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Exporting Final PDFs from InCopy: Yes, With Gotchas

Many users want to know if editors — the InCopy users — can use the program to create “final” PDFs of the InDesign layouts they’re editing. I don’t mean press-ready PDFs for a commercial printer (they’ll leave that up to the InDesign users); but the “straight to DVD” ones that are going to be distributed electronically, such as a PDF version of a newsletter or white paper that people can download or attach to an email.

The answer is yes, BUT. There are two gotchas that I know of, built-in trade-offs: High resolutions photos get dumbed down to medium-res JPEGs, and all interactivity is stripped out. It makes no difference if the images or stories with hyperlinked text are editable to the InCopy user or not. Why does Adobe hobble InCopy output? I really don’t know, it was a decision their engineers made long ago. I wonder if anyone over there remembers, actually.

Images in InCopy PDFs

Vector graphics (Illustrator or Corel Draw-like) are fine, as is type, since that’s also vector. InCopy exports those elements as paths with fills, which are by nature resolution independent. That is, they’ll print at the highest resolution your device can manage; and if you’re looking at them on a monitor, the preview will appear as sharp as the type, even as you zoom in to 4,000 percent.

It’s only the raster images (scans, photographs, Photoshop art) that InCopy modifies on output. And not just outputting to PDFs, but also when you print to the office printer.

You can see the what InCopy does to your images quite easily, if you have Acrobat Pro. Open up the PDF in Acrobat and find the Output Preview tool/dialog box, part of the Print Production tool set. Select the Object Inspector preview in the dialog box and click anywhere on the page. The dialog box tells you all sorts of information about the page objects where you clicked, including resolutions.

Take this simple one-page layout for example. The large image of the shop’s storefront was a Photoshop file that had an effective resolution (after scaling in InDesign) of 532 ppi. That’s what the Links panel showed in both InDesign and InCopy. But after InCopy had its way with it during output, the picture is now 150 ppi. (click these two images to enlarge, then click the Back button to return).

In contrast, if I click on the large drop cap “H” (which is not art, it’s a character from a font) or on the vector drawing of the fall leaves, the readout just gives me path and fill information, resolution does not apply.

Now, 150 ppi is not bad, I mean, it’s twice the resolution of most web site images … it’s medium resolution. Your PDFs might look just fine with medium-res photos. But you know, it would be nice if Adobe mentioned this in the Help file somewhere.

Goodbye, Hyperlinks

The other gotcha is that InCopy strips out any interactivity that might be there, like buttons or links or page transitions that the InDesign user may have included. I don’t know why it can’t even support simple text hyperlinks, like the one in this caption that says “hot chocolate” (and links to the chocolate company’s web site).

I added the hyperlink to the text in InCopy, as you can see in the first screen shot, but when it’s opened in Reader or Acrobat (second screen shot), the formatting remains but it’s not longer a hyperlink. I’d have to re-do it in Acrobat.

If InDesign can include hyperlinks when it exports a PDF for print (which makes no sense, but it does save making a trip to a different dialog box, as David ranted about recently), why can’t InCopy? Another question for the ages.

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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3 Comments on “Exporting Final PDFs from InCopy: Yes, With Gotchas

  1. Hi, this may be a stupid question, but will incopy cs4 work with indesign cs5? Or will it works only with the same versions?

  2. Perhaps only low-resolution PDFs are available to protect the designer/company and prohibit the client from sending the final version elsewhere for printing.

  3. I am a new user to InCopy and for our workflow, I need to export all stories with track changes. I am using the Export to PDF function in Galley and Story view. I am also collapsing all stories and expanding only those I want to export. In the dialog box, I am selecting “All Expanded Stories.” However, when I do the final export, I can still see the collapsed story headers of every story rather than only showing the expanded stories. So I end up with pages of collapsed story headers within the PDF that i don’t need. Is there anyway around this?

    thank you!

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