How to Import a Manuscript to InDesign CS6

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Tutorials


For the past few weeks, I have been showing authors how to prepare their manuscripts for export to layout software such as Adobe’s industry-leading InDesign. In the following few tutorials, I’ll show layout professionals how to import a properly-prepared document.

There are a few ways to do this, and there isn’t necessarily any right or wrong way. There are slower and faster ways, and generally speaking the faster import methods take more preparation work. In the long run though, all that prep pays off.

In these tutorials I will focus on InDesign CS6 for Windows. Most of these processes are similar on Macs; just substitute any mention of the CTRL key for the Command key and you’ll likely get the result you’re looking for.

Also, some of these processes have not changed over the last few versions of InDesign, so even if you’re using CS 4 or CS 5 you may be able to use the same steps (I just can’t guarantee it).

Import Using Styles

Many authors use Styles in Microsoft Word or in Open/Libre Office to show where their headers, bold text, and other formatting decisions are to go. Chances are you don’t want to use those styles. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage though.

Before we get ahead of ourselves and import the manuscript, we’ll need to set up some Paragraph and Character Styles of our own in InDesign. Later, we’ll map the imported document’s styles to our own styles.

How to Set Up Styles in InDesign

We use Paragraph and Character Styles to maintain consistency. When you apply a style to a group of paragraphs, you give them all the same look and feel. If you update the style definition later, InDesign automatically updates the style across all of the paragraphs it was applied to. That makes tweaking your design much faster and more consistent than changing each paragraph one at a time.

To create a Paragraph or Character Style:

1. In an open document, click the Paragraph Styles or Character Styles panel, as appropriate. The Paragraph / Character Styles Panel appears.

2. In the top-right corner of the panel, click the Options button and then select New Paragraph Style… from the top of the list. The New Paragraph Style dialog box appears.

3. Name your style. In this case, I’m going to call it “Heading 1.”

4. Choose your other style parameters and press OK.

Setting up styles is an entirely other topic. It’s pretty self-explanatory though; go through the Basic Character Formats and Indents and Spacing tabs on the left and apply the style options that work best for you.

5. Repeat these steps until you have set up all of the Paragraph and Character Styles you think you’ll need (it’s okay if you need to add more later). At a minimum, I like to have Heading 1 through 4, Body Copy / Normal (for the main body content of the book), and Bulleted paragraph styles, as well as Bold and Italic character styles.

Import and Map Styles

Now that your styles are set up, you can easily import and map (associate) the text and styles from a Word document.

The following method of importing a document is not always perfect, but it’s okay if the document you’ve received has no markup.

1. Press T or click on the Type Tool button on the toolbar, then click inside your document’s primary text frame.

2. Press CTRL + D or select File -> Place to open the Place dialog.

3. Ensure that Show Import Dialog in the bottom-left corner of the Place Dialog is checked. Then select the file you would like to place and press Open. The Import Dialog appears.

4. You’ll need to make some decisions on this screen, because what you do here is going to determine how well your document actually imports. If you were importing a document that relies on markup, you would select Formatting -> Remove Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables and continue onward. I’ll talk about what to do about that in a later post.

For now, we’ll need to select a few important dialog options.

5. Under Formatting select preserve Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables. Further, under Style Name Conflicts select Custom Style Import.

6. Click the Style Mapping… button. The Style Mapping Dialog appears.

7. InDesign will attempt to automatically map styles with the same names. For example, if you named your heading styles as Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., and the Word styles are also named Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., InDesign will match those two together.

For styles whose names don’t match, you will need to tell InDesign how to map them.

The left-hand column contains all of the styles found in the Word document while the column on the right shows which styles are available to InDesign. You can choose to have InDesign create new styles for any that it doesn’t immediately recognize, or you can select a style you’ve already created.

There are some important things to note about this dialog. InDesign’s default action is to create a new paragraph style for every Word style it doesn’t recognize, but don’t let it do that.

For starters, Word uses a style called “Normal” for its body text. If you chose something like “Body Copy” for your name, you’ll want to map “Body Copy” to “Normal.”

Second, Word uses a lot of styles that you never will. It may use up to 9 levels of Headings (you probably won’t use more than 4 or 5, tops), Quote styles, Subtitles, and all manner of others. If you allow InDesign to create new styles, you’ll be creating styles that won’t be used. This can add a lot of bloat to your document, which will ultimately result in a bloated PDF.

To keep your book nice and slim, select No Paragraph Style for each and every style you won’t use. This can be a tedious process, but it’s worth it.

When you’re done, click OK. Then click OK on the Import Dialog.

8. Your document imports into InDesign with your new styles intact.

Key Considerations

If you import a document using Styles, make sure you set up your InDesign styles first and use the Style Mapping dialog. It’s not always 100% necessary, but you may find obnoxious errors more often than not if you choose to use all of the default settings. It’s never a good idea to let Word decide how styles should be created, especially since Word often does strange things with fonts (such as creating “false bold” fonts).

Generally speaking, this practice works best if the document you’re importing doesn’t do anything special with its stylesheets. Just using the default styles is enough for them to manage the document for themselves but not interfere with your import process.

This method really only works if the author of the document is consistent with their styles. I’ll talk more in another tutorial about what to do if the document doesn’t contain properly-used styles.

Final Thoughts

Importing a document into InDesign is the simple part of the process. Importing a document elegantly and in a way that creates a minimal amount of additional work on your part is the trickier bit.

This method isn’t bad and, in fact, many professionals use this method. It’s important to master it even if you prefer to use markup, especially if you plan on doing layout for other people; you can’t always guarantee the manuscript you’re handed is going to conform to your style guide.

If you’re the author and layout designer, you have complete control over the process. You’ll get to use markup and GREP to import and quickly apply styles to a document. We’ll talk more about that in the coming weeks.


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Series Navigation<< Prepare Your Game Manuscript to Send to Layout Pt. 3The Secret to Simple Manuscript Import with InDesign CS6 >>