Share a Single Custom Dictionary
Wouldn’t it make your publication production faster and more accurate if everyone shared the same custom spelling dictionary, one that contained the correct (but unusual) spellings of words used in your field? Creating such a custom dictionary is step one, adding words to it is step two, and then sharing it with everyone is step three. Each step involves a few ins-and-outs that could be tricky, so I’ll spell it out. (heh.)
(By the way, the technique I outline should work with CS3 or CS4 of InDesign or InCopy. It might also work with earlier versions … I don’t have any installed at the moment to check, though.)
Create a Custom Dictionary
While InDesign allows multiple users to read (check against) the same dictionary, only one user can write to it, that is, add words to it or edit existing ones. To everyone else, that dictionary will be locked. So choose someone on your team to be the Keeper of the Dictionary – the KoD – and give that person a commensurate boost in pay and perhaps a royal robe and scepter.
The KoD should create the dictionary in their copy of InDesign and save it to the server. Here’s how:
1. In InDesign, open the Preferences dialog box and go to the Dictionary panel.
The top of the panel, shown below, contains a list of the dictionaries that this copy of InDesign is currently using, in the order that InDesign should check words against. Most likely you have just a single dictionary showing here, the default one for your operating system language.
2. Click the icon for New Dictionary (the usual dog-eared paper icon) right below the list of dictionaries, as shown above.
3. In the New Dictionary dialog box, name and save the custom dictionary. You should save it to a folder on your local network fileserver (where other members of your team can access it), with a name like AcmeDictionary.udc. The “.udc” means it’s an InDesign/InCopy dictionary.
4. Click OK to close the dialog box. You now see two dictionaries listed in the panel, the default one and the new one.
Now, when you run a spell check in InDesign, the program will check the default dictionary first to see if there is a word match. If not, it will check the custom dictionary for a matching word. Only if neither one contains the word will it flag it as unknown (i.e., a possible misspelling).
So far, though, the second dictionary is empty, it has no words. We’ll fill it up in the next step.
Add Words to the Custom Dictionary
As the dictionary’s creator, only the KoD can add words to or edit the dictionary on the server. Everyone else will be able to use it, but they’ll see a lock icon indicating it’s read-only.
Here’s how the KoD can populate the custom dictionary with your company’s special words.
1. In InDesign, select Edit > Spelling > Dictionary to open the Dictionary editing dialog box.
2. Choose the name of your custom dictionary from the Target dropdown menu.
3. If you have a custom word list already saved in a text file, you can click the Import button (in the same dialog box) and point to the text file. Otherwise, enter words one by one in the Word field, clicking the Add button after each one.
Typically, the KoD imports a custom word list into the company dictionary to start with; and as time goes by, he or she periodically adds new words to it as necessary. When a colleague comes across a word that should be added to the custom dictionary, they won’t be able to add it to the customary dictionary; so they send it to the KoD for the next update. (Creating a single Buzzword “add these words to our dictionary” document on Acrobat.com that all team members can add to would be a great way to manage this.)
Share the Custom Dictionary with Your Team
To complete the process, it’s a simple matter of having each member of your publication team connect to the new dictionary. As soon as they do so, their copy of InDesign or InCopy will automatically check both the default and the custom dictionary just as it does on the KoD’s computer. This will occur with every layout they open or create from then on, until they change the dictionary preferences again.
The KoD is already set up. Everyone else needs to do the following:
1. In (each person’s copy of InCopy or) InDesign, open the Preferences dialog box and choose the Dictionary panel.
2. Click the icon of a plus symbol (which is to the right of the New Dictionary icon) to add a dictionary to the list.
3. In the Add User Dictionary dialog box, navigate to the server, select the custom dictionary file, and click OK.
Their preference panel should look the same as the KoD’s:
That’s the basic process – not too complicated, just a little confusing because of the two different “Dictionary” areas. If you can remember that Preferences > Dictionary is to add, remove, or create the dictionary files themselves, while the Edit > Spelling > Dictionary area is for editing the contents of dictionaries, you’ll be far ahead of the game.