WordsFlow for InDesign – Auto-merge linked Word/Excel files for production bliss
WordsFlow does this by “merge-updating” from changed Word or Excel files, rather than letting InDesign just re-import over all your work. This spares you the pain, frustration and inevitable mistakes involved in hand-merging changes.
WordsFlow also works with Excel spreadsheets. (Note that Em already has a lot of experience with linking directly to databases and spreadsheets because of their pro-level InCatalog product.) That means you can place a spreadsheet as a table.
New data in Excel? You need only hit ‘Update in InDesign’ and it merges the tables together, even if you’ve made edits to the data on your InDesign page!
If you use InDesign for production, you already know the pain point. An author sends you a story via email or file-sharing, and you’ve placed it in your InDesign publication, fixing typos, changing formatting, adding and deleting text, etc. Then, the author or your editor sends you another version of the file, and expects you to figure out what changed, and weave those changes into what you hoped was the final story.
In the past, you might bite your tongue and simply re-place the story, losing all your hard work, then go through and manually make all the same changes you made before, hoping you’re not forgetting something (and likely losing that bet). Or, if you’re more sophisticated, you might run some kind of file-difference utility, and go through each difference, manually editing the InDesign story to match, and scratching your head a lot. In either case, you end up wasting a lot of time in a highly error-prone process.
WordsFlow’s auto-merge removes the pain
WordsFlow ends the headaches. When you place the original Word or Excel file (or any text file), WordsFlow asks InDesign to keep a link to the file.
When you or anyone else updates that file (locally or in a shared-file situation), InDesign will notice that the link’s source has changed, and allow you to update it using the usual mechanisms. (For example, you can double-click on the link-changed status icon.) WordsFlow then kicks in, and, instead of replacing the placed story wholesale, it magically merges the changes in the new file contents with all the existing changes to the current InDesign story. (called a “merge-update.”) So you never lose any of your hard work, while WordsFlow saves you hours of manual merge drudgery.
WordsFlow doesn’t require any special configuration or extra steps to do its magic. Just install the Plug-in and use File > WordsFlow > Place with WordsFlow and proceed using the normal Place dialogue. WordsFlow then works behind the scenes, while you continue with your existing InDesign workflow, now super-charged. And your collaborators need no special software or configuration changes. They continue to work exactly as they always have.
WordsFlow not only ends last-minute just-one-more-little-update kinds of headaches, it enables entirely new and powerful workflows.
You can now have authors maintaining their story content in Word, with the layout and production people keeping story links to the shared Word files in InDesign (or getting new copies and relinking to them when changed). When authors make changes to the source files, the production folks can merge-update via the WordsFlow links to bring in the changes. That way, authors can stay working in their comfort zone, using Word, and production can maintain the overall document in InDesign, without worrying about hand-merging in the changes that happen over time. So authors and editors can work in parallel with production layout and formatting, giving you a virtual “time machine.”
For examples, think of a newspaper or magazine on deadline dealing with fast-breaking story updates, or, more long-term, a corporate or educational publication with multiple departments updating their respective sections regularly, or a quarterly financial prospectus assembling reports from various departments.
Works with all text import filters
WordsFlow isn’t a filter itself, but instead works with all text file and spreadsheet file import filters. Thus, you can use InDesign’s built-in style-mapping support in the Word import filter, and WordsFlow will pick up after that.
Works with Excel
In particular, WordsFlow works with imported Excel spreadsheet files as well as Word files. You can place a spreadsheet file, then format columns/rows or individual cells, etc. in InDesign. Later, if you or someone else makes changes to the original spreadsheet, including moving around rows or columns, WordsFlow will figure out what changed, and merge in the changes without losing the formatting and edits you’ve made in InDesign.
NOTE:Pro is two-way
WordsFlow Update menu
The Pro version of WordsFlow adds two major features to give you a fully two-way workflow.
With WordsFlow Pro, you can push updates from any InDesign story to its linked Word document. This way, you can keep your collaborators working with the latest InDesign content, in their own editing environment.
WordsFlow Export menu
Additionally, the Pro version can export original InDesign story content in Word DOCX format, auto-linking to the result. So you can now take existing InDesign content—however it was produced—and push it out in Word format for further editing and revision, to be shared with your collaborators. As they make additions and changes to the exported document, you can pull them in with a normal WordsFlow story update, usually with just a double-click.
One happy side-effect of WordsFlow Pro’s two-way capabilities is the availability for the first time of full, modern DOCX export for InDesign stories. Before, your export options were limited to using RTF or other half-way solutions.
Pro works with Excel
The Pro version of WordsFlow also works with imported Excel spreadsheet files as well as Word files. You can place a spreadsheet file, then format columns/rows or individual cells, etc. in InDesign. Later, if you or someone else makes changes to the original spreadsheet, including moving around rows or columns, WordsFlow will figure out what changed, and merge in the changes without losing the formatting and edits you’ve made in InDesign.
WordsFlow Pro doesn’t support two-way workflow with Excel documents, for now. But we call it a “one and a half-way workflow,” since you can work on both sides simultaneously.