Convert InDesign files
to Microsoft Word.

INDD-to-Word.png

 

 

Every graphic designer eventually finds themselves facing this client request. You’ve designed a newsletter layout in Adobe InDesign. The client loves it, but they want a template in Microsoft Word they can edit themselves.

 

CreativeTechs happens to be located in Seattle, just across the lake from the Redmond campus of Microsoft. Needless to say, we get this question a LOT from various graphic designers in our area. There isn’t a perfect solution, but here is a technique that does a surprisingly good job.

 

Conversion Trick: InDesign-to-PDF, then PDF-to-Word.

 

Save your InDesign file as a PDF. Then use a utility to convert that PDF to a Word document (this technique also works with QuarkXPress layouts). While there are many PDF-to-Word converters, here is a service (still in beta) that does a remarkably good job maintaining the layout and editability of the resulting Word files:

 

Link: Online PDF-to-Word Converter (beta)

 

You’ll have to clean up the resulting Word file, but I’ve been playing with this tool, and it does a surprisingly good job maintaining multi-column layouts, and other tricky elements. For cleanest results, simplify your InDesign layout as much as possible before converting.

 

Source: This tip inspired by a recent write-up of the PDF-to-Word service on the Lifehacker blog. If you find this tip useful, check out a related tip from four years ago: Create Letterhead Templates in MS Word. That topic remains one of our highest traffic tips over the years.

 

Credit: The layout used to illustrate this tip comes from StockLayouts.com.

Comments

  1. says

    We are Word template developers and like to think we know a thing or two about Word having used it since v1 for DOS back in the early 1980s. Word is not the disaster you may think it is but it is, after all, just a word-processing application and not a DTP application. We do a lot of work for designers recreating their beautiful designs as working Word documents and templates. We’re always happy to give tips and advice and if you’d like a quote visit us as http://www.abilitysoftware.co.uk

  2. says

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss this, I sense strongly about it and love learning a lot more on this subject. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your webpage with far more details? It is incredibly helpful for me.

  3. AndyN says

    Hi All

    I have tried this but got no results trying to convert an ID CS5 doc to word.
    How long do you wait before it is mailed to you or am I missing something?
    Looks good on paper though!

    Cheers

  4. says

    Dear All,

    Is there any software or any other way through which i can know that the text in a word file is converted from an image and not typed.

  5. Mark R. says

    Went through the converting process with a small file and the site keeps timing out. *high five*

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  8. Olivia says

    I have to say this PDF2Word converter is a god-send! Thank you so much for the tip. I’ve been scouring the Internet for an InDesign converter for a couple weeks, and haven’t come across anything even close. And for FREE?! Obviously this isn’t the ideal situation for any layout or graphic designer, but when you absolutely need something it does the trick. Thank you thank you thank you!

  9. says

    Poor Cheryl never got an answer to her question about equations used in Indesign. Well Chery,l there is now a solution for that … “WordMathMD” … It is a new software tool I have literally just developed and ran a 46 chapter physics book through it with 13,000 equations! I have been in scientific and technical publishing all of my life and the rest of the publishing world always forgets about us. Write me at abeasley@wordmathmd.com and I will send you some samples. Have not had time to do a formal website yet.

  10. Madel says

    Just thought I”d give some feedback as well.

    A – As a rule I do my image manipulation in Photoshop and my document layouts in InDesign…because it is silly to do either of those things in any other program (assuming you have access to those programs and have a better grasp on using them than something else that is -not- in the Microsoft family). Word is refrakkingdiculous to work with…what it does, it does well, but layout is not something it does even remotely well.

    B – When I need to edit things in my work, I also use Photoshop and InDesign because it is what the programs are built for. It’s much faster to change, well, just about everything in these programs than it is in Word. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried, and gave up. If others out there are as efficient with Word as they are with ID or the like…kudos. For those of us who aren’t – this sort of tutorial is indispensable.

    C – I didn’t have any of the problems others had with this (and the link is now fixed in the article), though it was not able to convert a particular part of my document and faded all of the text (maintain color on images though!). It also fuzzified my images, though not to an unreadable margin. Converted all my text to New Times Roman, but maintained my layout entirely (which surprised the hell outta me!).

    The first link provided by someone else on here did some things better than this one, but other things worse…I plan to use a combination of the two :)

    Hope it’s helpful!

  11. sandways says

    My client needed her book, designed in InDesign, converted to a Word file so she could sell it as a digital book. This was the format that the company required, unfortunately. So I tried pdf to Word online converter. It destroyed my layout – all formatting was lost and all the photos disappeared.

  12. Cheryl says

    What about equations that have been created in an InDesign plugin? I get requests all the time from engineers to resave a printed manual or standard in Word and I want to scream.

  13. Marianne says

    Thank you so much for your recommendation of Nitro PDF Pro. It’s some truly remarkable software.

    I did test conversions of a .pdf created via InDesign, containing text, images and tables with columns, with both Acrobat 9 and Nitro to .doc. The one converted by Acrobat was terribly mixed up – the columns were gone, the tables layered on top of each other, the images with huge table cells around them that had nothing to do with their dimensions. It would have taken hours to fix, considering I had about 5 tabloid-sized 3-column 2-pagers of these to do. But the one converted by Nitro was almost *perfect*. I just had to fix some paragraph spacing, which is trivial compared to the hours of work I would have had to do with the Acrobat-converted .doc.

  14. coocooforcocoapuffs says

    jonas, I also see no point in this. u should all be going the other way, from Word to Indesign if you are serious about publishing. Or go to Word 2008 on a mac, which is a little better. But if you get that far, go to Pages which is by far better then Word. Cheers.

  15. jonas says

    I was going to use this but I don’t see how to save an InDesign file as anything but a .indd filetype. Formatting Word 2007 is such a freaking nightmare – I cannot begin to understand it no matter what I do. Word is officially so much worse than it used to be and it was never good.

  16. designgrl says

    I am a freelance designer and use CS3 on Vista at home, but work mostly for a small ‘mom and pop’ print shop still running Pagemaker 6.5 on Mac OS 9. Believe me, I would much rather keep the format in InDesign, but they originally designed in Pagemaker and now their client wants to start designing and editing on their own from my files. Needless to say, the only thing their client can use is Word or Publisher which really aren’t layout and design friendly. I wish everyone would realize that Microsoft just doesn’t create a comparable nor compatible product. Adobe is the way to go.

  17. says

    For those wondering why someone would use this, consider this. Our website currently offers only photoshop template files for brochure designs. We are soon going to go back and redesign all of them in InDesign and then in Word. That way we can offer our templates in two additional formats which our customers appreciate.

    And yes!! Designing in word is a giant pain. So this may make our lives easier once we finish with the InDesign formats.

    Thanks for the link. We will try this out.

    -Zachary Bauer
    CEO Home Brochures Inc.

  18. says

    To the last few commenters who think this tip is ‘inane’ and too much trouble, consider a few points:

    Designing in Microsoft Word is a pain in the arse. Making changes to a Word doc can reflow text, page items and also inexplicably change fonts.

    Design changes that can be done in Indesign can take much much longer in Word.

    Consider working at a corporate in-house design studio (where you don’t get to bill your client every time they make a change). There are Indesign files in the archives that some manager all of a sudden wants to have in Word format. It would be a whole lot faster to convert them automatically then by taking the time to do each one by hand.

    Who the hell wants to design in MS Word?!?

    Why wouldn’t you want another tool at your disposal?

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

  19. says

    Mercman and Keith are right, this tip is useless and inane (sorry, but it is). Using something like http://echoone.com/filejuicer/pdf-to-word filejuicer to REBUILD the results into a word design. It might save you some time, but i suspect not much if you had all the source for the InDesign project in the first place. I was interested in this post because Indesign creates valid links in PDF files, whereas Word 2008 does not. So I tried a transform hoping the links would be preserved once in a word file, but alas, that’s still an issue MS and Adobe need to work out.

  20. Mercman says

    I agree with Keith @9:10am. Why would you want to go trough all these trouble…simply design a word template for that client and BINGO!

    The client will still be able to print and send as he pleases…everyone is happy and life goes on!

    BTW-Don’t even try to use the link right now…WAY too many peeps trying it out at the moment.

  21. Keith says

    Why would we, as designers, want to do this? If the client is ultimately going to want a Word document from which to produce their newsletter, why not set it up in Word to begin with. If they just want a Word document to handle text editing (too much or not enough copy) wouldn’t it still be better to handle this task in a more conventional way. If the changes made to this Word document then has to be reflected in the InDesign or Quark file, isn’t this method making a simple job ever so more complex? Now you’d have to take an edited Word-formatted file and transfer all the changes back to the InDesign or Quark file. What then? Export another Word-formatted file for the client to peruse? How much more complex can we needlessly make our jobs?!

  22. Iris Hicks says

    I would love to use this but I can’t find a list of the system requirements. I know you Creative Tech guys use Mac. I’m a Mac person too.

  23. Cinda Peters says

    I just tried the conversion and nothing happened. I chose the pdf file to convert, but nothing happened after that. In step two I had the .doc button clicked. I tried two different files… no enchilada. What am I missing. Feeling stupid on a Monday morning.

  24. Ted Abel says

    I have had numerous clients requesting a manipulatable template Word.doc file from a design concept I created in InDesign CS2 or Illustrator CS2. Almost always comes from a client using Microsoft Publisher. I tried the PDF to Word conversion beta on a InDesign CS2 file saved to PDF a week ago. The beta only accepts file sizes up to 10MB. Worked fairly well on converting the text, but some of the formatting was off. Placed graphics and logos had missing elements, photos were completely missing and some text reflowed onto a second page (was a single page 8.5×11 sheet). I sent back my results to their beta site and have not had a response. Great first effort!

  25. Wendy says

    Link is wrong, I got Quark to InDesign as well. I’d love the link for InDesign to Word. I get that “need” quite often from clients….

  26. Dana says

    I also get a link to the PDF for how to convert from quark to indesign…I don’t think you missed something, the link is the issue….

  27. says

    greetings and thanks for the tips. as usual i found this one relevant since i am frequently called upon to convert things from indesign to word. when i clicked the links in the “full tip” to get to the “Online PDF-to-Word Converter (beta)”, I got instead a link to the pdf for how to convert from quark to indesign. did i miss something? thanks
    -paula

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