From Word to InDesign – CQU Study Guides

19 02 2008

Semester 1 this year will showcase a new trail for learning material at CQU. By using a combination of MS Word and Adobe InDesign, we’ve created a process which allows us to greatly improve the look and feel of the study a in a semi-automated and timely manner.

The new process continues to allow authoring of course materials in Word, which seems to be the most familiar and user-friendly application for academic authors. It also means less change at the authoring level, which is a good thing.

InDesign was chosen for a few reasons. It’s an industry standard for creating magazine and book layouts and much more. It encompasses too many features to name, some of the most handy are: the extensive use of styles (not just paragraph and character styles, but also table styles, cell styles and object styles). It has great functionality with the Adobe PDF format; automatic TOC creation; easy to create and use templates for ‘official layouts’; … the list goes on

The key in the new process are the styles. When the styles are used correctly in Word (authors simply download our Word template which has the correct styles in it), (incorrect use is usually picked up in a routine copy edit), the styles in the word document are “mapped” to the styles in the InDesign template. So upon a simple and quick import, almost all of the InDesign formatting is automated.

All that remains are some manual table formatting, which is quite quick and easy thanks to the table styles (just select the table and apply the style!); as well as the object styles for inserting any icons (simply place the icon, apply the style and all the placement is done!).

We’re still learning as we go, but so far the process looks really promising. It will be interesting to see how the new version of word will change this process, if at all.Some of the simple problems we’ve encountered so far include:

  • Can’t export a tagged PDF from an InDesign book file. There seems to be a huge glitch and InDesign crashes every time. We will have to try and find a work-around for this at some point, because the tagging allows the PDF to be more accessible for screen-readers etc. At the same time, we want to still export the entire book rather than the individual document files because this way we can retain the auto-generated hyperlinks in the TOC..
  • Change any part of the main document and you have to do an update to the TOC.. if you don’t the hyperlinks can get completely ruined.

For the future, some of the things we may want to look at:

  • Adobe InDesign Server – perhaps this could help us; hosting our templates in a central location; and it may even help us further automate the process in ways we haven’t thought of yet.. not sure
  • XML – InDesign imports and exports XML; the new version of word also produced XML based file formats. Could this allow us to work the two formats together in an even more automated way? It’d be worth looking at in more detail when time allows. At the least, this may mean some cool things for web-based study guide creation.. variable data printing and who knows what else.



2 responses

20 02 2008
Chris Kitchener


If you’re interested in InDesign Server, perhaps I can help? I’m the InDesign Server Marketing Manager at Adobe and would be happy to have a chat about it with you. I think you’ll be excited to see some of the solutions out there today. Let me know if you want to talk.



22 03 2008
David Jones


The wikipedia page for InDesign describes a known problem with exporting on InDesign – may relate to the problem you describe.


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