Are you ready to use InDesign on the web?

A look at new and upcoming methods for online copy editing, commenting and reviewing, and considering whether we should be changing our publishing workflows.

Remote Control

Many publishers rely on the services of external freelancers and suppliers for design, typesetting and editorial tasks and with an official government requirement that “everyone who can work from home must do so” most publishers have switched their ‘internal’ staff to working remotely too.

One of the few positive things about the current global pandemic is that it has forced more reluctant companies to try remote working. At least it waited until a lot of us have decent broadband, and that Netflix and FaceTime were properly established. Imagine how different things would have been ten years ago.

In the world of work, things have evolved beyond how we first used the internet. Simple emailing and file sharing has been superseded by messaging platforms and cloud computing. People nowadays are more comfortable with sharing live documents that are always available, always up-to-date in the cloud and able to be modified by multiple users at the same time.

Messages, shared notes, spreadsheets and text documents are all light in terms of file size and are ideal for instant updating and sharing. But how far can we go with our larger book production files? Shunting an InDesign files that can be over a hundred MB along with several GB of linked graphics files around may always be too much to ask. Also there might be a security concerns and licensing implications of moving content and sharing images and fonts.

Cloud documents

Screenshot showing options to save as a Cloud document or to the user's computer

Heavyweight desktop Adobe apps used in publishing, including Photoshop and Illustrator, now offer the ability to use cloud documents. Cloud documents are cloud-native files that can be opened and edited in compatible apps. With cloud documents, your work is always updated, across every device, wherever you are.

Vector artwork can be expected to be smaller in file size to pixel images but even with large Photoshop files, after the initial save and upload, by subsequently saving only what has changed since the last version of the document we keep the bandwidth used to a minimum. It also allows users to view and revert back to earlier versions in a document’s history.

Cloud documents can more easily be opened on different computers, both Photoshop and Illustrator now also exist as iPad apps too, and are easier to share with others. They are already online, so a link can quickly be sent to those you invite to view or edit them.

There is also a clue to more features to come too – “in future releases, you’ll be able to use them to collaborate with others.”

Cloud documents are expected to come to InDesign too but right now, the first steps in this direction are limited to marking up with comments.

PDF commenting

Being able to make PDF comments is not new, but since InDesign CC 2019 any PDFs made from that version of InDesign or later can be reimported into InDesign and the added comments mapped back to their location on the InDesign page. Once added, PDF comments can then be stepped through, resolved and any suggested text changes applied. 

Screenshot showing a comment being applied to a PDF

Whilst promising, it is a little clunky and doesn’t suit every workflow. The user has to make and share the PDFs themselves, PDF comments can be made online and by multiple people if uploaded to Adobe Document Cloud but even then the PDF then has to be managed, saved and imported back into InDesign by hand.

This approach is not very flexible as all comments need to be completed before they are imported. Importing a modified PDF again later duplicates all previous comments. Also, there is a worrying warning that making any changes to the InDesign document in the meantime is not advised as the comments can become detached from the content.

Share for Review

Share for Review was introduced in the June 2020 update of Adobe InDesign and improved with the later InDesign 2021 release. Share for Review is separate to PDF commenting, and it is slightly confusing to now have two different methods to achieve the largely the same result, but the main benefit of share for review is that InDesign users can stay in InDesign.

Documents can prepared, uploaded and shared with others all from the one InDesign panel. Comments are added in the browser with simple tools to added notes and placed pins along with drawing and text tools to highlight, strikethrough and suggest replacements.

Give one a try here! I will get a notification if you do…

Screenshot of a Creative Cloud notification saying 'New activity on BM flyer shared for review'

Added comments sync in real time with the InDesign document and can be replied to within the InDesign panel. Clicking on comments moves to that place in the file and highlights the text. Highlights and comments can be shown, hidden and filtered by reviewer and time. Amendments to the InDesign pages can then be uploaded to the same URL.

It is neatly done and certainly worth a try if you haven’t used it yet. My two gripes would be that text comments can not yet be accepted, this means the InDesign user is left to retype or copy and paste those suggested edits into the text. Also each document has to be shared separately to each individual which could become cumbersome unless you work in a small team.

For Your Eyes Only

For both PDF Commenting and Share for Review have a way to apply security (which requires all users to sign up for a free Adobe ID) or to share to a public URL with or without a password.

Image showing how designs are previewed and shared

Online editing for InDesign

Adobe InCopy is a desktop app which, for many years, has been a lighter and more affordable sister product to Adobe InDesign which allows the InDesign user to open up the parts of a document they choose for text edits by users of InCopy.

In October 2020 Adobe announced they are to be continuing along the path of connecting InDesign with the web and promised to add more “tools to help us work together in a simpler and more efficient manner”. The first of which is to be an online copy editing tool where “text edits will sync with the original InDesign files automatically” and “copy edits will flow directly back into InDesign files”.

The early information we have is that, similar to InCopy, the InDesign user will be able to choose which sections of a document they open up to allow text editing.

Done well this would be a major new feature for InDesign. It is “coming 2021” and you can sign up to get early access.

Changing Workflows

I mentioned InCopy briefly at last year’s BookMachine Unplugged Talking Production (we were actually together in a room, remember that?!) where we spoke about some recommended tools and approaches to improve our products and how we produce them.

Once what is possible becomes more clear, this then raises the questions: Do you actually want to introduce changes? and if so How can we best implement those changes?

For our BookMachine Talking Production(BookMachine Unplugged 2021) I will be talking with a panel across trade fiction, non-fiction and professional publishing about how publishers can successfully move different departments to smarter workflows.

Ken Jones runs Circular Software. He was Technical Production Manager and Publishing Software Trainer for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for many years and now offers software, training and advice to publishers such as Quarto Group, Bonnier Books and Pan Macmillan to help them get the best from their print and digital workflows.