Looking at InCopy for our Study Guides

16 12 2008

Given the current situation at the University, I want to see how we can continue to improve the process we started with our Study Guides. (earlier posts explain this process, including InDesign and it’s XML features to do various things).

I thought, I might as well look at InCopy.. So.. I’ve looked at it, and I’ve been thinking. It seems like a good tool for starters, I like the whole assignment based workflow idea where multiple authors can work on pieces of a document simultaneously. However. At this time I don’t see the value in adding InCopy to the study guide process and I’m going to abort my testing on it. Unless we significantly change things, it’s not going to impact or improve our workloads in any great beneficial way as far as I can see.

To get big gains on workflow we’d need to use InCopy completely instead of MS Word, and thus we would need to either:

ONE: get our real authors to use InCopy, our lecturers would then be more directly involved in their study material creation, but the downside is I’m sure they wouldn’t have time..? We would then take the designer role and manage the content and assignments – just like a real publishing house. OR;

TWO: get InDesign Server, develop a front end which lets authors edit their content without needing InCopy. This would take time, money, money and I don’t know what else! It’d be great, extensible, but we’d need to be careful and ensure that it met our real needs and improved our processes without getting carried away.

So, where to next? Who knows.

This is what I’d do if I had unlimited skills, time, and money from the University:

Look at MS Word’s XML docx format, investigate how we can effectively (automatically) transport this structured XML content in to InDesign, or generally just a more usable XML format than straight docx.

It’d be great to have a front end where the content could then be checked out for any needed updates – checked out by Authors or Designers – then at a certain date (or manually) the server does all the work.. TOCs, tagging, footers, PDFs for print and online, XML exports, web pages to display the content as well, the whole lot.

Hrm, wouldn’t that be nice.

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4 responses

17 12 2008
Anne-Marie

I’m happy to answer any InCopy questions you may have. I’m a long-time trainer/consultant for it.

I read over your post about the study guides and I’m still not clear why you think you’d need to jettison Word. Most of my clients continue to use Word to some degree, usually at the front end.

If any part of your workflow involves ID users cleaning up Word styles after they’ve been poured into ID; or authors reviewing layout proofs (in print or as PDFs) and marking up revisions for the ID user to implement, that is where InCopy would save time, money, and heartache. 😉

17 03 2009
Nanci

I am interested in using this template – would you know how I might be able to get a download-able template?

27 09 2009
wendymad

Hi Rolley,

I can’t say I understand much of what you have written here – once it starts to get anymore technical beyond ‘Word’ and you generally loose me. However, as a course coordinator who has to change her study guides every year – I embed quite a bit of the assessment into the study guide and hence it needs to change as the assessment changes each year – I realise this creates a bit of a nightmare for you guys (at least I suspect it does, but you have all been too professional to tell me outright!). Like many of my colleagues, I have limited computer skills, but I would really like to be able to click into the master copy of my study guides and fix up the bits that need altering each year.

5 11 2009
Rolley

Hi Wendy and others : )

Thanks for those comments (I’ve neglected my work blog haven’t I!)

After the restructure Wendy I haven’t had the time or inspiration to continue with the study guide project : ( A bit of a shame really. We have so many less staff members too.. sigh ; )

I’d like to pick it back up at some point : )

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