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Some times you may need to maintain the same text content in multiple documents. If it's a small piece of text you could use a cross-reference or a text variable, but for something longer, like a whole story, you might consider using an InCopy document placed in multiple InDesign layouts. If on the other hand you need the same text to appear in multiple places in the same document, you can use the Place and Link Story feature. Let's take a look at both of those techniques. I should say right off the bat that you do not need to have InCopy to place the same text in multiple documents, but the ability to save content in an InCopy document is what makes it work.
So, say you wanted this About the Author text with its anchored photo to appear in the end matter of each of his books. First, select the text frame and go to the Edit menu and choose InCopy > Export > Selection. We'll give it a name Bob.icml and save it. We're prompted to save the InDesign document and I'll click OK. Now, I can see an icon in the top-left corner of the text frame telling me that this content is available for anyone to edit, and I can also see it in the Links panel.
Now to place it in the other document, I just go to File > Place and double-click on the .icml file. I can click to place the text, and there now I have synchronized text in these two documents and I can edit the text from either one. So if I click in this frame and start typing, I'm prompted to check it out. I'll say Yes and I'll change About Robert to About Bob, and I'll go to my Assignments panel and click on the check-in, button.
I'll click OK, and then switch over to my original document where I can see that the text has been modified. Then I'll click on the Update Content, button, and I can see the change there too. This is where the InCopy technique for sharing text beats exporting text as a snippet or a library item. When the text is edited, you only have to make the change in one document and then update the link in all the layout documents. And here's another really cool thing about this trick; did you notice the formatting of the text is different in the two documents? They use the same names for the paragraph styles, but the definitions of those styles can be different in each document.
Now, let's look at how to synchronize text in one document. I'll open a new document and close the other one. Now, say I wanted this recipe to appear multiple places in the same document. InDesign CS5.5 introduced a new feature called linked stories, and with it you can have the same text appear multiple times in a document and it's live text, so you have none of the limitations of text variables. We can have anything that resides in a story be synced, including tables and anchored frames. So to create a linked story, you select one or more frames or just put your cursor in a text frame and choose Edit > Place and Link Story.
This gives you a loaded cursor where you can click and drag to draw a new text frame. If I go to the Links panel, I can see the story is now a link. Now if I make a change to the original story, I can see it right away in the Links panel. If I change say to 4 tablespoons of butter, I can see right away the alert icon telling me that the text has been changed and I can double-click to update it. So, now it says 4 tablespoons of butter in the linked story. But remember, this is a one-way link.
Only edits made in the original story can be updated in the link stories, not vice versa. So if I make edits in the link story nothing will happen in the Links panel. So if I change this back to 3 tablespoons, nothing happens over here, and I'm not prompted to update it in the original story. And furthermore, if I make changes to the original story, say if I put salt and pepper, and then I go to update the links, I'm prompted that I'll lose the edits made in the other stories if I update.
In the Links panel you can right-click on a link story to get some useful options. Choosing Edit Original will take you to the original story and fit it in your window. If you no longer want a linked story to respond to changes in the original story, you can choose Unlink. And Link Story Options gives you choices for whether to update the link automatically when you save the document, whether or not to warn you when you're about to override local edits, and whether or not to remove forced line breaks. So, when you need to synchronize text in multiple documents, use InCopy Stories.
And for syncing text within a single document, CS5.5's link stories will do the trick.
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