It’s not included with any CS3 edition, not even the Master collection, but if you have a designer working with multiple editors, it’s an application you really ought to know about.

It’s Adobe InCopy CS3. It just may be what you need to enable collaboration between you as the designer and your editors, allowing you to polish and update the design whilst your editors work on content simultaneously.

What It Is

The face of InCopy CS3 (click to enlarge)(graphic courtesy Adobe)

InCopy CS3 is the latest iteration of the InCopy editorial software, a word-processing adjunct to InDesign. In its CS3 incarnation, as in past versions, it shares the Creative Suite GUI regime–which, in CS3 means dockable and combinable panels–and deals with Illustrator and Photoshop-placed files natively. It shares a common code base with InDesign, which means that quite a few features that InDesign has that affect characater and paragraph formatting are there, and work similarly.

If one took InDesign, took out the layout functions, added network-based and e-mail based collaboration features, and gave the Story Editor more cowbell, you’d have InCopy. And that’s good news for editors who need to work at the same time as designers.

Working As One

One of the biggest reasons to get and use InCopy CS3 is the collaborative features inherent. InCopy has always been nimble at network collaboration, and now it’s even more so at e-mail based collaboration.

With InCopy e-mail assignments, you’re in the loop.

The designer sets up assignments in InDesign CS3, using the Live Edit plugin which connects InDesign to InCopy. The “Package for InCopy and Email” function, new with InCopy CS3, collects and packages InDesign CS3 Assignments for quick routing to an e-mail connected editor through your favorite e-mail client. It works quickly and smoothly enough that it’s as near seamless as e-mail collaboration could be. What’s more, if the designer has a change to make they can simply repackage and re-e-mail even before the editor has returned their InCopy package for inclusion into the file.

The designer can design and the e-mail based editor can craft content and copyfit without having to drop what each other is doing and confer, providing for tight collaboration even when no server is available.

Everything You Need To Know

One of the reasons a program like InCopy exists is because if you’re an editor, you might want some idea of how your content looks in the design, but you typically won’t need to mess with the design. InCopy allows this, and keeps the content you’re working on “front and center” no matter where it is in the layout, with generous use of color-coding, “fading back” of content an editor is not assigned to, and easy-to-spot “adornments” on every assigned frame.

The various viewing modes–accessed by tabs in the main document window–allows the editor to look at the content three different ways: Layout mode shows the content in context; Story mode shows the story in a textual display, with information about paragraph and character styles and column inches along the left side, and Galley mode, which shows the text in a Story mode display but constrained by the layout specs. Each of the character-based displays shows at a glance where the overset text starts, and is customizable for just about any combination of viewing conditions and comfort demands (our favorite is the Terminal present–green text on black background–you just never forget your first green screen).

Capability by Design

InCopy shares a common code base with InDesign. What this means for the editor is that many new features found in InDesign can be found also in InCopy, such as Paragraph and Character Styles and Style Groups, which can be imported from other documents; mapping MS-Word input styles; the improved Search functionality, inlcuding GREP searching; the ability to import Excel spreadsheets and tab-delimited text, and to style them quickly with Table and Cell Styles; InDesign’s new Text Variables; even Expanded Quick-Apply, which works exactly like the one that InDesign supports.

InCopy is a stand-alone program, which means an editor working with InDesign designers can get it and begin collaborating with them right away. It also functions as a fairly nifty stand-alone word-processor, with its InDesign-esque paragraph and character styling; it can even create content for an InDesign layout without having the layout available–all the editor needs to know is the size of the text area, and InCopy can create text to fit.

The Skinny

InCopy has grown and matured with InDesign to become a worthwhile tool for the toolbox of any editor working with an InDesign-based layout artist. With the new e-mail based collaboration tools, you don’t even need a file server to take part–editors can get just what they need and no more, and once they have thier assignments, they can go to town with InDesign-styling: paragraphs, characters, tables, and cells.

InCopy is used by companies like Woodwing in crafting publishing solutions for the enterprise, but you don’t have to be an enterprise-level customer to get the benefits of this CS3-level goodness. A single seat of InCopy CS3 goes for US$249, and upgrades can be had from US$89.

InCopy has always been an impressive performer with much to offer. InCopy CS3 works superbly and is worth the upgrade.

Check it out at Adobe, right here, right now.