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The Role of Microsoft Word in an InCopy Workflow

Whenever I explain the concept of InCopy to new users, I’m often asked if InCopy replaces Microsoft Word in an InCopy Workflow. Truth be told, I often hear people describe InCopy as a replacement for Word. InCopy can in fact be a replacement for Word in some workflows but it can also be used as an enhancement to many workflows. One of the things that I’ve always loved about Adobe InCopy is that there’s no ONE way to use the product. It’s a good thing too, because although I can categorize the workflow for most organizations into a certain type of workflow, each organization brings their own nuances to the table requiring a tweak or modification to the “standard” InCopy workflow.

When InCopy Can Replace Microsoft Word

If the editorial staff (writers, editors, copy editors, etc.) work directly for your organization, then there’s a good chance that InCopy can in fact become a replacement for Microsoft Word in your workflow. After all, Microsoft Word although powerful as a Word Processing application, lacks a lot of features that InCopy brings to the table. Applying styles, accurate color, and even kerning and tracking being only a few of those features. That’s not to throw Word under the bus at all, it was never designed to fill the need that we often try to make it achieve. In an environment such as this, InCopy offers all of the features necessary for editorial staff to perform their jobs and streamlines the workflow considerably by allowing concurrent editing of content, efficient application of styles, and much more. The reason that this environment facilitates the use of InCopy is because it can be controlled more easily and it’s easier to deploy InCopy to all necessary parties.

When InCopy Cannot Replace Microsoft Word

If the editorial staff (writers, editors, copy editors, etc.) or more accurately some of the editorial staff (namely writers) do not work directly for your organization, then it’s a little more difficult and in some cases undesirable to replace Microsoft Word with Adobe InCopy. This requires a little bit of explanation.

In certain environments, freelance authors and editors are used throughout the process. In cases like these it’s difficult for InCopy to be used because there is a training component as well as a software purchase component involved which for numerous reasons, might not be feasible. As someone once told me, “You can’t make Pete Rose write his biography in InCopy.”

In cases like these, it makes perfect sense to use Word in some portion of your workflow. Think of articles that are being submitted by various authors to a magazine. Typically authors will write the content in Word and that content will remain in Word during the back-and-forth exchange between the author and the editor. Once final edits have been made, the Word content can be imported into InCopy, saved as a story, and passed on to design. Or depending on your workflow, it can be imported directly into InDesign.

To make the most of this process, you can set up a Word template that is provided to authors for submitting articles that contain Styles that can be used for general formatting of text. The benefit of this is two-fold. First, it can provide some visual representation of what the content will look like in the final product, and secondly it can facilitate the text formatting when imported into InCopy or InDesign.

Part of making the decision between replacing Word with InCopy or incorporating Word into some portion of your workflow is to evaluate the overall workflow. Whenever I implement InCopy, I remind people that it’s a great time to evaluate the existing workflow to determine whether a change might make sense to improve overall efficiency. That doesn’t mean that I always encourage change for change sake, but it’s worth a second look. This is the time when you can make a decision between keeping Word implemented to some extent or replacing it with InCopy altogether.

Let us know what role Word plays in your workflow (or not) in the comments below.

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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5 Comments on “The Role of Microsoft Word in an InCopy Workflow

  1. Good morning, I’m sorry because I’m french and my English will be very awful. But I’m very interested by a workflow using Word, InCopy and InDesign. Why ? Because, I would like to make some school books for print and for computer, tablet or smartphone. I must have a design “responsive” and a sufficiently structured contents to make in the same time the book for the print and the book for the digital. So, I think that it’s very important to have the content in InCopy and the design in InDesign for print and Dreamweaver (for instance) for digital. So I would like to have your advice about a workflow with Word for authors, InCopy for editor (editing, proofreading…) and InDesign for print and CMS for digital. Is it easy with the Style système to have a good connection between the Word Styles, InCopy Structure, InDesign Styles and Web CSS ?

    I hope that my comment is understanding and you can tell me your advice about that.

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