WordsFlow Workflow

A Designer’s Love Letter to WordsFlow

I first learnt about WordsFlow when watching a tutorial on Lynda.com on Word and InDesign Integration. I have found that clients love the control they have over the text using WordsFlow, that they get to work in an application they’re comfortable with (I’ve yet to meet someone who uses InCopy), and how fast I can output an updated PDF for them. Before, they’d have to wait for me to make the text changes they need, but now I just need to press a button. Its great! 

And yes, you can place a Word doc in an InDesign file without a fancy plugin, but any formatting you do will be lost each time you update the file. WordsFlow allows you to keep all the formatting and layout you’ve done in InDesign, no matter how often the Word doc is updated!

Screenshot of a Word document

WordsFlow Workflow

My workflow is for the non-Pro version of WordsFlow that I have, but if you have WordsFlow Pro, you get a leg-up in convenience as it pushes the updates through. I do not have access to cloud storage or a shared drive at my workplace to collaborate with clients through – but if you do, you can eliminate the emailing back-and-forth I write of below.

Client Instructions

At each phase, we will be handling two files: one will be a Microsoft Word document in which you would make any text changes. The other will be a PDF where you’d make any comments on layout and visual presentation using PDF mark-up.

When text edits are made, please complete them within the Word document, then send the revised document back to me without changing the file name. I will then sync it on my end with my graphic design software and re-export the updated PDF document (after making any necessary adjustments to the visual presentation if things have shifted due to the text edits).

Please do not include instructions, comments, or notes in the synced document. Please use PDF mark-up for this instead.

By using this workflow, we eliminate the duplicate work associated with text changes, thus speeding up the editing process and reducing the chance of error. You have total control over the text content while editing text in a program that is familiar to you (Word). You get to focus on the content, and the designer focuses on how to best display that content, in a fast and efficient manner.

Best Practices for Word docs:

  • Use Word’s built it Styles for heading hierarchy (Heading 1, Heading 2). These styles will translate to InDesign, allowing me to maintain document structure and hierarchy.
  • Avoid using hard returns (the enter key) to create space between paragraphs. Instead, use ‘Space After
  • Do not use keystrokes to format text (tab key, enter key, excessive use of the space bar, glyphs for bullets). Instead use built in formatting tools like Page breaks, left indents, bulleted lists etc.
  • If your document includes tables, please make sure that “Repeat as header row at the top of each page” is checked on for each table (Table Properties > Row). Also, do not use heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2) inside tables as this can create errors.
  • If you need to include placeholder text, I recommend pasting dummy text such as Lorem Ipsomin the Word doc.

For more information on creating Word docs that work well with the Word/InDesign plug-in, I suggest checking out ADOD and WebAIM. Added bonus – these best practices for the plugin are also best practices for accessible Word docs that can be read by people using assistive technology like screen readers, and also export well to other formats such as accessible PDF, ePub, and HTML etc. These are all round great habits to get into that save time lots of time in the long run!

Screenshot of a InDesign document with a Word document placed using WordsFlow

Designer Instructions

At the start of a project, I usually setup my client a template in Word using Styles I anticipate in my InDesign document. If a client has already sent me a Word file, I usually take some time to clean it up, (few people know how to use Word’s built-in formatting tools and Styles to their fullest). However, if you yourself aren’t strong in Word, you could totally work from a Word file where everything is set to the Normal Style (gasp!). However, I like to take this as an opportunity to show my clients how easy it is to create an accessible document in Word that transfers well over to InDesign.

I place the document using WordsFlow (making sure you haven’t pre-selected a text frame – then it wont work), then apply my Character and Paragraph Styles in InDesign. If I need to make any text changes, such as remove a forced break for example, I go to the Word document to make that change, then re-sync the document in my Links panel in InDesign. I want to make sure any changes I make to the text content is made in Word for continuity.

Once I’ve laid out the document with pictures and whatever else, I export a PDF and send it to my client with the Word document. They then make any changes to the text content in the Word document and send it back to me. I then replace the old Word doc with the new Word doc, re-sync, and presto – text is updated! There maybe some slight adjusting needed (Styles, breaks, pictures need shifting) but for the most part I’m ready to export in minutes! (Note: if you have shared servers or cloud storage with your client, you could probably store the file there too)

Screenshot of InDesign with the File menu open with WordsFlow, Place with WordsFlow highlighted

And no – I haven’t been put up to write this post by Em Software who owns WordsFlow. I just love this plugin so very, very much and think other designers would love it too.

If you want to know more about how WordsFlow works, I recommend Anne-Marie Concepción’s tutorial on Lynda.com Word and InDesign Integration as the WordsFlow website is a cognitive overload of text. If your workplace or school doesn’t have a Lynda.com subscription, note that most public libraries, such as the Toronto Public Library, allow you to log into Lynda with your library card.

 

 

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WordsFlow Troubleshooting: Document No Longer Linked

My favourite plugin in the whole wide world is WordsFlow. If you have text-edit-happy clients, this will save you the pain and suffering of changing a comma to a period and back again… repeatedly. Instead, they get to do all that themselves and you get to focus on what you do best – designing! Its honestly the best thing ever. No more duplicated work – I love efficiency!

If you’re not a WordsFlow user and curious how it works, I’ve written up a post on my WordsFlow Workflow. But now, the purpose of this post – troubleshooting!

The Problem

Screen shot of a linked text frame with WordsFlow icon with a red line over itNow, I had been working away on a 104 page guide book when all of a sudden I noticed my Word document was no longer linked to my InDesign file and there was a red line over the WordsFlow icon on each text frame. I consulted the WordsFlow User Guide, shut down my Word and InDesign programs and re-opened them. I restarted my computer too, but still the program persisted. The Word and InDesign’s file locations and names have not changed, nor has the version of software being used.

Of course, things like this happen when I’m working late at night. I took it as a sign to go home, shooting off an email to WordFlow’s Em Software Customer Support before I clocked out. When I returned the following morning, there was an email from Customer Support waiting for me! Here is what they wrote:

The Solution

  1. Make a backup copy of the InDesign doc, just in case. Update to the latest release of WordsFlow.
  2. Then, save the InDesign document as IDML, then open and save the IDML document as a new .indd document. This can clean up a lot of corruption.
  3. Then, un-link the link, using the command in the Links panel. Then:
  4. With the Type Tool in the story, Select All and cut the contents of the story. Paste it into a temporary frame on the pasteboard, or even into a new document for safe keeping.
  5. Use WordsFlow to Place the version of the Word document that was used for the previous update. This re-creates the link.
  6. Select All and paste the original story back, overwriting the just-placed document, to restore the InDesign document to the most recent state.

And guess what? It worked! I am a very happy customer.

How to add ALT text to image metadata

These instructions are written for InDesign users and people working with graphic designers, but could be applied to other applications and fields as well.

Although images cannot carry actual alternative (ALT) text around with them, you can add the ALT text to the metadata of an image to use as you please. This aids in efficiency and reduces chance of error when applying ALT text to images.

This post covers two methods for collaborating with your client/communications on applying image metadata:

  • Adding ALT text to image metadata on their PC (no special software required – free!)
  • Adding ALT text to image metadata using Adobe Bridge (subscription required)

Alternatively, the designer can do the above if the client is unable to.

Followed by three different methods for graphic designers listed below:

  • Applying the image metadata as ALT text manually in InDesign via Object Export Options
  • Applying the image metadata as ALT text in InDesign using a Script (my personal favourite)
  • Applying the image metadata as ALT text in InDesign using Object Styles

Screenshot of image properties, details tab open

Client:

Adding ALT text to the metadata (PC/Windows):

  1. Select your images and write out your alternative (ALT) text.
  1. Open the folder where your images are kept (ex: Pictures folder in Windows)
  2. Right click the image
  3. Select “Properties” from the drop-down menu.
  4. Click the “Details” tab.
  5. Paste your ALT text into the “Title” input field of the photo
  6. Click OK (this will save the metadata)
  7. Send the photos with the metadata to your Designer/Design Request. Inform your designer that you have put the ALT text in the Title/Description field of the photo’s metadata.

Note: Instructions above written for Windows 7 users.

Faster Alternative: Adobe Bridge

If your client has an Adobe Creative Suite license, they can do these steps faster in Adobe Bridge, where they would put the ALT text in the Description OR Headline field of the image metadata.

Screenshot of the script panel in InDesign and ALT text script dialogue box

Designer:

Below are instructions on 3 different methods to apply image metadata to your images as ALT Text within InDesign: using a script, doing in manually, or using Object Styles. Choose the one that works best for you:

Applying ALT text with a script

  1. Confirm you are using the photos with the metadata (can double check by opening in Adobe Bridge – text will likely be in the Description field)
  2. Run the ApplyALTfromXMP script
  3. Confirm the ALT Text Source is “XMP: Description” (or wherever else the ALT text is saved)
  4. Click OK
  5. If successful, you will get a dialogue box with total number of images processed displayed. Click OK.
  • If you do not get the quantity you were expecting, confirm the location of the ALT text in the metadata.
  • If you do not get a dialogue box, something is wrong with the script and you’ll need to troubleshoot.

ALT Text Script:

If you do not have the ALT text script installed, you will need to install it yourself. Instructions and free download are at Batch Apply XMP ALT Tags to EPUB and HTML Images

Screenshot of the object export options window in InDesign

Applying ALT text manually

  1. Confirm you are using the photos with the metadata (can double check by opening in Bridge – text will likely be in the Description field)
  2. In Design, select the photo
  3. Go to Object in your top navigation bar
  4. Select Object Export Options from the dropdown menu
  5. Confirm you are in the ALT text input area
  6. Click “Text Source”
  7. Select “Description” from the dropdown menu
  8. Click “Done”

Note:

Skip Step 3 and 4 by using the Option Export Options key command Opt+X (if not default on your system, you can set up a custom key command to speed things up)

Screenshot of the Object Style Options window in InDesign

Using Object Styles for ALT Text

If you are using Object Styles in your document (great for long docs!), you can also automate the ALT text there.

  1. Create an Object Style.
  2. In the Object Style’s export options, you will see ALT Text, Tagged PDF, and ePub. Select desired option.
  3. From the dropdown menu, select  “From XMP: Headline” (or wherever you’ve stored your ALT text)
  4. Click OK to apply the changes.

Now, if you check the Object Export Options of your image that style is applied to, the ALT text should be there!

Scripts for InDesign: Accessibility

Adobe InDesign is a common application used by graphic designers.

Scripts can be used in InDesign to help designers make accessible documents, and to speed up some tasks. Below are some free scripts that I have found beneficial:

Accessibility

This add-on by Stephane Baril allows for easier access to the necessary items to set up a tagged document in InDesign (CS5+).

Its also great when teaching yourself or others the steps to create accessible documents in InDesign.

Note: This requires an Adobe  Creative Cloud subscription.

Batch Apply XMP ALT Tags to EPUB and HTML Images

This Script by Marijan Tompa is very handy if you work for someone who puts the ALT text for Images in the XML: Headline or somewhere else in the metadata of an image. Instead of applying the ALT text to each individual image through Object Export Options, you can run this script to do it for you.

Note: When I tried to run this in CS6, the Script did not work unless I moved it from the Users folder to the Application folder. See forum post, All InDesign Scripts won’t work for further information on troubleshooting this problem.

Regular installation instructions can be found at How to install scripts in InDesign.

Resources

If you are looking for general information on creating accessible documents in InDesign, I suggest:

Action Script for PDF Accessibility: Automate Properties

When working with a lot of PDFs as part of your day-to-day work, scripts to automate regular tasks can come in really handy.

The instructions below will automate some of the tasks that are often part of the workflow when creating accessible PDF documents. The tasks I am focusing on for this Script are found under *Properties* in PDF documents in *Adobe Acrobat Pro* (not Acrobat Reader). They include:

  • Add Tags to Document
  • Show Document Title
  • Show Bookmarks
  • Set the document Language
  • Run Full Accessibility Check

These instructions presume that the document is tagged and that you/your client is filling out Document Title and keywords in the original document’s File Info. If this is not the case, you’ll need to add those manually. To find out how to do this, I recommend the Accessible Digital Office Document Project (ADOD).

Screenshot of Acrobat Pro, showing the View dropdown open.

Acrobat XI:

  1. View > Tools > Action Wizard
  2. The Action Wizard panel will appear on the right hand side of your document. Select “Create New Action” from the menu. A window will appear, showing you the available options for creating an Action Script.
  3. To automate Add Tags to Document:
    1. Accessibility > Add Tags to Document.
    2. Click “Add to right hand pane,” the green plus (+) icon.
  4. Set the document’s Description, such as the document Title (if in the document Properties in Word or InDesign) and Author:
    1. Content > Add Document Description
    2. Click “Add to right hand pane,” the green plus (+) icon.
    3. Click “Specify Settings”. A box will appear with fields and check boxes.
    4. Uncheck “Prompt Use.”
      1. Note: Most existing Action Scripts have this checked, which is helpful in scenarios like training. However, prompting can be annoying when you already know what your doing. By unchecking “Prompt User” you are letting the Action Script run through its tasks without you giving it further permission.
    5. Leave the check boxes clicked for the info you want carried over from the original document. If you want something different, for example the author being Company X rather than whoever wrote the original document, you can put Company X in the Author field.
  5. Set the Initial View, such as Navigation Tab (Show Bookmarks) and Show: Document Title (not File Name)
    1. Document Processing > Set Open Options
    2. Click “Add to right hand pane,” the green plus (+) icon.
    3. Uncheck “Prompt User”
    4. Click “Specify Settings.” Under Initial View, select Bookmarks & Page, and under Window Options, you’ll see Display Document Title. Select “Yes” instead of “Leave As Is”
  6. Set Reading Language:
    1. Accessibility > Set Reading Language.
    2. Click “Add to right hand pane,” the green plus (+) icon.
    3. Uncheck “Prompt User”
    4. Click “Specify Settings.”
    5. Select English from the language options. (if you often work with documents written in other languages, you can set up different Action Scripts for French, Spanish etc).
  7. To automate running the Full Accessibility Check:
    1. Accessibility > Full Accessibility Check
    2. Click “Add to right hand pane,” the green plus (+) icon.
    3. Uncheck “Prompt User”
  8. Once you have finished applying the necessary tasks to your Action Script, select “Save”
  9. Enter the desired name and description for your Action Script.
  10. And ta-da! You’re done!

Resources:

Standardize Routine PDF Tasks

SCreenshot of the Edit Action script panel and the Manage Action Script panel in Acrobat DC

Acrobat DC

Acrobat DC comes with an Action Script called ‘Make Accessible’. However, you may not want it to do all the tasks it comes with (OCR, autotag etc) or prompt you at every step (inefficient use of time). You can either make your own Action Script, or create a revised version to suit your needs.

  1. Open Tools and scroll down to Customize.
  2. Select Action Wizard (Note: to add it to your sidebar in Acrobat for quick access in future, click ‘Add’)
  3. Select “Manage Actions” in the top navigation bar
  4. You will see a list of Actions. Select “Make Accessible” (default script) and select Copy.
  5. Enter a new or revised name
  6. With your copied script selected, click Edit.
  7. Select the actions you with to edit/delete and change as you best see fit.

Resources:

Action Wizard (Acrobat Pro DC)

Create and verify PDF accessibility (Acrobat Pro DC)

Mind Mapping Apps

Mind-mapping / concept mapping is a great tool to have. Here are some free online applications to help layout your ideas!

Mind-mapping is a great tool to help layout your ideas. I didn’t quite understand the value of it until I went to grad school, but now I appreciate the illustrative thought process and organization it can allow. Here are some applications I found for free online that you can use for your own concept maps!

Bubbl.us

Screen capture of a mind map consisting of green square bubbles and a grey menu

https://bubbl.us/

MindMeister

Grey screen with a blue box surrounded by small white boxes to create a blank mind map

www.mindmeister.com/
Popplet

Blue screen with three mindmaps. Each mind map has either a pink, orange, or blue border with white centres and black type.

http://popplet.com/

Dragon: Text to Speech Application

Dragon Dictate is an application you can use to control a computer or smartphone by voice command and to transcribe speech.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is an application that allows you to operate a computer by voice command, including transcriptions. I think its a great way to get ideas written down without having to worry about formulating them when typing them out.

You can order a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking on the company’s website, or download a torrent through a peer-to-peer sharing site.

You can download Dragon Dictation, an iPhone version of this app for free on iTunes to write text messages or update social media statuses hands-free on your phone. There is also Dragon Search which allows you to verbally search the web, social media, and iTunes.

Other Text to Speech Applications: