The Story Editor is one of the best features of InDesign, but also the most ignored. The Story Editor provides a word processor-style view of any InDesign "story" (an individual text frame or set of threaded text frames). Any changes that you make to your text in the Story Editor are simultaneously made to the layout.
To quickly display the Story Editor, select some text with the Type tool or select a text frame with the Selection tool, and press command-y (Mac) or ctrl-y (Windows). (Think "y" because the word "story" ends with "y"). When you are finished in Story Editor, to return to the layout view, press command-w (Mac) or ctrl-w (Windows).
Here are the Top Ten reasons to use the Story Editor:
1. To help you concentrate on content, not formatting. Most formatting doesn’t display in the Story Editor view, and sometimes that’s a good thing.
2. To make it easier to navigate long sections of text. Text that flows through multiple columns can require lots of zooming and scrolling to edit it in Layout view. But in the Story Editor, the text appears in one long easy-to-work-with column.
3. To make text easier to read. The Story Editor can make small or obscure text easier to read and edit. By choosing Preferences > Story Editor Display, you can choose a large, easy to read font for the Story Editor display, different from the actual font used to format the text in the layout.
4. To see invisible items more clearly. Items such as XML tags, anchors, variables, hyperlinks, cross references and index markers show up much more clearly in Story Editor than they do in the layout view, making them easier to move, delete, cut, copy and paste. A list of these invisible items can be found here.
5. To edit overset text, or write copy to fit. The Overset Text Indicator in the Story Editor show you where text is flowing out of the last box in the text thread, but unlike Layout view, you can still see and edit the text that is overset. This makes editing copy to fit a fixed space much easier than in Layout view.
6. To work with overset text in table cells (CS4 only). In the past, if text was overset in a table cell, it could be very difficult to fix. Now, in CS4, you can see overset text in table cells in the Story Editor, and make changes to the text to make it fit the table cell if necessary. (CS2 and CS3 users, see this tip for a workaround).
7. To quickly move an inline graphic from one table cell to another (CS4 only). Working with graphic images in tables can be difficult, since the graphics have to be inserted as “inline graphics” in the table cells. Often, the easiest way to move a graphic from one cell to another is to go to the Story Editor and copy and paste the inline objects icon that represents the graphic.
8. To quickly view assigned Paragraph Styles. With a Story Editor window open, choose View > Story Editor > Show Style Name Column. This will display a column on the left side of the Story Editor window that will show any Paragraph Styles that are assigned to the text.
9. To view the length of your text. With a Story Editor window open, choose View > Story Editor > Show Depth Ruler. This will display a vertical ruler on the left side of the Story Editor that displays the “length” of the story in column inches, or whatever measurement system you choose when you right-click or ctrl-click on the ruler.
10. To view Note content. InDesign and InCopy allow you to insert nonprinting notes into your text. The note contents only display when you view your text in Story Editor.