Using the Layers panel in InCopy

I know what you’re thinking. A Layers panel in InCopy? Alright, maybe you weren’t thinking that but a lot of the users whom I mention this to have that exact reaction. If you haven’t noticed or discovered this yet, the Layers panel can be found where all of the other panels in InCopy live, in the Window menu. The layers panel isn’t displayed as part of any of the default workspaces that ship with InCopy, but you can choose Window > Layers to display the Layers panel.

The Layers panel can be quite beneficial to an InCopy user as it allows them to control what is visible on screen at a more granular level. Click on the visibility icon to the left of a layer to hide the layer, click it again to make the layer visible again.

Layers panel

Why would you want to do this? As an InDesign document or InCopy Assignment becomes complex in nature, it can be challenging for both a designer in InDesign or an editor in InCopy to select or see particular elements that require editing. It’s also helpful for InCopy users who like to work in Layout view but need to eliminate areas that don’t require focus at the time. The Layers panel is great at doing this. Take a look at the figures below. The top figure is the spread in Layout view with all layers visible. The bottom figure is the spread in layout view with the graphics layer hidden. With the graphics layer hidden, it’s easier to focus on the stories to be edited and as a side benefit, performance is improved because InCopy doesn’t have to render those graphics on screen.

InCopy Layers visible

InCopy Layers hidden

Layers themselves can’t be created or modified in InCopy. Only visibility can be changed, so the designer will need to create them in InDesign. Truth be told, most designers create layers for complex documents automatically so InCopy users will certainly benefit from this. If you have a specific requirement for being able to control layers in InCopy, talk to the creator of the InDesign document so they can structure the document to suit your needs. Taking advantage of layers can be mutually beneficial to both the design and editorial aspects of any workflow. If you’re not using them yet, give them a try and if you are using them, post a comment below and tell us how you are taking advantage of layers in your own workflow!

Story Versioning in InCopy

InCopy is a powerful edition to any workflow where collaboration between editors, copyeditors, and designers is required. The efficiency that InCopy provides is an improvement to any workflow. One of the questions that seems to pop up on a regular basis from InCopy users who have been using the workflow for a period of time is “How can I save versions of my stories?”

The reason for wanting to do this varies from not being comfortable with overwriting content to wanting a trail of changes throughout the production process. Either way, my response to them is always an unenthusiastic “No”. Anne-Marie Concepcion wrote up a clever way of achieving this in this post but it requires manual modification of files and astute attention to detail.

Radish to the rescue!

I recently discovered an add-on called Radish that adds the ability to save versions of files in InCopy and InDesign. What’s more? It’s free! Radish is written by Konstantin Smorodsky and is available on the Adobe Ad-Ons page. Radish is a super-simple install and works with both InDesign and InCopy in versions for CS6 and CC.

After installing Radish you’ll notice a new option available in the File menu of InDesign and InCopy titled “Save a Version”. Upon choosing this option, Radish will save a version of any checked out stories, assignments, or layouts in InDesign and InCopy.

Radish - Save Version

You’d think that a dialog would pop up or something when you choose save a version, but nothing really happens. This is the beauty of Radish, it really just disappears into the InDesign/InCopy workflow. To see the versions that have been saved, choose File > Versions and a new dialog is displayed with every version of every file that has been saved including stories, assignments, and layouts (InDesign documents). Which files are saved depends on whether stories are checked out and whether you are using a layout-based or assignment-based workflow.

Radish Versions

In the Versions dialog, you can choose from a list of files that are available which includes stories, assignments and layouts. When you choose one of the options, all of the versions of that file are listed in the main area of the dialog showing you how many versions of the file there are, which user saved the version, the date it was saved, and the number of characters in the story. In the case of an assignment and a layout, the start page and the page count is also listed.

In the event that you want to restore one of the saved versions, select the version in the Versions dialog and click the restore button in the upper-right corner of the dialog. Voila! Your content is restored to that version. The versions themselves are stored in a folder within the folder where the InDesign document resides called .version. The “.” in front of the name of the folder makes it invisible. To delete versions, in the event that you want to free up space or do a little housecleaning at the end of the project, you can delete that folder or any number of versions within that folder. The version files (which are just uniquely named .icml, inca, or imdd files) are neatly organized within the .versions folder for easy identification.

I want to point out that I was a huge fan of Adobe Version Cue which was an amazing versioning tool for many of the Creative Suite applications including InCopy. Apparently I was one of the few who used Version Cue because it met it’s demise after only a few versions which threw me into a deep depression (joking of course). During my testing of Radish, It reminded me very much of how Version Cue worked but Radish is geneously simplistic yet incredibly powerful. It answers the need of editors who cringe at the idea of overwriting previous iterations of a story and even provides a solution for designers as well. I’ve only been using Radish for a few weeks now, but I intend to make good use of it on future projects.

I’d love to know who out there is using Radish and what your thoughts are on the product. Give us your feedback and opinions, we’d love to hear from you!

Find/change in Locked Stories

The Find/Change feature in InCopy is an incredibly time-saving feature. The fact that you can do advanced find/change routines using GREP aside, the standard text find/change allows you to intelligently find text in a document and even replace that text with the greatest of ease.

One thing that can throw people for a loop in an InCopy workflow however is that stories that are not checked out, cannot be searched using the Find/Change dialog… by default that is. If you perform a search in either InDesign or InCopy, content in stories that are not checked out (locked stories) are not included in the scope of the search and you will be presented with a dialog indicating that a match cannot be found.

Find change no match

The obvious solution to this problem, would be to check out all stories as described in this post. This might not be possible however if another user has one or more stories checked out but it also might not be necessary. I say this because the Find/Change command isn’t always used to change the content in stories. Often it is used to simply find text within stories.

Fortunately, InDesign and InCopy have an unassuming option in the Find/Change dialog box that allows you to find text in stories that are not checked out (locked stories). The option is one of the six buttons located below the search drop-down menu in the Find/Change dialog box and is called Include Locked Stories (Find Only).

Include Locked Stories (Find Only)

When this option is chosen, it will search the content of all stories in a layout as defined in the search drop-down menu. If Document is chosen in the search drop-down menu, all stories in the document will be searched regardless of whether they are checked out or not. Even if a story is checked out by another user, the content can be searched and found using the Find/Change command.

If the goal is in fact to replace specific text in a document, the story(s) will need to be checked out. But if the goal is to find text within a document, to locate text or otherwise, the Include Locked Stories feature will be a powerful tool to get the task accomplished.

If you have a unique way of using this feature, please post a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

InCopy Book Publisher’s Workflow Management

By nature, book publishers don’t have the same kind of workflow or InDesign page structure as magazine and newspaper publishers.”

Book publishers have longer production deadlines and knowingly embrace a linear (my turn, your turn) workflow between editorial, design and production departments. Magazine and newspaper publishers have shorter timelines and need a collaborative (work on content at the same time) workflow to streamline the process. Because InDesign pages are designed with linked frames with inline content for books, they actually need a linear workflow, even in a collaborative InCopy workflow.

In this post I’d like to explore how book publishers can embrace the linear workflow, and why they need to.

A Closer Look at Linear and Non-Linear Workflows

The most alluring feature of using InCopy and InDesign together, has always been the collaborative workflow. The ability to have editors in InCopy editing text at the same time that InDesign users are building pages eliminates the linear (take-turn) workflow.

In the past, editorial staff would wait to review hard-copies of pages or PDF’s to markup. Then those documents would be delivered back to the production staff and the changes would be entered. Then, more hard-copies or PDF’s would then be produced again, so that editorial staff could check that the edits they noted were actually made. These rounds of edits meant that countless hours were wasted in this take-turn workflow. When editorial staff begins using InCopy, the edits are done once by editorial, thus eliminating multiple rounds of editing reviews.

It seems that the shorter the production schedule, the more appealing this collaborative workflow becomes. It just makes sense that a daily newspaper would fully embrace this feature. The “get-it-out-the-door” mentality of newspapers is there to meet press deadlines. I’ve worked at many newspapers over the years; believe me when I tell you it’s no fun waiting for an editor to walk a hard copy over to your desk at 1am.

For book publishers, production schedules have never been based on a daily, weekly or a monthly printing schedule. These types of publishers actually have the flexibility (luxury) to shift schedules and production dates. While many book publishers see the allure of a collaborative workflow, most book companies actually prefer to keep their linear workflows. Why? Because of the way books are built in InDesign, keeping a linear workflow between InDesign and InCopy will actually benefit them.

The Structure of a Book

To understand why a linear workflow will benefit book publishers you have to understand the anatomy of a book built in InDesign.

InDesign layout artists usually don’t save one giant file for a whole book, this would mean only one person in InDesign would be able to edit the book (never mind the fact that it would take forever to open or navigate inside a document). Longer books are usually saved as separate documents, each one containing an individual chapter, or lesson.

Publications like magazines and newspapers have many individual stories in stand-alone text frames. These types of layouts often contain separate frames for the story body, pullquote, captions, headline, decks, and sidebars.

In contrast, books are typically made up of one major story (the narrative content) built using text frames that are threaded from page to page, which means the bulk of the book is one big story. If text is added to page 3, the text just reflows naturally through the subsequent threaded frames. It is only logical that books, especially text-heavy books would be built this way. Even books that are filled with graphics can be built this way.

A common trend for designers and production staff in book publishing is to embed graphics in the text flow. Instead of just placing graphics loose on a page, graphic artists are using InDesign’s inline or anchored object feature. Inline graphics are graphics that are placed (or pasted) within a text frame. Anchored objects are objects that can flow with the text relative to the anchor that has been placed within the text frame. Both of these objects allow graphics and text to reflow together as edits are made. To realize how much time this saves, you only need to think about the alternative workflow. If graphics weren’t part of the text, and were just placed over text, as text was edited and reflowed, all the images would need to be repositioned after every round of text editing. I’m exhausted just typing that.

How does InCopy fit with this workflow?

When InCopy-using editors check out stories in magazines or newspapers to edit them, the InDesign user can still layout the rest of the page, because the graphics and images are not contained inline in text frames. But for books with inline and anchored images, InDesign users need to check out the story to insert, move, and manage the artwork.

That just means that these publications will need to use a more linear (turn-taking) workflow rather than a concurrent one. The editors don’t start editing the book until the designer is done laying it out. When an editors is done editing the main story, then another editor (if necessary) can take a turn reviewing those edits, and then the designer can take their turn and continue refining the design and the formatting. In the end, the process is still way more streamlined than the old “marked up paper proofs” method, because everyone is working on the live file, doing what they do best.

Sticky notes in InCopy

If you’re a seasoned InCopy user, this headline probably grabbed your attention. Don’t worry, it’s not a mean trick that I’m pulling on all of our readers! Seasoned users and beginners alike ask me all the time, why InCopy doesn’t have sticky notes like we have in Adobe Acrobat or even Adobe Photoshop for that matter. Although I don’t have the answer to why this feature doesn’t exist, I do have a solution that I’ve implemented in numerous workflows in which I’ve been involved.

Before I dive in, let’s be clear. InCopy and InDesign do in fact have a Notes feature that is quite robust. It allows users to add notes to very specific areas of text to provide anything from more detailed information, to questions about text in a story. These notes however are designed to focus on very specific pieces of text and furthermore are only visually apparent when in Galley and Story view in InCopy or the Story Editor in InDesign. Take a look at the figures below.

How notes appear in Galley and Story view.

How notes appear in Galley and Story view.

How notes appear in Layout view.

How notes appear in Layout view.

Often times, InCopy users spend a fair amount of time in Galley and Story view so the notes will be evident to them and can be addressed accordingly. But for InCopy users who prefer Layout view or for Designers who spend the vast majority of their time in Layout view, the standard InCopy notes could easily be overlooked unless the Notes panel is used consistently. Using the Notes panel, notes are much easier to spot. That being said, these notes aren’t very efficient at marking up layout adjustments, photo changes, color changes, etc. because notes need to be attached to a specific area of text.

The Notes panel provides visual navigation for notes when in Layout view.

The Notes panel provides visual navigation for notes when in Layout view.

So what’s the solution? As I said before, InDesign and InCopy do not have a sticky note feature, but I’ve created one myself that provides a reasonable replacement to sticky notes. This solution will require the designer to setup the necessary components in the layout, but once it’s setup you can easily incorporate this feature into your templates for consistency.

Begin by opening the InDesign Layout and drawing text frames on the outside margins of the Master pages. I’ve made mine yellow (simulating a sticky note) and formatted the text within accordingly. You’ll want to define a slug in Document Setup for the outside slug values so that the text frames will be visible on all of the document pages.

Notes on Master page

Those notes on each document page will be locked by default, so you’ll need to override those text frames by Shift+Cmd/Shift+Ctrl clicking on the text frames on each page. I refer to this as a sacrificial master element because we’re only using the master to put the notes in the same position on each page with the same visual appearance. Next, you’ll want to link the notes together from page to page by clicking on the Out Port of each frame and then clicking on the frame that you want to link to. You can speed up this process by clicking on the Out Port of one frame and then holding down Option/Alt as you click in each successive frame to link them together. I do this because that gives me one “notes” story to manage in the InCopy workflow. You could choose to make each text frame on each page a different story, but for management ease I choose one story. To obtain a behavior where each text frame applies to each page, I simply add several column breaks or frame breaks to force the text after the break into the next frame. This can be easily accomplished by pressing the enter/return key on the number pad of your keyboard to create a column break. If you’re like me and don’t have a number pad, hold down the function (fn) key when you press the enter/return key.

These sticky notes are "in your face" and hard to miss in layout view.

These sticky notes are “in your face” and hard to miss in layout view.

Now you have one story to manage for all of your notes and they can be easily seen by InDesign and InCopy users when using Layout view. These notes behave like any other story in the workflow so users will need to check out the story in order to add content. I like this method because it’s “in your face” so to speak and you don’t have to work to see the contents of your notes. The only caveat is that you’ll need to instruct all users to keep the frame/column break character intact so that the notes appear on the correct page but this is easily accomplished and the return is worth it.

Let me know what you think of this solution and if you’ve come up with other ways of accomplishing the same task. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Good News for Layout-based Workflow Users!

One of the things that I love about the InCopy workflow is how complex or simple the workflow can be. On the simple side of things, is what is often referred to as the layout-based workflow. With this workflow, no assignments are used but instead InCopy users open the InDesign document directly which still allows both designers and editors to work on the same document simultaneously. It’s a brilliant and simple workflow that is used by many.

With the release of InCopy and InDesign CC an unfortunate problem occurred where this workflow broke. Users would receive a message “This file is already open by another user or another application” if the InDesign document was already open by a designer using InDesign. You can read more about the details of the problem in this post on the Adobe forums.

The fix for this problem has been to either revert back to CS6, or to move to an assignment-based workflow, neither of which was an acceptable fix for many users. The good news is that as of the 2014 release of Creative Cloud, this problem has been fixed! According to testing that I’ve done and based on the post mentioned above, the latest release solves the problem so that the layout-based workflow works as expected.

To update your copy of InDesign and InCopy to the 2014 release of Creative Cloud, launch the Creative Cloud Desktop application and run the update to InDesign CC and/or InCopy CC which will actually install a new copy of the applications. The new versions will be named InDesign CC (2014) and InCopy CC (2014). There have been a few random reports of users having difficulties running the latest updates, so if you encounter any problems with installation from the Creative Cloud Desktop application, point your web browser to, choose your application, and initiate the download from here. You will need to sign in using your Adobe ID to initiate the download.

So if you were one of the users affected by this unfortunate situation, hopefully you’ll now be happily back to the workflow that you’ve trusted and loved for so long! Enjoy!

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The 2014 Release of InCopy CC!

During this year’s PePcon conference, Adobe released a brand new version of the Creative Cloud applications. Referred to as the 2014 release of the Creative Cloud, this update provides new versions for all of the Creative Cloud applications including Adobe InCopy.

The 2014 Release of InCopy CC offers some great new features that I think many users will appreciate including:

  • A “Find Previous” option when searching in the Find/Change dialog box
  • Footnotes are now affected by objects with a text wrap applied
  • Color Swatch Folders to organize swatches
  • Drag-and-drop as well as drag-and-copy of table cells within a table
  • Hi-DPI support for Windows users
  • When you update to the 2014 release of InCopy CC, your preferences and shortcuts will be migrated from your previous InCopy installation (CS6 and CC only)

I find the table improvement to be particularly useful in InCopy as it allows you to easily adjust content in table cells with the greatest of ease. No more copying, inserting, and pasting table cells! Although these improvements may seem subtle, I feel that they will make a significant improvement from a usability standpoint.


Like all of the Creative Cloud applications, installation is quite simple. You can choose the update button next to InDesign CC (2014) in the Apps section of the Creative Cloud Desktop Application, or you can go to the Creative Cloud website and choose InCopy CC (2014)  from the drop-down menu and click the download button.

InCopy CC (2014) Download location at

Downloading the 2014 release of InCopy CC from the Creative Cloud Website


Don’t forget to show your edge(s)

Many InDesign users have a dislike of frame edges due to their somewhat distracting visual appearance in an InDesign layout. Many of these users rectify the situation by choosing View > Extras > Hide Frame Edges to prevent the frame edges from displaying in the layout. In an InCopy workflow, this choice can have some negative side effects.

Frame EdgeFrame Edges Hidden

An InCopy story with frame edges visible (left) and hidden (right).

For one, it makes it difficult to tell which stories are InCopy stories and part of the workflow. When the frame edges are visible, an icon appears in the upper-left corner of every text or graphic frame that is part of the InCopy workflow. Without this icon visible, you can’t visible see which frames contain InCopy stories and which ones do not.

This issue is further exacerbated in an InCopy workflow when an InDesign user hides the frame edges and saves the file. When the layout or assignment is opened in InCopy, not only can you not see the icon indicating which story is an InCopy story, but you can’t see the frame edges at all. Even when you hover the cursor over the stories. Because there is no Selection tool in InCopy, the frame edges don’t highlight when hovering the cursor over the story. It’s easy enough to show the frame edges in InCopy by choosing View > Extras > Show Frame Edges however not all InCopy users are aware of this.

The bottom line is that in order to make it easier for InCopy users to see the stories, InDesign users should always remember to show the frame edges in the InDesign file before saving. An alternative to hiding the frame edges of course is to enable Preview mode which achieves the same result but also has similar ill effects in a layout-based workflow. When opening an InDesign document in InCopy that was saved with preview mode enabled, the icon in the upper-left corner of the frame is not visible, so be careful with preview mode as well. An interesting alternative is to use assignments. Although hidden frame edges won’t appear in an assignment when opened in InCopy, they will display when Preview mode is used because this feature is not saved as an attribute of the assignment file.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with hidden frame edges and Preview mode so please post your comments below. Want to see a post about an InCopy topic that has been perplexing you? E-mail me at

Non-contiguous text formatting in InCopy?

A large portion of InCopy users that I teach and consult with, come from a Microsoft Word background. So it stands to reason that these users tend to compare features of Word with features of InCopy. One of the most common questions that I get from these users is “Does InCopy have the ability to format non-contiguous sections of text like Word does?”

Although InCopy doesn’t have the exact same feature, you can achieve the same result in InCopy using the powerful Eyedropper tool. Although the eyedropper can be used for sampling color from objects and images, it’s ability to repurpose text formatting is quite powerful as well.

To begin, format a section of text the way that you want it to appear. In the figure below, we’ve changed a few word to italic.

Text selected with formatting applied.


Next, select the Eyedropper tool and click on the formatted text to pick up the attributes. You’ll notice that your cursor is now an eyedropper that is half full (with the style properties that you just sampled) and displays a small “T” next to it when you hover over any text. With the loaded Eyedropper cursor, drag over other text that you want to apply the same formatting to. Repeat as necessary.

Applying formatting using the eyedropper tool.

There’s more than meets the eye with the Eyedropper tool. If you double-click on the Eyedropper tool in the Tools panel, you’ll be presented with the Eyedropper Options dialog box. This dialog box allows you to control what properties the Eyedropper tool samples when you click on text or an object. For example, maybe you only want to sample the  character style but none of the paragraph formatting. Uncheck the Paragraph Settings checkbox, and your done!

Eyedropper Options dialog box.

Keep in mind that the Eyedropper tool can only be used in Layout view, It’s unavailable in Galley and Story view. But the next time you need to format non-contiguous text in InCopy, be sure to give the Eyedropper tool a try.