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Will InCopy CS3 Work with InDesign CS2?

I field this question (see above) a lot — almost every day, in fact. That’s because there are plenty of “InCopy-curious” art departments in the world that use InDesign CS2. They’re not quite ready to move to InDesign CS3, or simply have no plans to do so, at least in this fiscal year… CS2 does everything they need to do.

The problem is that while Adobe recommends that InCopy workflow users keep InCopy and InDesign at the same version level, Adobe stopped selling InCopy CS2 back in April, when CS3 started shipping.

There’s not even an InCopy CS2 tryout available for these users to install on editorial workstations and test with their network and publications. (After which, they might be convinced to move to InDesign CS3 just to have parity with InCopy CS3, the only version available for purchase. Companies seldom move to this workflow without verifying that it works!)

Good News

The good news is that InCopy CS3 works fine for testing purposes with InDesign CS2. To prep a layout for InCopy, you’ll have install the free InCopy plug-ins into InDesign CS2 first, and export some of the stories in your layout to InCopy format, which turns them into editable “workflow” stories.

Then, install the InCopy CS3 tryout on your editor’s workstations, and they’ll be able to open the InDesign CS2 layout (.indd file) and edit the workflow stories within it, without any need to convert files or backsave them.

Stories exported to InCopy format from within InDesign CS2 are .incx files by default, the same as those exported to InCopy from within InDesign CS3 — there doesn’t appear to be any new features in the .incx format itself.

Similarly, InCopy CS3 can open Assignments (.inca files) created from InDesign CS2’s Assignments palette. Just make sure that everything’s saved to the server, and that the InCopy users are working off the server.

Check-in and check-out of stories, updating content and designs, sharing notes, tracking changes — all works just fine with InCopy CS3 and InDesign CS2.

Bad News

While mixing IC CS3 and ID CS2 is fine for testing, it’s not recommended as a permanent solution.

The main reason has to do with slight changes in the text composition engine between CS2 and CS3 (David and I talked about this in our recent podcast). For example, Adobe tweaked optical kerning to make it “more accurate” in CS3, as they mention in their InDesign CS3 Read Me document.

And as the Read Me goes on to explain; hyphenation exceptions, auto-numbered lists, and other internal text changes between the two versions may result in different line breaks when a CS2 layout is opened in CS3. The same glitches can occur when a story is shared between InDesign CS2 and InCopy CS3.

Here’s an example. In InDesign CS2 I created a test layout with one story (one text frame) exported to InCopy format. I filled the text frame with the same text that Dave Saunders provided in a comment to the InDesignSecrets podcast episode 54, showing one example of how CS2 and CS3 break lines differently.

First, here’s the same block of left-justified text in InDesign CS2, before and after I forced the paragraph to recompose by clicking after its last character and pressing Return to start a new paragraph. As you can see, the line breaks remain the same:


I undid my edit (so the new carriage return was removed), checked the story in and saved the file. Then I opened the layout in InCopy CS3 and checked out the same “before” story.

Nothing changed, the line breaks remained the same, as you can see on the left of the screenshot below. But as soon as I forced the paragraph to recompose (by again clicking after the last character and pressing Return), it used the CS3 engine to do so, resulting in quite different results — in fact, it caused an overflow — as you can see on the right:


You may be wondering what would happen if I saved that edited story in InCopy CS3 as-is, and then updated “the editor’s changes” in InDesign CS2. Check it out:


It added the additional Return character, but it completely ignored what happened to the recomposed line breaks in CS3. No more overflow!

While you may not be setting this particular type of text in your publication, and in fact you may encounter few examples of line break differences, the fact that it could occur will drive you and your editors mad.

Final Advice for InDesign CS2 Users

Go ahead and download the InCopy CS3 tryout if you want to see how it’d work on your network and with your publication. When you’re convinced it’s the way to go, lobby TPTB (the powers that be) for an upgrade to InDesign CS3. (Tell them about this text engine issue; also remind them that only InDesign CS3 supports off-site InCopy editors, maybe that will help too.)

If you must use InCopy CS3 and InDesign CS2 for real projects, I suggest you do a lot of testing first to see if how the text engine tweaks will affect your type of stories. Take a few of your recent InDesign CS2 layouts, export all the stories to InCopy format, and open the layouts in InCopy CS3 in Layout view.

After checking out a spread’s worth of stories in InCopy, press the keyboard shortcut for Recompose All Stories (Command-Option-/ on a Mac, Control-Alt-/ on Windows), and you’ll see right away if line breaks change. Do this for all the spreads you’re worried about, one spread at a time. This way, you can immediately see if any text rewraps without having to jump back and forth between InDesign and InCopy to verify line endings.

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at or on Twitter @amarie
Anne-Marie Concepcion

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8 Comments on “Will InCopy CS3 Work with InDesign CS2?

  1. Great article. What about if your department is using InDesign CS3, but is too cheap to upgrade InCopy?

    Will InDesign CS3 work with InCopy CS2? I know the InCopy upgrade is cheap ($89 I think), but I am just curious to see if it even works.

  2. Good question!

    InCopy CS2 can’t open InDesign CS3 layouts … you get a “missing plug-ins” error message.

    But it can open Assignments (.inca files) created with InDesign CS3. From my limited testing it looks like check-in/check-out, updates etc. work okay between the two apps.

    This combination is far more problematic than the IC CS3/ID CS2 one, though. If the InDesign CS3 designer uses any CS3-only features that are normally shared in InCopy CS3 (such text variables, making style groups, advanced autonumbering of lists and so on), these get munged when a story is checked out in InCopy CS2, and the munging persists when the designer updates the editor’s changes back in ID CS3.

    For example, if the designer inserts a text variable into a story, the variable is stripped out in IC CS2, and doesn’t reappear in ID CS3.

    Or if a designer puts some paragraph styles in a group (in a folder in the Styles panel), those styles appear like this in IC CS2’s palette (assume “Body Styles” is the name of the folder):

    Body Styles:Body first
    Body Styles:Body space above

    They still work in IC CS2, the editor can still apply the styles.

    But when the ID CS3 user updates the story, their paragraph styles panel gets these “flattened” styles *added* to their panel. The ones in the folder are still there, plus the new ones with the colon.

    And so on … yuck.

    You don’t run into this so much with IC CS3/ID CS2 because unless the editors are working on a standlone IC CS3 document, these new CS3 features are all greyed out … the designer didn’t add them to the layout (because they couldn’t, they don’t exist in CS2), so they’re not available to the editor. It kind of forces everyone to stick with “lowest common denominator” CS2 features.

  3. InCopy CS3 is great but the dark side of the story is…

    – I have requested a quote for 35 InCopy licences for one of my major clients…
    – Our reseller (who’s a trusted one) sent me this quote and guaranteed me that it’s what he received from Adobe :

    1 x Adobe InCopy CS3 Win UK – TLC License : $569 + 21% VAT

    10 x Adobe InCopy CS3 Win UK – TLC License : $5,690 + 21% VAT

    35 x Adobe InCopy CS3 Win UK – TLC License : $19,915 dollars + 21% VAT

    If Adobe thinks that it can continue to have such a pricing policy towards Europe for just a text editor…………..

  4. The reason why the version mix actually does work is that the INCX file format is based on the InDesign Exchange file format (also known as INX). That means of course that any problems that occur when opening CS3-INX files in InDesign CS2 are bound to appear in an InCopy workflow as well. So if you are considering a version mix, you should check the internet for known CS3/CS2 INX exchange bugs and problems as well, not just InCopy-related ones. The same goes for snippet-related bugs, since they are based on INX as well.

    The other consequence of the INX/INCX similarity thing is that you probably won’t be able to work with InDesign CS3 and InCopy CS together, while the other way round might actually work. However, you will almost certainly have to cope with even more problems than with the CS3/CS2 combos in that case.

  5. We hope to run a test of InCopy CS3 with InDesign CS2 this week. I followed the link above “install the free InCopy plug-ins” only to find that the InCopy CS3 plug-ins are not compatible with InDesign CS2. Is there another way to access plug-ins that will make InDesign CS2 function with InCopy CS3.

  6. Stephanie, I’m wondering if perhaps you misread the page I linked to. You’re not supposed to install any CS3 plugins into CS2. You install CS*2* plugins into CS2. These plug-ins are found on the Resources disc that came with your InDesign CS2 set of installation discs.

  7. Anne-Marie,

    We have just upgraded to InDesign CS3 at work. However, our editor is working on our assignments and stories when we created them in CS2 (she is still working in InCopy CS2). When we modified our incopy files, we are getting the small pencil icon crossed through in our assignments and link panels in InDesign. They will not modify – only unlink! Is this a common problem between InCopy 2 and InDesign 3?



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