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Changing/Updating InDesign book drafts

First, a bit about different levels of document sophistication

Documents can be created with a variety of applications; some very simple, some very sophisticated. For example:

  • Notepad is a low level text editor that is limited in its ability to format text.

  • Wordpad is similar to notepad, but has some useful basic formatting features and the ability to store style names and carry them through to other applications.

  • MS Word is a relatively high level word processing program with the ability to apply a variety of formats.

  • InDesign is a high level document formatting program that has the ability to apply formatting attributes not available to word processing programs such as MS Word.

Documents created with a higher level application can not be saved or converted to a lower level application without losing some of the formatting. For example, when saving a Microsoft Word file to a text format in order for it to be read by a lower level program such as Notepad, a Word window will display the message: “Warning: Saving as a text file will cause all formatting, pictures, and objects in your file to be lost.”

Saving or converting a high level InDesign document down to Word will result in a document lacking in some InDesign attributes.  It won’t look the same, and when imported back to InDesign, some of the original InDesign attributes will be gone.

No "new final" Word manuscripts once formatting work has started

  • Since MS Word is a word processing program, it does not have the ability to assign and display all the typographic attributes as can a more sophisticated page layout program such as InDesign.

  • When your “final” Word manuscript is imported into InDesign, it will first undergo routine clean-up (replace: dash dash with em-dash, dash to en-dash, straight quotes to typographer’s quotes, multiple returns and spaces to singles, trailing white space, etc).

  • If the book contains an index, cross-references or footnotes, their conversion will be examined for accuracy and adjusted if necessary.

  • Then page layout and font selection will take place, followed by assignment of style attributes to the various paragraph types throughout the book.

  • The original Word manuscript is now no longer a Word document.

  • Any subsequent attempt to import a “newer” Word manuscript would require the “newer” manuscript to be formatted from scratch, just as was the previous final manuscript.

  • It is therefore very important that your “final” Word manuscript should be the final one you submit.

  • Editorial changes can be made to the book, of course, but they will be made once the first draft is completed and a PDF proof  draft is provided.


Changing and Updating

So, what is the best way to update and make changes to an InDesign book file? Basically, there are two ways to do it.

1. Make changes directly to the InDesign file.

If you have the InDesign program and are experienced with its use, you can make the changes yourself and create the required print or e-book files. However, InDesign is fairly expensive and does require a fair amount of effort to learn, in which case you will probably want your book designer to make the changes for you per your instructions.

The most convenient way of providing the instructions is by using Adobe’s easy-to-use PDF mark-up and commenting facility. A PDF draft of your book will be provided to you for proofing. When you've completed marking up all the changes you want made on the PDF, and you’ve sent the marked-up  PDF file back to your book designer, the requested changes will be made to the InDesign document and a new print PDF created. (Note: since InDesign print book files may be a little different from InDesign e-book files, the changes may need to be made to two different InDesign files.)

2. Convert the InDesign file to Word, then back to InDesign.

This option would apply ONLY if your book has a simple, straight-forward layout, like that of a novel with no photos or complex chapter title pages.

If you have many changes (say, more than a hundred), it may be more feasible for you to make the required changes yourself directly on a special copy of the book file (in Word or RTF format) that your book designer will provide for you.

The Word file will be supplied to you with hidden InDesign style tags that will remain as instructions to InDesign relating to styles and formatting when the file is returned.When making changes to this imported file, formatting (particularly character formatting) should be avoided other than the use of the InDesign paragraph styles listed in the Word Style list.

Once you’ve made the changes, the Word file will be returned to your book designer and loaded back into InDesign.

As mentioned earlier, some of the document attributes may have been lost, so the book may need to be re-formatted. However, it may take less time to re-format the book with your new changes than to enter the changes per your instructions. This would apply particularly to books with a simple layout, like a novel.


Method 1. is the most common way of making changes, but if you’re not sure which method would be best for you, discuss it with your book designer.











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