25 April 2017

InDesign/InCopy notes workflow fail

Communicating queries to an author efficiently is essential so, when Dean mentioned about the InDesign/InCopy notes workflow, I was all ears.

It’s a well-documented process but I’d never paid it much attention. Essentially, you use InDesign’s editorial notes feature (Window > Editorial > Notes) to anchor your comments and queries to the text:

There’s no way to export these notes from InDesign directly, so the trick is to open the InDesign document in InCopy where, unlike in InDesign, the “Export to PDF” function has an “Include Notes As Annotation” option:

This in turn converts the InDesign notes into familiar comment annotations in the output PDF, to which your author can then respond in turn by further annotating the PDF:

For those authors who prefer to work from a checklist of queries, Acrobat DC can be used to generate a separate “Summary of Comments” PDF which shows each query linked to the relevant text on the page:

The process initially seemed quite robust, and we duly served proofs and queries for two or three jobs; indeed, one project manager commented back by return, “that ‘summary of comments’ document is a handy feature!”

However, the more I used it, the more I found the user experience far from ideal: creating and editing notes has been crashing InDesign on a regular basis, and there’s no easy way to keep track of your notes (so, being me, I wrote a script that dumps them out to TextWrangler, for ease of maintaining consistent wording in repeat queries).

Then, I discovered that:

Editorial notes have been a feature of InDesign since CS3 in 2007. I can only assume they’re not used enough by the InDesign community to have warranted further developer attention in the ten years since, if they’re still this buggy and unpolished in CC 2017.

With regret, then, we’re going back to serving queries in a separate text file, listed by page with the relevant text highlighted in yellow in the PDF.

Update 14 May 2017: The InDesign community’s apparent lack of interest in editorial notes appears to be borne out in an informal poll this week at InDesignSecrets: