In my work I often combine MS Word files from dozens of different authors into a single book, and all of these Word files use vastly different styles. While it is possible to import styles from Word to InDesign, I’ve found that in an environment with potentially hundreds of authors there is no hope to work out a consistent workflow in which mapping of styles between Word and InDesign can take place. The last thing I want to do is import all these different authors’ styles into my InDesign document! In such environments I’ve found the best way to import the text is to strip out ALL styles so they don’t pollute my own, but I DO preserve local overrides long enough for me to use find/change to replace bold, italic, superscript, etc. with my character styles.
Here is my favorite method for importing Word documents:
* Prior to using this method, you must first have character styles created to preserve italic, bold, superscript, and other character-level formatting in your document. We will be removing ALL local overrides from the imported text; the key to this method is using find/change to quickly convert desired formatting from local overrides into character styles, so that when we remove all overrides, only the character styles will remain. You may need to take a moment to create bold, italic, and other needed character styles as needed; be sure that these character styles apply only the necessary formatting and nothing more.
- Before placing I choose my default paragraph style (usually my body text) and no character style. I do this by selecting the styles while I have nothing selected. These defaults will be used by the incoming text.
- Use File: Place (or the keyboard shortcut) and enable the “Show Import Options” checkbox in the place dialog.
- In the Import Options dialog, choose the “Remove Styles and Formatting” bullet, but also select the “Preserve Local Overrides” checkbox, then click ok.
- If desired, use autoflow (when your cursor shows the loaded text icon, hold shift to enable autoflow) to quickly flow the text into your document.
- The next several steps use Find/Change. To run Find/Change only on the story you just placed, first place your text cursor somewhere in the text, then open Find/change (in the Edit menu, or the keyboard shortcut). In the Find/Change dialog, make sure that it is set to always set to search the current story, not the entire document (unless you want to search the entire document). Somtimes this setting will change automatically, so it’s a good idea to check it each time you load a query.
- Use previously saved queries to quickly replace text and formatting. Select the saved query at the top of the Find/Change dialog. InDesign ships with a number of useful queries (removing multiple returns, multiple spaces, and trailing white space, for example); in addition, you can easily save your own for future use by clicking the disk icon to the right of the query selector. Below you can see a screenshot of my Find/Change dialog with the query list expanded, showing a few queries that I’ve saved:
- To find/change formatting for which you do not yet have a saved query, ensure that the “Find what:” and “Change to:” fields are blank, then click the “More Options” button on the right and you’ll see that you can search for and replace formatting. Click in the “Find Format” box and choose the local formatting you wish to find, such as “Basic Character Formats: Font Style: Italic” and then click in the “Change Format” box and choose the character style you’d like to change it to, in this case your “Italic” character style. Then do a replace all. You can also save this query for future use.
- Once I’ve used find/change to quickly clean up the text and replace all local overrides I need to preserve with character styles, I select all the text in the story and click the remove all overrides at the bottom of the paragraph styles panel. Since character styles are not treated as overrides, they will remain while all the rest of the unwanted Word formatting will be removed.
- All that remains is to apply my paragraph styles, which usually goes pretty quickly. I arrange my screen so I have my InDesign file on the left and the Word file on the right, and I quickly go through the two documents, applying my subheads, block quotes, bullets, and other paragraph styles as necessary. I usually combine this step with the usual layout tasks of type fitting, image placement, table & figure design, etc.
And that’s it! This workflow has the advantage of preserving the most difficult formatting to recreate; imagine having to manually hunt down every footnote marker and every italicized word in a 100 page technical document. The only formatting you must manually apply using this method are your paragraph styles, which is an easy process that does not take very long; in fact, it would have taken much longer to clean up all those messy Word styles if you had allowed them into your document!
Note: I originally wrote portions of this article as a response to a question in the LinkedIn InDesign Group.