I'm kind of in a pickle and took on a project involving indesign/illustrator. It's been a long time since I was really familiar with InDesign so I feel a bit overwhelmed right now and as though I've overestimated my design abilities.

I need to design a label from scratch, that copies the original label, so that it will be editable and we can alter the info such as prices, etc.

It will likely require Illustrator to create the shapes, but ultimately I want a file in Indesign that I can send to my project manager so he can add in the information himself and alter as needed. The shapes seem to be quite simple aside from several icons I'll need to somehow create so do I need to use both programs or will just InDesign be sufficient?

What's the best way to do this? If he does have InDesign installed as well, and also in the case that he does not? Is creating an editable PDF adviseable? How can I send the file I've created so that he too can open it in InDesign and edit it himself? I.E. in which format does the file need to be for him to edit it (if he has access to InDesign) and if he does not?

My question is probably simple to answer but I've been searching and searching online and finding really different answers so I just wanted someone to clarify and let me know what is best in this situation.

Thank you.

  • What kind of labels? Avery on a office printer?
    – go-junta
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:59
  • If you have found any of the answers below to have answered your question please make sure to mark it as the accepted answer. If the answers do not answer your question please make an edit seeking clarity.
    – user9447
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 18:50

4 Answers 4


There are roughly four options. Here are three I wouldn't recommend:

  • Bundle the InDesign file with File > Package, as discussed by Vincent ("Generally a Bad Idea™." to let a client loose with InDesign)
  • Get them a copy of Adobe InCopy, which is designed for this purpose (editing text in InDesign files). However, it costs money, and while I've not used it myself, I gather that like most of Adobe's less favoured products and features, it suffers from neglect (I believe it's slow, clunky, unintuitive and sometimes breaks things - I might be wrong though, maybe try a trial)
  • The options described in Best way to send layouts with editable text to writers/editors who don't have design software. You'll notice I didn't accept any of those answers - none of them are ideal

Here's the one option I would recommend trying:

  • You mention labels, and it sounds like there are a lot of labels. InDesign's Data Merge feature can be good for things like this. Instead of you sending your product manager something they're not comfortable with working with (an InDesign file), your product manager sends you something they are comfortable with (a spreadsheet), and you feed that into InDesign. I describe this sort of workflow in more detail in this answer - it's about business cards, but the issues are pretty similar to labels.

Be warned though that InDesign's data merge is another one of those features that Adobe half-finished then decided they didn't want to do any more work on. There are quite a few frustrations with it - I mention one in that other answer (the hoops you have to jump through to make non-ASCII text come out right), and here's another common one you're likely to encounter: InDesign Data Merge and hiding missing data.


Generally, sending an InDesign file to a non-designer is a Bad Idea™. InDesign has quite a steep learning curve for one, and project managers are prone to edit more things than you ask them when you send them source files.

On top of that, sending a native (source) file to a customer is not a very good move as a designer, for it contains lots of information that constitutes your expertise and skill, and you don't want to give that away. See this question for more info on that.

It might be a way better idea to just send your project manager a (screen-optimised) .pdf and ask them to provide you with the missing data by e-mail or phone. That way, you can edit those in yourself and keep the file where it belongs: your computer.

To actually answer your question, yes, it is possible to 'package' an InDesign file (File > Package...), creating a .zip file with all your linked images, files and used typefaces in addition to the .indd file itself. If a user with InDesign installed extracts this package and opens the .indd, they should be able to edit the file.

I say 'should', because there's at least two wasps' nests to consider. Firstly, InDesign's interversion compatibility is nothing short of horrendous, and it's heavily advised to make sure the versions match up to make things easier or even workable. There's also a possbility to convert a package to .xml, allegedly slightly ameliorating the compatibility issues.

Secondly, sending a package with copyrighted material inside (typefaces, other graphics etc.) to another machine at possibly another location, poses all kinds of headaches license- and copyrightwise. Be aware.


If all the labels are consistent in appearance and the only changes that will be needed is text on the label -- I'd use PDF forms.

It is a simple matter to create a PDF form which allows any user to input form field data (text) in specific areas.

Using a PDF form ensures a few things:

  • Editing is easy on the end user. They click and type, then save or print.
  • Artwork will not traditionally be modified by the end user. It can be but most won't bother.
  • Print production remains consistent. There's little chance an inexperienced user will improperly move or edit something they aren't supposed to.

I tend to try and avoid providing InDesign files whenever possible. As others have mentioned there are several licensing factors which come into play with providing native files -- are all fonts properly licensed for redistribution (highly unlikely), is all artwork licensed for redistribution and repurposing.

When you provide native files you are providing the easy ability to reuse anything in that file for any purpose. If you create icons for labels, and then provide the native InDesign file. It's a simple matter to pull the icons and use them for a web site, or app development, or anything. You can clearly do that with a PDF as well, but legally you'd have an easier time proving misuse if you never provided native icon files (in the form of an InDesign package).

If you must provide InDesign files I try and make any links as difficult to edit as possible. For linked vector files I'll expand and flatten the artwork in Illustrator before copy/pasting them directly into InDesign (can make them a nightmare to alter but they still reproduce well).

And no matter what, I never provide fonts with native files. I only provide links to where fonts may be purchased. I have some fonts which cost thousands of dollars. The last thing I'll do is give them away just because I'm asked.

PDF Forms just work so much better for stuff like labels and simple multi-line text changes where text reflowing isn't an issue.


All of these answers seem very legitimate and probably above my skill level, so I may offer more basic feedback.

First, let's ask some important questions to narrow it down:

  • Does your project manager have InDesign, and is he comfortable working with it/editing files? If so, we can go from there. If not, there's no reason to waste your time. Figure out which programs he can use and is most comfortable with.

IF he does have InDesign,

  • It could be possible to make all of the shapes in InDesign - if you could post the original that you are trying to duplicate, it could help better explain that part of your question.

  • If not possible to create the images in InDesign, and if you don't want to deal with 'packaging', it might be easiest to create your images/vectors/illustrations in Photoshop or Illustrator, save as a pdf, and place (Ctrl+D) the PDF in InDesign. If you have the entire background image as a PDF, that's only 1 file to send along with your InDesign File (unless you have specific fonts to send). Then, create the text that he would edit in InDesign and save as .indd. Send .indd file and .pdf file to him together.

It's also possible to create an editable PDF, but it just depends on how your want your end goal to look. Does his information have specific fonts/design styles that you would like to keep consistent? This may not be the best way to have it "flow".

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