Many InDesign users may primarily work on image heavy, single page documents such as flyers, office stationary, business cards, posters or ads. But if you have ever found yourself in charge of laying out significant amounts of text for projects such as annual reports, directories, or even your great American novel, the often-overlooked Story Editor in InDesign can be your best friend.
Like most every feature in an Adobe product, you will discover layers of functionality the deeper you decide to explore. This article intends to just open the door on a feature that is a little bit hidden. Back in the days of PageMaker, the InDesign predecessor originally produced by a company named Aldus, manipulation of text was the heart and soul of the program. Tools to import and arrange graphics and photos were essential and expanding with every upgrade, but PageMaker’s “reason to be” was styling and control of text and the Story Editor was it’s powerhouse. Whenever you work with large amounts of text, it still is today.
The most basic function of the Story Editor is to allow you to see overset text that fills up a text frame or page without having to go ahead and flow the rest of your text onto new pages or off on the pasteboard area. Click within a block of text and hit Command+Y (Ctrl+Y) or Edit > Edit in Story Editor to open up your text in its own window. Think of it like a “word processor” view of the entire placed text, scrollable even for hundreds of pages in one long view. (The original Aldus software manual described the Story Editor as “PageMaker’s word processor.”) This view of your text does not show line breaks, styling (other than basic bold, italic, underlined), or other design/layout attributes – what you get is the raw complete text where you can write, edit, correct, search and manipulate without the distractions of the layout. (If you are familiar with WordPress, the Story Editor is similar to the Text or HTML view rather than the Visual tab.)
From this window you can work on large amounts of text flow in a multi-page document. If you are still writing your content, or just searching out edits and corrections, this view gives you the control to write and edit without turning pages, screen redraws, or design distractions. If you ever find yourself confused as to why a portion of text is not “acting” as expected, check the Story Editor to see any hidden text variable or markers such as Drop Caps, Index Markers or Hyperlinks. Often you can delete or edit these here much easier than in the normal layout view. Even if you are just working on text that is difficult to see on screen due to size, rotation or special effects, a quick Command+Y will let you see and edit the text in a straightforward window and the changes will update live in both displays. The Story Editor is also the place to manage more advanced tricks like footnotes, XML or tagged text, and conditional text.
Open your Story Editor just to get a feel for how it can benefit you in your own style of working with InDesign.
Be aware that each independent text block or series of linked blocks will open its own Story Editor window – there is not one single Story Editor for an entire Indesign document. Also know that you can customize the look and display of your editor from the InDesign Preferences/Story Editor Display window. Take a few moments to explore the Story Editor and save yourself a lot of time, clicks and frustration on future design jobs.
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