I am often asked, “What is the best way to import charts and graphs from Excel or other MS Office products into InDesign?” The short answer is PDF. However, there is a bit more to it than that. This article offers some tips and tricks for getting the graphic just right for print production.
Vector vs. Raster Graphics in MS Office
First, consider if the graphic is a raster image (such as an imported photograph) or a vector image (such as a chart created by Excel). In most cases, if it’s a raster graphic you’d be better off finding the original image and placing it into your InDesign document. If you’re dealing with a .docx file, note that this format is actually a zip archive which might contain the original graphic, and you can extract it using any zip extraction utility.
If it’s a vector graphic, exporting the file to PDF will preserve the vector content, so this is the preferred method for transfer from MS Office to InDesign.
Generating the PDF
When exporting the PDF from your MS Office application, be sure to use the “High Quality Print” setting in the PDF options dialog rather than the default. If you’re printing to the Adobe PDF printer, I’d also recommend disabling the “Do not send fonts to distiller” setting.
Placing the PDF into InDesign
By default, InDesign only allows you to place the first page of a PDF. However, if you enable the “Show Import Options” checkbox in the place dialog you can place any page you want. You can even select a range of pages, which results in a loaded place cursor that places a page with each click of your mouse. It also allows you to control page cropping options.
I often have multi-page PDFs that must be placed into an InDesign layout. I’ve found that the easiest way to accomplish this is to place one page of the PDF and scale/resize/crop it until it fits perfectly in it’s frame. Then I duplicate that frame as many times as I need to. Finally, I do a multi-place into the frames to replace the content with the correct pages.
Correcting Color in the PDF: Grayscale or CMYK
Often PDFs from MS Word contain RGB or other color information that is undesirable for print. If you have Acrobat Pro, you have a prepress tool that allows you to quickly and easily convert the entire document to CMYK or even grayscale. Go to Advanced: Prepress: Convert Colors, or enable the Prepress Toolbar for easier access. For the “Conversion Profile:” choose either a CMYK profile, such as “U.S. Sheetfed Coated V2,” or a grayscale profile, such as “Dot Gain 20%.” Make sure it’s set to convert all pages, and click ok. Then save the file.
But what if the file is supposed to print 2 color? In this case, I convert colors in Illustrator. I’ll write another article describing this process soon.