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The Case of the Missing Margins!

I received a question this week from a user who was using InCopy to create simple standalone documents and was confounded by the complete lack of margin settings when creating a new document. It’s a good question, but one that requires some further explanation regarding the role of InCopy.

Creating a document without the intent of ever connecting it (flowing it into) InDesign is referred to as a stand-alone document, in other words, using it as a word processor. As much as I hear people describe InCopy as a replacement for Microsoft Word in a publishing workflow, InCopy is not a replacement for Word in a word processing workflow. Hence the missing margins, lack of headers and footers, inability to add automatic page numbers, and no way to configure multiple columns, among many other things.

InCopy will, however, add additional pages as needed — which somewhat resembles the behavior of a word processing application — so it’s easy to see why someone might misinterpret how InCopy should be used. Content that begins in InCopy is intended to by placed into InDesign at some point down the line, where the text of the InCopy story takes on the geometry of the frame in InDesign. This is why most of the “usual” word processing features are missing from InCopy.

The Confusing New Document dialog box

When you create a new standalone document in InCopy and view it in Layout view, it looks like an InDesign document, with margins on every side of the page. You might think, hey, there must be a place where you can change the margins. In the New Document dialog box, you’re provided with the ability to change the width and height of the page (the page size, in other words), as well as the text area width and depth. This is the source of a lot of confusion: no matter what you change the width and depth or height to in either of these fields, you’ll always end up with .5″ margins in your document page.



So what are these fields actually doing? When you create a new document in InCopy, the Page Size is defined in the Page Size section of the New Document dialog box. Easy enough.

The Text Area settings are a little more complicated. Essentially it defines the width of the single column the text will occupy in the document. If you’ve created a standalone document that you know will be poured into an InDesign file, into a column or text frame that’s 4″ wide, then you could set the Text Area width to 4″ to get an accurate idea of how lines will break.

So: no margins are involved at all. The text frame that appears on each page carries the same width as what you specified in Text Area field, but it always appears offset from the top, left, and bottom edges of the page by .5″.  The depth field here is only for a target copyfit measure, which is why it’s empty by default (more on this below). The actual height of the text frame in InCopy will always be 1″ less than the height of the page, because there will be a .5″ top margin and .5″ bottom margin.

If you want to call the empty area to the right of the text frame a margin, go ahead. Just remember it’s only the right margin that’s adjustable, by changing the default 7.5″ Text Area width to another measure.

In each of the above figures, the width has been changed but the margins (the non-printing pink margin guides) remained the same. The only change is to the width of the text frame on the page.

How about the depth? You’d expect that changing the depth would yield the same result but there’s no change at all. The frame extends to the bottom of the page, stopping at the .5″ margin guide.

Remember that the Text Area depth is just for copyfitting purposes (they should just change the name of this field to Copyfit Target!). If you enter something in the field (as a target number of words, lines, pages, or inches) then InCopy can let you know if your story is over (as shown below) or under that amount, or hits the mark exactly. This can be very useful when writing to fit a predefined story length in InDesign, and is a feature that Microsoft Word lacks.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 8.39.19 PM

So the key with this whole conundrum of margins in InCopy is to understand that InCopy is not a word processor. You can’t adjust the default margins that appear in Layout view but you can adjust the width of the text frame on your page — to make it easier to read, perhaps, or to preview how it’ll look in InDesign. Enter something into the Text Area: Depth field only if you want to set a target length for your story, and have InCopy report how you’re doing in the Copyfit Progress toolbar.

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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