Locking Adobe InDesign files for editing in shared network or cloud folders

Today I had a chance to help a print publication solve a workflow challenge that is apparently very common.

If you open an Adobe InDesign layout file from a local folder on your computer, the software creates an Adobe InDesign Lock File (.idlk) in that folder, which prevents the same file from being opened by another copy of InDesign. But if the file exists in a folder that is shared via network or cloud service, InDesign does not create a lock file when the InDesign file is opened for editing. This includes Adobe’s own “Creative Cloud” file sharing option.

There may be good technical reasons for not creating or syncing lock files across network folders, but the end result is that multiple users can decide to open the same file at the same time, and whomever saves their changes last will “win,” with the other user’s changes being lost.

In researching this, I found it was not some edge case. There seem to be many newsrooms and other organizations struggling with this every day. They work around it by doing things like copying the InDesign files to a local folder, making their changes, and then uploading back to the shared folder, hoping that the internal communication about such things is sufficient along the way. This Adobe Community Support forum thread illustrates the pain points involved.

Thankfully, Adobe InDesign is a scriptable software tool, and so
Max Schmidt and the folks at t3n created a script that creates a locking system for network shared InDesign files. And there was much rejoicing!

After installing the script on all the devices that will be accessing shared InDesign files, anyone trying to open a file that someone is already editing gets an error message and then the file is closed. (I submitted a Pull Request to expand the README documentation so the installation process is a bit clearer.)

In the long run, Adobe needs to solve this problem in a more standard way for its users. But this script is a great alternative option and I hope bringing some additional attention to it helps out other publications or news rooms that might be struggling with the same challenge.