The Big Question

What is the best (possibly a software application) to create Documents (e.g PDF Brochures, Business Portfolios, Annual Reports etc)so that a client can edit the text content?

My Problem

I have a client who often needs me to make small content changes to brochures - as his company grows and gains new clients, products etc he wants these in the orginal documents. He is a good client so I don't want to tell him to just bugger off, but it seems to be a waste of my time and his to have me edit a paragraph and title.


  • Software I don't really want to tell him to buy indesign and Id rather not wrangle with word
  • Simplicity I don't want to have to spend an entire afternoon helping him learn something

Ideally he will be able to click change a header (keep fonts, pt sizes, etc... the same) and edit content areas.

  • Are you billing him to do these edits? That's often a great gig--a tiny cash cow (cash calf?)
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 2:09
  • Yes I bill him. But I don't enjoy to edit content, I enjoy being creative. I work fulltime as an inhouse marketer and use freelance work to keep me creative - the moneys only secondary to my interests.
    – Jonny-C
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 2:27

2 Answers 2


There are really only 3 solutions....

  1. Client purchases and learns the software you use (InDesign, Illustrator, etc) - Watch font licenses here. You can't legally just give clients fonts you use in many instances.Therefore the client will also need to purchase font licenses for themselves. - In addition, I charge for native files. So there is that added cost as well.
  2. You use software the client has and knows (Word, Powerpoint, etc) This is often not an option on my end. I don't have the time to spend reconstructing items in a less-than-designer-friendly application. Sure you can go the Indd -> PDF -> Word route, but that's always unstable and requires a lot of fiddling in my experience. In addition, I'd be laughed at by my print providers (who would reject the files) if I provided Word files for press - no cmyk, no resolutions, etc.
  3. You can use PDF forms in some cases. This can be really difficult to do however due to the nature of the PDF forms (single or multi-line no text wrapping, etc). It is possible to set up some areas, such as addressing to allow the client to input their own information. However, this is not a viable solution if the client wants to edit a single word in the middle of a paragraph. With Acrobat Pro some text editing can be done in standard PDFs, but again, the amount of editing is generally not as thorough as clients would like.

I've run into the same requests. I traditionally explain items 1 and 2 above without actually providing option 3.

If the request falls into item 3 for me - 1 or 2 lines of text and that's all that is needed - I'll use option 3 and send the client the PDF - beyond that I don't suggest the PDF form to the client. And if asked to allow more PDF form input, I explain why it's not a viable option in many cases.

Generally, with a conversation about software costs and print requirements, the clients come to the conclusion that it much more cost effective to have me make that small edit than to purchase software, fonts, and educational materials. And I simply don't have the time to dedicate to constructing press files in Word or something similar (in addition to explanations as to why Microsoft products aren't designed for professional print production use).

  • Thanks Scott, so far I will go with Indesign. I guess it is a matter of setting up pristine files and master pages to help the client do everything as easily as possible. and I guess locking all elements they should not mess with. Is it possible to lock Text area to a position and still be able to edit content - in indesign?
    – Jonny-C
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:23
  • I find using Layers and locking layers most helpful. That way they aren't altering placement of images or other elements and have a single layer where all text resides. You can't lock a text frame and still allow editing: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/16597/…
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 22:27

Is this Solution just bonkers?

Word > Dropbox > Indesign. Auto'magically

Using a combination of the following: Word - Dropbox - Indesign with WordsFlow plugin. Dont know what WordsFlow is? click to find out -quite useful

If I set up a word document per page or possibly text area of an indesign layout, I then place linked doc via Wordsflow to indesign. While Storing these documents over dropbox so there is one copy on my desktop and one on the clients (same copy). He updates word and I hit update linked file.

This way Im still involved but can charge a very small fee for simply clicking update links in Indesign save and send. This removes the responsibility and time of editing the content throughout large documents.

Thoughts anyone?

About WordsFlow

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. (We call this 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 dialog. 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.

  • I've used linked Word files via Dropbox in the past. No WordsFlow, but it was good enough for me. Dropbox rules. Word, not so much. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 23:43
  • Linking files from word loses styling when updated doesnt it?
    – Jonny-C
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 23:46
  • InDesign has a preference item to link to text files rather than embedding them. I'm not seeing how WordsFlow is any different than simply ticking that preference item. What am I missing? (And I don't really understand how this solves the issue of a client wanting to edit a layout.)
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 23:51
  • As far as I know currently a linked word doc will update the text but forget all styling and formatting you make post placing. I may be wrong. This solves the problem by linking a word doc via dropbox so the client can edit the file and it update into the indesign file - without me having to update any header styles or the changes in copy.
    – Jonny-C
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 0:09
  • 2
    IIRC, I created a Word doc with styles in place and mapped those styles to my InD styles on import. When I updated the link, it held the mapping. Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 0:26

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