Export callout text, edit, then import in place with formatting preserved

Have you ever placed dozens, maybe even hundreds, of text objects in an illustration, then found that many of them needed to be edited and replaced? That situation just got a lot easier!

A new plugin is now available for beta testing, code-named TextSync.

To be honest, it would be nice to have something for Illustrator like Adobe’s InCopy for InDesign, and this isn’t that. But if you frequently place callout text into Illustrator documents and then find that editors without access to Illustrator want to change it, this plugin can save a lot of time and hassle.

Say you’ve created a map or diagram with many callouts, all carefully located and even formatted with character styles. Maybe it’s just too crowded and the item descriptions need to be rewritten by an editor to be more concise or just using a different approach. Normally, our best option would be to copy and paste each item, then reformat character styles for every one.

With the TextSync plugin, you can export all text objects or only the selected ones, either point text or area text. The tab-delimited text file it creates can then be opened in a word processor or spreadsheet for editing. If each text object contains a bold head, italic subhead, and description, your spreadsheet would show each callout as a row. The first column can be ignored by the editor, as it contains the XMLID of the text object the text belongs to. The next column would be the bold head, then the italic subhead, then the description. Tabs and returns from the text objects are indicated by “<t>” or “<r>” markup and can be freely added to or removed from the text.

When the text is imported back into the Illustrator document, the plugin first locates the text object with the item’s corresponding XMLID. Then the object’s text is divided into blocks based on its character formatting, and replaced with the blocks of text extracted using the same method.

If there is no corresponding XMLID, all format blocks in the text are combined and a new point text object is created in the visible document view.

To try TextSync, just download it here for Mac CC 2019 or Windows CC 2019. Please let me know if you have any problems, suggestions, observations, or even an idea for a final plugin name! If the plugin happens to crash, please include your computer’s crash report. All who respond will be given a free license to the release version.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!

Update (9-10-19): TextSync is now released, available for Illustrator CS6 through CC 2019 on Mac and Windows (32- and 64-bit).