Retaining important formatting when importing Word documents
As I’ve written in the past, Word is often an integral part of any InCopy workflow. In many situations, content is authored in Microsoft Word due to its widespread availability as an application on most computers. Editorial staff often keep content in the Word format when working with authors because it’s easy to go back and forth with changes until the final content has been completed. Once the content has been finalized, the designer can flow that Word document into InDesign or an editor can flow the content into an InCopy file in preparation for layout.
Although the process of bringing a Word document into an InDesign or InCopy file may seem like a simple process, retaining the desired formatting of that Word document can present some unique challenges. Notice that I said “desired” formatting. I say this because authors are known for applying their own formatting to documents to “enhance” the visual appearance of the file while they’re writing. Often making headlines bigger or changing their color to make it easier to view and read. This is much more easily accomplished by using styles in Word but that’s an entirely different blog post. When you bring Word content into InDesign or InCopy the goal is to remove the undesirable formatting but retain the formatting you wish to keep such as bold and italic styling.
Many users will select all of the text in a Word document, copy the text, then paste it into InDesign or InCopy. In essence, this strips all of the formatting from the text including any formatting you wish to keep. This can be detrimental because work has been lost and will need to be performed by someone a second time.
Instead of copy and paste, InDesign provides some options for retaining the formatting of text when you choose File > Place. In the Place dialog box, select the Word document that you want to place, then enable the Show Import Options checkbox and click Open. This will display the Microsoft Word Import Options dialog box.
We’ll focus on the Formatting section located at the bottom of the dialog box. This section offers you two main choices for dealing with text imported from Microsoft Word.
- Remove Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables – This will strip out all formatting from the Word document and use the current style in the InDesign or InCopy document.
- Preserve Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables – This will retain any formatting applied in the Word document and also gives you the option to import any Word styles or map them to existing InDesign or InCopy styles.
Option 1 is tempting but remember, this will remove all formatting including bold, italics, and anything else you actually want to retain. Therefore, more often than not, I take advantage of option 2 in order to retain all of the formatting in the document. Once placed in the InDesign or InCopy document, all formatting is retained.
Cleaning Up the Formatting
Now that you have the Word text in the InDesign or InCopy document, you need to keep the formatting you want and get rid of the formatting you don’t want. To do this, I create a character style for all of the formatting options that I want to retain. Usually this consists of bold, italic, and bold italic formatting although depending on the type of content that you’re working with, you may want to create more. When creating the Character styles, only define the properties necessary within the style. For example, when you create your Italic Character style, only define “Italic” as part of the style. No need to define the font, size or other formatting unless it is very unique formatting.
In order to retain the formatting that you want to keep, open the Find/Change dialog box by choosing Edit > Find/Change. Leave the Find what and Change to fields empty, but click on the More Options button to display the Find and Change format sections of the dialog box. Click on the Specify Attributes to Find button and click on the Basic Character Formats section on the left side of the dialog box. Now choose “Italic” from the Font Style drop-down menu and click OK. Now in the Change Formatting section, click on the Specify Attributes to Change button and choose the Italic character style from the Character Style drop down menu.
Click the Change All button and you’ll be notified how many changes have been made. Note that you have options to make this change in all open documents, the current document, the current story, and to the end of the story. Repeat this process for the other styling that you want to retain.
Apply Paragraph Styles
Remember, character styles have more power than paragraph styles. So with your character styles applied to the text formatting that you want to retain, you are free to apply the appropriate paragraph styles, and clear any formatting that you wish to remove. Looking at the figures below, you can see the original Word document that was used as well as the final InCopy file that has been cleaned up using the described method in this article. We’ve highlighted the italicized text to make it easier to see.