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DIY Solution: Pasteboard Notes

Most users in an InCopy/InDesign workflow make at least some use of the Notes feature (Notes > New Note). They’re a great way for editors and designers to communicate with each other within the file itself, without worrying about compromising the text flow or accidentally including some sort of in-house business in a final printout.

But Notes fans soon find themselves wishing for more. It’s hard for designers to find the notes, for one thing, since they’re almost always working in Layout view and those tiny icons are hard to spot. And I’ve frequently heard editors wish there was a way to insert a note next to an image or in a margin area, or in a story someone else has checked out.

A clever way I’ve seen some publishers work around the limitations is via “pasteboard notes.” These are not notes per se, but extra text frames in the pasteboard area, outside the boundaries of the page so they don’t print.

Typically, the layout designers add a little 2″ by 4″ text frame on either side of each 2-page spread in a publication and export them to InCopy so editors can check them out. If they’re using an Assignment-based workflow, they include the pasteboard text frames (just the ones next to the assignment stories) in each assignment.

People can still use the Notes feature in stories they’ve checked out, of course. But now they have a little whiteboard sort of area next to each page they can use as well.

An editor might check out the pasteboard frame next to an article they’re working on, for example, and then enter some notes about the article itself, like “Mary: Please enlarge the headline frame so I can fit a second line, or you could bring the picture to its right down a bit and then widen the frame.”

And then, when Mary updates her layout, she’ll clearly see the editor’s notes appear next to the spread. Editors can use large type, perhaps in color (via the Swatches palette or even via a “Joe_notes” Paragraph Style that the designer creates for each editor) so their text is easy to read even when the view is scaled down enough to show the spread and the pasteboard.

Other users can check out the same pasteboard note and add their own comments and notes below those of their colleagues. I have a couple clients that use pasteboard notes like the slugs they used to attach to paper proofs; as a means of signing off levels of approval for each spread in the document. The text frames look like little forms complete with checkboxes and their logo.

Finally, designers can optionally add a Slug area to the layout (File > Document Setup > More Options) so that whenever they print a layout from InDesign, or export it to PDF, they have the option of including the slug area. This way, the pasteboard notes appear in the output as well, safely outside of the trim area.

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at or on Twitter @amarie
Anne-Marie Concepcion

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7 Comments on “DIY Solution: Pasteboard Notes

  1. Is there a way for the editor to add ‘yellow notes’ or extra text frames for when the designer made too few? The current example is for a doc with images, in which I unfortunately forgot to add a caption text frame. Can the editor make a new text frame or do I have to make it and send the InCopy package all over again?

  2. No, InCopy can’t make a new text frame … can’t the editor insert the caption in a note in a nearby story? And then mention it’s there in the e-mail they send you back with the attached InDesign package?

    Then after you updated the layout with the package, you could insert the text frame and copy/paste the contents of the note into it.

    Otherwise, yes, you do need to send another package. But it might not be so onerous as you think.

    If the editor has already made changes to the one you sent, just make a new assignment consisting only of the caption frame, and package and email that. The editor can’t combine them or anything on their end, but once he fills in the caption and returns both packages back to you, you can combine them on your end (if you need to do another proofing round). Just drag the caption story into the original assignment and delete the Caption assignment

    If the editor hasn’t made any edits to the first one yet .. he opened it up, discovered it was missing a caption frame, and called you … you could cancel the package in InDesign (select the packaged assignment in the Assignments panel and choose Cancel Package from the Assignments panel menu), add the caption frame, and package the assignment anew.

  3. Maura, unfortunately no, they can’t. For this reason you might consider putting the pasteboard notes on top of the document, but in a dedicated *layer*. Editors can show/hide layers in InCopy. So if they want to print them in layout view, they just make sure the layer is showing.

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