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Incompatible plug-ins

It’s a bitter truth, but not all InDesign plug-ins are compatible with InCopy. Here’s an example.

Chris, a production manager at a catalog company, sent me an e-mail. He said that his company’s art department uses InDesign CS3 to put together their catalogs, relying heavily on Meadows Publishing Solution’s AutoPrice plug-in and Virginia System’s Sonar IndexPro. Chris really wants to move everyone to the InDesign/InCopy workflow, but during testing, discovered this:

I export stories (copy blocks) in InDesign for editing in InCopy on the Windows machine. I open up the same document in InCopy (windows) to test, edit some copy, save, check in, close.

Now, open this same document again in InDesign (Mac), copy updates needed, update the copy, but wait! All of the third party markers are gone! Everything that was tagged, or marked for the index, and all the pricing tags are gone.

I’ve found out when the InCopy document is saved, this is when this happens. It strips out all third party invisible text, placeholders, etc.

Painful! But the fact is that while InCopy is very much related to InDesign, and shares a lot of its code, it is a different program with its own plug-ins folder. If InCopy doesn’t support whatever the InDesign plug-in does, you’ll need to purchase the plug-in in “matching sets,” one for the InDesign users and an InCopy version of it for the editors.

However, there are a number of InDesign plug-ins that simply don’t have an InCopy version, for various reasons.

Probably the most common reason is that the basic InCopy file format, the .incx file, is a bare-bones sort of format (based on XML) and so doesn’t support whatever the plugin expects will be available in an .indd file format. Remember, when you’re using InCopy you’re never really editing the layout–the .indd file–you’re editing the bare-bones .incx files “through the window” of the layout.

In fact InCopy doesn’t have support for some text-related things that even InDesign supports internally … for example, you can’t make text hyperlinked in IC. You can’t insert index markers. And so on. (But at least it doesn’t strip out ID-created index markers and hyperlinks when the InCopy story is saved.)

Chris continued,

I’ve talked to both plugin companies about this. One thinks this is a bug issue on Adobe’s end, the other is trying to work out something to stop this from happening.

He’s doing the right thing. If your InDesign workflow relies on third-party plug-ins, you definitely need to check with the plug-in developers to see if they have an InCopy version, or at least if they know if using InCopy will harm the plug-in’s functionality as stories are edited in IC. There are many ID plug-ins that work perfectly fine with IC… unfortunately it sounds like these two, AutoPrice and Sonar Bookends IndexPro, don’t fall into that category.

But, there might be hope. Here’s what I suggested to Chris: Find the InDesign plug-ins folder (it’s inside the InDesign program folder on your hard drive), and look inside it for the subfolder containing the third-party plug-in in question. Copy that subfolder to the Clipboard, and then paste it into InCopy’s plug-ins folder, which is inside the InCopy application folder. (Of course this will only work if both programs are on the same platform, Mac to Mac or Windows to Windows.) Then restart InCopy and see what happens.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised on more than a couple occasions that it solved the problem! Often, InDesign plug-in and script developers don’t even think about InCopy–it’s not on their radar–and so don’t bother testing it during development. But if the plug-in relies on the code that’s shared between the two programs, it can’t tell which program it’s running in.

If you find it works, or almost works, be sure to let the developer know! First, of course, because you’ll need buy licenses for your InCopy machines, and second, it’s always good news to hear your product works in other applications, or just needs a little tweak to open up a whole new market for them. Tell them to trumpet the news on their home page, add it as a line item in their online store, and so on.

Of course if it doesn’t work, by all means contact the developer anyway, as Chris is doing. The more inquiries they get from potential customers, the better the chances they’ll spend some serious development time on an InCopy-compatible version.

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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4 Comments on “Incompatible plug-ins

  1. hi Anne-Marie,

    I hope you can answer a question for me.
    I work with 12 authors who author 12 different technical manuals. They work in InCopy and I work in InDesign. The indexing issue is rearing it’s ugly head. I need for the technical authors to be able to tag text in InCopy for later use of building an index in Indd.
    Am I out of luck?
    Is this possible, when all material is actually created in InCopy and not Word?

    Any help or direction you can give me is much appreciated!


  2. Kathryn,

    I am pretty sure that it is not possible to create index topics and references with InCopy. InCopy can see the tagged references from InDesign, but it is not able to create new ones. A painful workaround could be to create a empty character style for each index marker and have the InCopy user “tag” each reference, and then the InDesign user could find each character style reference and then swap the chacter style with a index reference. Or you could just leave a note next to each reference. Either way it is painful and it would be a great feature request for CS5. From what I have seen with CS4, indexing is not a feature of InCopy CS4.


  3. Pingback: Indexigning « India, Ink.

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