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Microsoft Word is an application that some InDesign users love to hate. There are good alternatives to Word, like InCopy for example, but there's no getting around Word in some long document workflows. Word has been around for a long time. It's ubiquitous, it's laden with features and idiosyncrasies, and it does not always play well with InDesign. Sometimes painstakingly crafted Word files fail to import into InDesign or the import works, but it produces strange or usable results, and so some users get frustrated and strip out all the formatting the Word user put into the file, and pretty much start from scratch.
Well, that is a valid approach, but another potentially more efficient way is to create a simple RTF document that will serve as a stable, clean template for writers. The idea is to setup and test this file so that when it comes back to you with real content in it, you'll have a minimum of headaches and work to do. So here I have my InDesign file created for my template and I've added some placeholder text with style examples for my Word users to use. Things like the chapter title and body text, some of the subheads and run-ins, and some instructions for where they're supposed to be used.
Then with my cursor in this text frame, I will choose File > Export > Rich Text Format, and I will just call this WordTemplate. I will switch over to Microsoft Word and open it. And you can see this is a really simplified example, things like lists and bullets, nested styles, GREP styles, all that fancy stuff isn't going to come across, and that actually raises an important point; that you should make your writing template as uncomplicated as possible. And while it can be tempting to try and fuss and try to get it just right, I would suggest that in most cases you don't spend a lot of time trying to tweak anything in Word to resemble an InDesign document too closely.
You may end up spending a lot of time making something and it's just too hard for your Word users to use. You are just never going to get a perfect simulation of your InDesign layout in Word. If this is really a requirement, you should be using InCopy and not Word in your workflow. In fact, matching the styling of the InDesign document may just get in your author's way, so strip the styles down, make them very readable and easy to use, and it'll increase the likelihood that they actually will be used. All right, so now in Word as the writer, I'll just edit some of the text, like I will add a chapter title here, and I could go on, go through this document and add text and style it, but I actually have another document that's sort of in a finished state.
So I will choose that, and say, this is the finished state that my writer delivered to me. I'll close that and switch back to InDesign, delete my placeholder text, and I will press Command + D or Ctrl + D to bring up the Place dialog box. I'll navigate to that finished RTF file and in the Place dialog box I am going to hold down the Shift key while I click Open, to bring up my RTF Import Options and the important thing in here is that I have Preserved Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables selected.
Now you might think, okay, I can just select Import Styles Automatically and that should work to keep all my formatting. After all this RTF file started out its life in InDesign, you would think the styles would roundtrip. But actually, let's just click OK and see what happens when I try to do that. So I will click in my document to place it, and while the formatting looks okay. If I go over to my Paragraph Styles panel and scroll down, I can see that a whole bunch of styles have been added here by the presence of this disk icon, and if I select my text, I can see that it's actually styled with the styles, and not in my styles that I wanted, the ones up here, in the Style groups.
This is a little idiosyncrasy of InDesign; it doesn't recognize its own style groups when you import RTF back in. So you need to setup a custom style mapping in that Import dialog box. So let's undo to get rid of this text and the bogus styles, and we'll try to place again. So I will press Command + D or Ctrl + D, select my RTF, hold down the shift key and click Open, and this time in the dialog box, we are going to click on Customize Style Import > Style Mapping. And here I can setup Custom Mapping for each and every paragraph style.
So for BodyText, I can match it over to BodyText, BodyFirst can go to BodyFirst, and so on. And this would take a long time to setup all these style mappings. so actually I am going to cancel out of here and go to the presets where I've setup a custom preset called CheeseBook that has all the mappings that I need. To save a preset, setup the mappings and then click on Save Preset over here. I am going click OK and place my text and now it looks like it's formatted okay, and I select it, and I can see that really is using the correct paragraph style, and no other styles have been added to my Styles panel.
But the acid test is how does this work in the real world? If you can arrange a little check in with the folks using your writing template in Word, have them try it out and give you some feedback, including a file that you placed back into InDesign like this and see the results, even if it's not complete. A simple email exchange, a phone call or an Acrobat Connect Session, could save you hours of work and aggravation, and you're also making the point to the author that it's worth his or her time to apply those styles, and that doing so will really help get the project done. It won't work in every situation, but it doesn't hurt to reach out and try to communicate so that everyone can understand the workflow.
In this video, we saw how to get a simple Word authoring template out of your InDesign layout template, and the key word there is simple, simple document structure, simple styling, and simple instructions. Strive to make the most easy-to-use template, create presets for importing back into your layouts and you just might avoid most of Words' quirks that have been upsetting InDesign users for years.
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