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Convert Indesign file to PDF then to Word not working correctly

Community Beginner ,
Jun 06, 2018 Jun 06, 2018

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I have been waiting for a response from Adobe on a bug that I had reported in 2017 regarding inability to export from InDesign to PDF to WORD and losing all the formatting.  Adobe fixed the problem in Sept 2017 but somewhere between two updates since then, it overwrote the correction and now it is back to not working.  I sent all my files to Adobe and have heard nothing back except that it is "under review".  I am unable to get my files in InDesign to other users for edits because of this and it is really causing me a problem on a large annual project.  Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

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Edit and convert PDFs

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Aug 15, 2018 Aug 15, 2018

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The overall problem you are describing is your need to create a Microsoft Word document from an existing InDesign document. The solution you are attempting to use is to export PDF from InDesign and to then subsequently export a Word document from PDF since InDesign does not offer a direct Word export capability.

Although InDesign does provide the capability of exporting individual "articles" in InDesign to Word .rtf files, it does not provide any means of exporting a full InDesign document to .rtf or any Word .doc or .docx format. The reason for this is very simple. There is vast difference between the layout features and imaging model supported by InDesign versus that supported by Word. InDesign is a full-blown, industrial-strength, graphic arts-oriented layout program with support for multiple articles, linked frames, hierarchies of master pages, etc.. Word is a word processor, fairly sophisticated at this point, but still a word processor.

A few comparisons of the imaging models:

  • InDesign supports full ICC color management (including CMYK and Lab); Word is strictly RGB (with some passthrough of ICC-color managed images).
  • InDesign supports the full set of 16 transparency blending modes of PDF; Word supports only one blending mode, regular, which isn't even the blending mode normally used by InDesign for drop shadows, multiply. (Many of the transparency effects of InDesign rely on this robust transparency support!)
  • InDesign supports Type 1 fonts; Word doesn't support Type 1 fonts on Windows.
  • InDesign supports complex gradients; Word doesn't.
  • InDesign supports Bezier curve-based graphics; Word doesn't.

Even using InDesign's ability to export .rtf from an article in InDesign is likely to yield results that are significant compromises and that require quite significant editing in Word to be useful.

Yes, the InDesign=>PDF=>Word route is very often cited in various internet resources as a cheap and easy route to “convert InDesign documents to Word” but unless you have a very simple InDesign document, at best you will end up with a Word document that will require a tremendous amount of manual edits to make it at all usable. The reason for this is that exporting InDesign to PDF normally loses most all context of what is an article, what is a frame, what is a paragraph, what is sentence, what is header or footer, etc. Acrobat's export to Word has to use heuristics to guess what the original context was for a whole bunch of graphical objects on a PDF page. If you must go this route, make sure your InDesign document religiously uses paragraph and character styles and upon export to PDF, uses the PDF/X-4 options plus the tagged PDF option. The tagging in the PDF assists Acrobat's export to Word in understanding the context of the generated PDF objects with relationship to the original Word document.

You might also look at some third party utility programs that claim (we cannot validate such claims) to directly “convert” InDesign documents to Microsoft Office formats, albeit with some of the same limitations cited above and with the need for significant editing of the resultant output files.

In terms of the project you are working on, often was done in this type of situation is to have contributors provide minimally-formatted Word documents that are subsequently imported into InDesign. For subsequent contributor editing, individual articles are exported from InDesign for use by the contributors who return their modified Word files for re-importation into InDesign.

          - Dov

- Dov Isaacs, former Adobe Principal Scientist (April 30, 1990 - May 30, 2021)

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 15, 2018 Aug 15, 2018

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Thank you for getting back to me but I have to disagree slightly.  I had been using the InDesign to PDF to WORD exports nicely for seven years up until last year when I had noticed the original problem.  Adobe was able to provide a update and it was working until November of 2017 when a subsequent update overwrote the previous fix.  I had documented which updates fixed and overwrote the files but I can’t get anyone to get back to me.  It makes it very hard to share the file with people who have to make edits.

Thank you!

Inspire・Invest・Invigorate・Involve

Karen Williams

Executive Assistant to the Superintendent

101 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood City CA 94065

650.802.5554 | kwilliams@smcoe.org

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Aug 15, 2018 Aug 15, 2018

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If you can share a sample PDF with me (provide me a link in a private message on the forum), I can investigate for you and try to see what's really going on.

          - Dov

- Dov Isaacs, former Adobe Principal Scientist (April 30, 1990 - May 30, 2021)

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Explorer ,
Oct 16, 2023 Oct 16, 2023

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I have a 171 page doc created in Indesign that the client wants converted to Word. Word removes the fonts, the formatting everything. This is a nightmare. If you have ANY suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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