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Sharing Stories Between Multiple InDesign Documents

Sometimes, despite how much you think you know about a product, you fall flat on your face. This happened to me recently while I was helping out on the Adobe forums and someone asked if it was possible to share an InCopy story between more than one InDesign document, but have different styles applied in each InDesign document. I replied matter-of-factly that this was not possible and that when you would make edits to one story, it would update the styles in the InCopy story therefore updating both InDesign documents. Boy was I wrong! Happily I might add! You can read the post here, and I’d like to thank Anne-Marie Concepcion for setting things straight.

How it works

The trick to making this work, is to define paragraph styles in each InDesign document with the same name but different definitions. Then make sure that the style is applied to the text in the linked InCopy story in each InDesign document. Now, whenever the text is edited in either of the InDesign documents or in the InCopy story, the story can be updated in both InDesign documents but the formatting retained.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 7.52.26 AMDual Story Screen Shot

You can open either of the InDesign documents in InCopy to make edits or you can edit the assignments if that is part of your workflow or you can edit the story directly. If you open the story directly in InCopy, the appearance of the text will reflect the InDesign document where the story was last updated. It doesn’t really matter however, as the appearance in each respective InDesign document will be honored, retaining the formatting of the text.

Reap the Rewards!

This functionality can have a big impact in certain workflow solutions. Having text common to more than one document or project is something that is commonplace in many workflows. The ability to link a story to more than one InDesign document with independent formatting can save time and limit errors.

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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4 Comments on “Sharing Stories Between Multiple InDesign Documents

  1. Thanks for the tip about multiple documents. Is it possible when laying out a story to omit part of the text on in the incopy document without necessarily “cutting/erasing” it from the original incopy file when it’s placed on an indesign document. So basically what I wanna do it leave text on the incopy story itself but no use it on the indesign document. Thanks

    • That is an excellent question and one that I’ve received from some of my clients as well. There are two methods that I usually recommend. Which one you choose will depend on your workflow and your comfort level with each. The first method is to simply enable track changes in the story. Now simply delete the text that you don’t want to appear in the InDesign layout. What this does is removes the text from layout view but it still is visible in galley and story view as deleted text. It will not display in the copycat status in InCopy for that story but if you ever need to recover the text, you can simply reject the changes for that text. The key here is to not accept all changes at any point because the text will then be removed.

      Another option is to take advantage of conditional text. Open the Conditional text panel, and create a new condition. I usually call my condition something like “hide for later”. Select the text you want to hide, click on the “hide for later” condition to apply it to the selected text, then turn off the visibility for that condition. You’ll maintain the same benefits as I mentioned above but you won’t rely on the track changes feature to make it happen. I think you just created a future blog post ;-) I hope this helps!

      • YES! thank you!!!!! Method #2 seems to be the easiest. thanks again for the reply

  2. Just remember that the text will be cut or hidden in every InDesign document into which you’ve placed that InCopy story. Any edits to an InCopy file, whether you made them in InCopy or by checking out the story in InDesign, are made to the original InCopy story and thus to any ID files that link to that InCopy story file.

    What you *can* change without affecting any other InDesign documents is to edit the attributes for the story’s paragraph and character styles (not the name of the styles, just the attributes).

    BTW one more way to temporarily hide text is to select it and choose Notes > Convert to Note. You can do this in IC or ID. It’s less dangerous IMO than the Track Changes/Delete (if you accidentally accept changes, or if a second change overwrites the first), and it may be more convenient than the Condition one, since IC users can’t create conditions on the fly … these have to be set up in ID first.

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