Five Ways InDesign Libraries Are Better Than CC Libraries


Creative Cloud Libraries are great and make it easy to have elements, themes, and styles at the ready, no matter where you work. I think they’re great, I really do. However, I still think that InDesign Libraries—remember when we just called them libraries?—reign supreme in a few key ways. Many people have stopped using them, opting for the newer, shinier CC model, and many have never used them. Consider this an ode to the old-fashioned, yet still very relevant InDesign libraries of old.

1. It’s a Local

InDesign Libraries are individual files that live on your local hard drive or server. They are document-independent files that you create and open like an InDesign document file (File > New > Library and File > Open, respectively). Libraries are like a bookshelf that keep track of where a placed object was when it was linked, or information about an object created in InDesign. Since they don’t actually contain any objects, they are small files that make it convenient to copy and store in individual client files. I like having control over where the libraries live and making copies as I see fit for my workflow needs.

2. Search by Keywords

I know what you’re thinking, “Erica…you can search by keywords in a CC Library.” And that’s very true. However, with CC Libraries, searching on an image is limited to the name of that image (once it’s in your library). You can create custom keywords to items you put into a plain ol’ InDesign Library. Let’s say you placed a photo of a herd of llamas (is that what a group of llamas is called?) into your InDesign document, then also saved it to a library. But, now you’re unsure whether or not they’re llamas or alpacas and would like to search in the future without having the learn the difference. You can right-click or control-click on the photo in the library and choose Item Information. In the resulting dialog box, put “llama” and “alpaca” (without quotes) and any other keywords you want in the field marked Description, separated by commas. To later search by keyword, choose Show Subset from the Library panel menu, select Description under Parameters, and type in your keyword(s).

3. Full Layouts

Sometimes what you really need in a library is an entire layout, or at least several objects from your page. For me, one of the greatest uses of libraries is the ability to access an entire set of crops and guides. Imagine having to lay out 4-up business cards with bleeds all day. Not all of us get to lay out sleek fashion magazines or catchy billboards. InDesign Libraries are a staple in the world of production in places like a printshop setting. Back to that crop and guide layout: Put it all into a library. Once you have your initial layout done, complete with guides for the cards, necessary gutters for the bleeds, and all crop marks, you’ll need to get that into the library. Unlike most objects, you can’t drag guides into or out of a library; you’ll need to use the panel menu. Choose Add Items on Page to have InDesign save every element as-is into the library. When you’re ready to create a new 4-up business card with bleed layout—even on a different size page—simply select the item in the library and choose Place Item.

4. Add It All

I often don’t realize until I’m mid-way through a project that I might want to re-use the elements elsewhere. Throwing everything into a library is a sure way to store and retrieve those items in the future. And many times I have a large collection of items that don’t necessarily need to travel together for future use. Let’s say I created a whole spread full of vector shapes of different kinds and colors. If I select all of those and throw them into a Creative Cloud Library, it’ll save the item as one entity. That might be fine, but if you only need one shape in the next project, you’ll have to place the object, then delete the unwanted ones, once they’re on your InDesign page. Using our good friend, InDesign Library, you can just choose Add Items on Page as Separate Objects from the panel menu. Now you have a nice collection of those vector objects that you can pick and choose from in your future projects. Keep in mind, this operation will add everything on the page, including each ruler guide as a separate object.

5. Give In to the Future

Sometimes the shiny new object just calls so loudly that you can’t resist. That’s okay, we all want the new toy now and then. If you’re moving to a collaborative workflow that involves remote team members, the Creative Cloud Library ecosystem can be a plus. The good news is that, whenever you feel you’re ready, you can convert an InDesign Library to a Creative Cloud Library. Because, let’s face it, we don’t work in a vacuum and it would be great to have access to our library items in Illustrator and Photoshop, too. At the bottom of the InDesign Library panel, click on the cloud with an arrow icon to migrate items to a CC Library. You can then choose whether to create a brand-new library, or to migrate the items to an existing one. Only items you’ve selected get migrated—or select none to migrate all items—and items like guides won’t migrate at all. It’s not a perfect process, but we all know too well the growing pains associated with wanting the shiniest, newest technology.

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