Editable Report Templates for Clients - Software Alternatives to Microsoft Word/PDF?

Hi All!
I am looking for something to use other than Microsoft Word Docs and Editable PDF’s with other departments where I work. We usually go back and forth in a Word doc so that the file can be edited back and forth between the client and the designers. Obviously, Word sucks for designers to use, we are limited, and it is time-consuming. Also, we have tried editable PDF templates but then this can be restrictive for our clients to use.

I have been looking at Canva online - but was wondering if there are other options that are REALLY SIMPLE TO USE… I mean really simple for people who barely know how to use MS word and tend to screw up our templates. Also, they need to be completely secure files if they are created online - security is a huge issue.

Any help is appreciated!


In a situation like this, you need to keep the technology at a level for the lowest common denominator.

It’s 2019, and if you’ve got people who can barely use Word… it’s not hopeful.

I think PDFs are your best bet, but maybe make them fillable forms instead of editable pdfs. At least with a form you can use labels to give them directions, and lock down stuff you don’t want them to fiddle with.

Depends on the nature of the content they are supplying and your proofing workflow, but have you looked at using InCopy and InDesign together?

Thanks! @DocPixel We are trying to do stewardship/endowment reports that are editable for each gift officer. We have done things like donor invitations and similar pieces in the past and they absolutely hated using those with fillable forms. As I mentioned above they do not like feeling restricted as to how personalized they can make their invitations/reports etc.and how much or little text they can add. @Mojo I have not, how does that work? Thank you both!

So, somewhere in between, and it still sucks since its MS Word, but have you tried creating an MS Word form? That way you can create a template and essentially lock it all down and create form fields that people can add content to. Its similar to a PDF form, but being all in Word it might be a little more comfortable for the end user.

@CraigB I have never tried that, I will look it up unless you have a good resource link. Thank you.

Does anyone have any suggestions for online software that is collaborative?

@chrissym There’s probably a nicer website out there that shows how to use MS WOrd’s forms features. This official Microsoft one at least shows you what can be done.

I’ve used Trello quite a bit for uploading and downloading files, comments, images. I like it and it’s not too hard for non-techies to learn.

Sorry, I guess I should clarify. I am looking for the software that the reports (design and copy) would be created in, to be collaborative. I have checked out google docs and canva so far and was wondering if anyone had any luck with those.

Trello is great for project management/tasks though, I don’t use it at work however I use it with my freelance clients, very easy to use…

This is how I use an InDesign + InCopy workflow.

I create a pretty catalog in ID, then generate an InCopy version from the ID menu, and upload that to a shared space, either company intranet or Dropbox. There’s about 50 people who have supplied content and will need to make changes and give approval before the catalog can go to print. InCopy is relatively cheap, and provides only a very basic set of tools. It lets them open up that InCopy version and make changes. That InCopy file links back my master ID file. I periodically update, which pulls in all their text changes into my master file, and gives me the ability to accept/reject.

All 50 can be working on their parts of the catalog at the same time I’m working on my parts. I can set permissions for every text box and graphic in the book (usually I lock everyone out of making graphics changes).

I’ve got everything set up with style sheets. They can apply those in InCopy, and I can override their choices.

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