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Repurposing Projects in an InCopy Workflow

One of the questions that always seems to come up when I’m teaching or implementing an InCopy workflow, is how can users re-purpose projects. What they’re referring to, is the ability to take an existing project and save it as a starting point for another project. I know this sounds easy enough, we do it all the time with InDesign files. But the InCopy workflow presents a unique set of challenges that need to be considered when repurposing files.

The Problem

To understand why this requires special attention, we need to take a look at why it isn’t as easy as doing a “save as” or making a duplicate of a file for another project. Let’s start with the simplest situation which would be the layout-based workflow. In this situation, you have an InDesign document that contains linked InCopy stories that can be checked out, edited, and checked back in. If you were to create a copy of the InDesign document for another version of the project with a different name, you might think that all is fine until you begin making edits to the linked stories. The problem in this situation is that even though you’ve made a copy of the InDesign document, It’s still linked to the stories in the original file. The figure below illustrates this concept.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.02.23 AM

What happens in this situation, is that if a user edits the story in either of the InDesign files, the corresponding story will get edited essentially making the change in both layouts. Not exactly what everyone is expecting in this situation. If you use an assignment based workflow, you encounter the same problem as the assignments are also still linked to the new InDesign document.

Solving the Problem

To achieve the expected result, you need to take a slightly different approach than the traditional “save as” that everyone is used to.

Solution 1

In this solution you can perform the “save as” as usual, but then you need to break the links to all of the stories that are currently linked to the document. This is accomplished by right-clicking on each story in the Assignment panel and choosing Unlink Content from the resulting list. This unlinks the stories, leaving the text as basic static text in InDesign. Now, you’ll want to re-export all of the text in the InDesign document as stories to a new location on your server so that you have a separate instance of each story specific to this document. In the case of an Assignment-based workflow, you’ll also want to delete the Assignments from the layout and recreate them, again in a new location on your server.

Solution 2

In this solution, you duplicate the entire project folder to create an entire copy of the project. Open the duplicated InDesign file and and go to the Links panel. If you look at the Link info for all of the stories, you’ll notice that InDesign is still looking at the ones at the original location. Select all of the InCopy stories in the Links panel and choose “Relink to Folder” from the panel menu. Navigate to the folder that contains the duplicated stories and click OK. Indesign will relink all of the stories to the new location making this project completely separate from the original one.

Note: You may also want to do this to all of the graphics in the Links panel if you truly want this project to be completely separate from the original one. Also, if you are using an Assignment based workflow, you’ll want to relink the assignment to the new location by double-clicking on the Assignment in the Assignments panel and changing the location to the new location. This step can be misleading as you’re really not relinking the assignment, you’re really just saving a new copy to the new location and overwriting the old one.

Using one of the above techniques will allow you to repurpose projects without the need to start over from scratch. A similar technique can be used when you have projects of a similar look and feel that need to be created at regular intervals. You can create an InDesign file with linked blank stories each saved in their own project folder. With this technique, InCopy users can actually begin a new project as needed before the designer even receives the file.

It’s important to understand that in all of the instances mentioned above, only the InDesign user can perform the necessary steps to repurpose the project. Even still, this technique will save a considerable amount of time compared to starting over from scratch.

Chad Chelius

Chad Chelius

Chad Chelius is an Adobe Certified Instructor, Author, and Consultant in the Philadelphia area and works with clients to improve their creative workflows using Adobe products. He's also the author of several courses on He specializes in PDF accessibility using Adobe InDesign and is a regular speaker at The InDesign Conference and PePcon.
Chad Chelius

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7 Comments on “Repurposing Projects in an InCopy Workflow

  1. Thank you for this! Multiple searches of the Adobe help center didn’t turn up anything this useful. We just a lot of templates for estimates, contracts, etc. and I am attempting to keep key items as Assignments shared amongst the InDesign files, but the rest of the copy in the documents will be unique to each file. I think these tips should get me much further in this process.

  2. I’m wondering if relinking might work with my possible workflow when we move to InCopy (soon!). Right now, for my weekly publication, I have an .indd doc template I use to create the new publication .indd doc each week, with a Save As. We import repeating features, make tweaky changes that might be necessary for that week only. Package at the end of the week for archive, then start over with the nice, clean template. It helps standardize our styles, since the template has the bare minimum. But with InCopy, from reading and testing, the assignments have a new name when I Save As to make the new week’s pub. Can I relink the assignments for the new week document back to assignments that stay in a static location? Or maybe I can have InCopy create a separate folder for each inCopy assignment for each week of the year, to keep them separate, and relink to the upcoming week. The filenames would be very structured, and the same each week. I feel like I might be missing a better idea here!

    • Sure Nancy, you can totally relink stories in an Assignment or a layout to a new set of stories. You can make a copy of a “set” of stories for the next week and make sure that the layout or assignment relinks to the new copy of the stories. You can actually rename those stories (if desired) directly in InDesign within the Assignments panel. That workflow should totally work!

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