ecstatic that changes were no longer filtered through them. They still had the control they needed, but were no longer responsible for affecting the changes that had always been within the purview of other departments. The production manager estimated that, in less than a single day, the layout of the proposal was already more than a week ahead of schedule. That belief was echoed by each department, putting estimates of their schedule advancements at between two and fourteen days.

Continued On...
Subscribe to the Discussion Surrounding This Article

Related Articles