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PDF to InDesign? I have seen the future! ! !

I am at Macworld in San Francisco and I have seen a product that I guarantee is going to become one of the hottest plug-ins for InDesign.

Recosoft Corporation, developers of the PDF2Office family of products has just announced the creation of a PDF to InDesign conversion product that does exactly that! It converts PDF documents into InDesign files.

I saw one of the alpha versions of the product in action.

The product added an Open PDF file to InDesign’s file menu.

It then pointed to the PDF document and opened it.

Text in the PDF was converted to text frames. Images in the PDF were converted to images with a choice of JPEG, TIFF, or PNG.

Vector objects were converted to vector objects (frames) with ID fills and strokes.

There was a setting to map fonts if the fonts in the PDF did not exist on the system.

There was a setting to convert just text, or just image, or everything!

And based on my input, the director of engineering said it would be very easy to make it so that annotations in the PDF would also be converted to text on its own layer.

The two guys at the Recosoft booth (off on the extreme edge of the show floor in one of those little table booths with curtains) know they have something big. And so does Adobe which sent a contingent of ID people to talk to them.

The product won’t be available till about May. The guys promise that it will work on both the current version (CS2) of InDesign as well as any future product that may or may not exist at that time.

I haven’t been this excited about a plug-in since Sree’s Cool Tools for Illustrator 5!

Sandee Cohen

Sandee Cohen

Sandee Cohen is the author of the InDesign CC 2014 Visual QuickStart Guide as well as the co-author, with Diane Burns, of Digital Publishing with Adobe InDesign CC.
Sandee Cohen

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44 Comments on “PDF to InDesign? I have seen the future! ! !

  1. Imagine! Any document that can be PDF’ed can be converted into an editable InDesign document. Round-tripping at last! That is both helpful and nightmarish, since it flies in the face of the philosophy of a page layout software and a PDF being the controllable end of the road.

    I presume secured PDF will not open and convert?

    Mike Witherell in Maryland

  2. It does sound cool, but I’ll bet that a pdf created in MS Office (lame, lame, lame) will crash the plug-in and InDesign right quick. Anything created in Word or Powerpoint with with gradients, custom colour fills or (god help us all) transparency or 3D effects is a nightmare to deal with and print. Editing them is even more painful.

  3. I would be extremely wary of using the word “round-tripping.” It’s very unlikely that an ID document saved to PDF and then re-opened using this plug-in would actually be the same. For example, how could they know if a paragraph had Optical or Metric kerning? There’s no way for them to figure out what’s a nested style. And so on.

    That said, I sure wish I had seen the plug-in while I was down there, Sandee! Sounds very cool, and will likely be very useful for many people who need to edit PDF files. (As long as they don’t expect true round-tripping.) ;)

  4. I had exactly the same thought as you, David.

    It will never be true round tripping. But it does provide some very good routes for capturing the changes that are made in the PDF document for insertion back into the original ID file.

    But I see some other, important uses:

    It provides a cleaner route for translation from Word and other Office PDF documents.

    It provides a nice start for PDFs captured from web pages to be converted into professional, hi-res documents.

    Just looking at the menu Open PDF file under the ID File menu made my heart skip a beat.

  5. I can’t answer about flattening as I only looked at their demo. And the demo wasn’t anywhere near a real feature set.

    All I can say is there was a block of text in the PDF that became two unlinked frames in InDesign. However, the guy told me that they were aware of that problem, and would fix it.

    I’m not too sure that flattened or unflattened will be a problem, especially since they said they “will support transparency.”

  6. Hmmm. Interesting for sure. But for one, text in a PDF files doesn’t flow. Meaning each line is its own paragraph (unless it’s a tagged PDF). Also, even in a tagged PDF file, text boxes are not linked — either within a single page, or across mutliple pages either. How would they know which text connected to what? Will be interesting to see.

    Also, a PDF can support multiple page sizes within the same document. InDesign cannot. What happens then? It would make sense if the plugin just made a separate indd file for each page in the PDF.

    As for the support of transparency, that could mean many things, but would be cool if they could pull it off.

    Oh, and I agree with David about being wary of using the word “round-tripping” in this sense. Illustrator has had the ability to “round-trip” PDF files since version 9, but it involves trickery on Adobe’s part.

    In any case, it will be interesting to see if this plugin really delivers. If it does, that means you’d be able to take exisiting Illustrator content and open it in InDesign — that’s far more exciting to me than taking a PDF from Office and opening it in ID…

  7. Sandee, I understand your enthusiasm. I see this as a great way to recover text and graphics to further edit a layout; one thing this should never become is an excuse for print service providers to say “no worries pal, we have pdf2ID so we can correct the pdf that you have given us to print” ;-)
    How many times have I had clients or authors come to me with a pdf and lightheartedly asked for it to be laid out? With a plug-in of this kind issues like these can be overcome in a shorter amount of time.
    There are also issues about image resolution and compression that make it a less than perfect solution; but hey, I buy into it.

  8. I think like most of the powerful tools we have today that we didn’t in years past, this could be a great solution to a lot of problems…and it’s going to be misused and abused by many end-users who don’t understand the limitations of the technology.

    Can we keep it a secret?

    And when are they going to ever come out with the MD2ID (MacDraw to InDesign) plug-in I’ve been begging for over the past many years?

    Can’t wait to play with PDF2ID.

  9. I also think this is going to be a great help, but like anything else, there will be people that think all they need to do is open a PDF in ID and they’ll be all set. Like any other conversion, it will give you a headstart in recreating a document.

    That said, I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

  10. Sandee-
    Thanks for asking the annotation question. I’m definitely excited about the possibilities. While I would never go so far as to think “round-tripping”, the idea of having annotations appear on their own layer within ID makes me drool.

    One question though: if you open/convert a multi-page PDF, does it create a multi-page ID document?

  11. My big thing is getting RGB colors in Publisher files for jobs that need to be printed spot colors. Being able to open simple PDFs (if such a thing exists!) and creating true spot color docs would be a joy.

  12. Any data if it will handle languages such as Japanese, Chinese and Hebrew?

    By the way any idea how it compares to Quark to Indesign conversion? A lot of older pdfs were made in Quark and I want to see if there is a benefit in going the pdf route rather then the open Quark file route.

    Best, Patrik

  13. From the sounds of the discussion, it sounds like an exported and layered pdf from ID would be the best pdf to start with, as I think Branislav is suggesting in his comment about live transparency.

    Personally, what I would like to see is have Adobe develop some sort of “package to pdf”. Could you imagine that. Being able to receive a “IDCS4 packaged” pdf, that you open in your InDesign CS4 (soon) and it’s every thing you need, all layers preserved. Images have compressed using JPEG 2000 – so they open beautifully. All fonts are there, just like embedding fonts in an Illustrator document.

    Even better is if you could move that file back and forth between Illustrator and InDesign.

    Basically what I’m getting at is exactly what Sebastien DiStefano and I chatted about a few years back. Having Adobe turn the CS into a “docu” centred application rather than an “app” centred suite. Imagine, you create a document, and start opening up modules as needed.

  14. This plugin sounds very cool. Our company handles a lot of typesetting jobs. Our clients gives us their pdf files as style guide for setting up the template for Indesign. Question is would it retain the look of the layout when it is converted to Indesign?

  15. Hello Everyone –

    I’m the Director of Engineering at Recosoft. The company working on the PDF to InDesign conversion tool.

    I’ve had the opportunity at Macworld to show our tool to Sandy and many other people that stopped by. I’ve also read some interesting comments and feedback over here. Any feedback or questions you may have, feel free to direct your email to

    We are on track for a April-June 2007 release at present.

    Just one note – we’ve had many people ask to “Beta” test the software; at present we are not seeking Beta testers. We’ve been doing PDF conversions to other formats for about 5 years now and we have a very healthy base of users that have signed an NDA with us. We are not expanding it any further at this point.

    Again, if you have any questions and feedback please send them to us. We’re finalizing the specification of the product in the next couple of weeks for v1.0 and we can add “important” features we haven’t thought of.

  16. I’ve used PageMaker in combo with COREL DRAW and PhotoPaint for years successfully. But the ability to even import pdfs, much less edit them, was very limited in all these products. Recently, however, I discovered that COREL DRAW 10 can import, deconstruct and allow one to edit older pdfs with all the special options turned off. The pdf is actually converted into CD10 format, so that everything is accessible and editable. Does anyone have any further info on this, I wonder?

  17. It would be very interesting to see what does happen if the converted PDF is indeed converted to indd format with OCG (layers), native transparency, missing fonts, OPI comments, RGB, halftone screens, transfer functions, comments and embedded package data and (let’s say) Forms XObjects and see the resultant PDF from the InDesign PDF Library (1.6 and above) …. and still passes the new PDF/X4 specification back into Acrobat 8 preflight?

    Besides that – being sensible, sounds great ! (rubbing my worry beads) …


  18. Corel Draw 10 and above edits pdf wonderfully. And the pdf files it doesn’t open Illustrator does. I can’t believe that Indesign doesn’t allow editing of pdfs! That’s just poor!

  19. Pingback: ..: CRISTIAN ESLAVA | Diseño Gráfico / Web | Maquetación | Flash | Multimedia | 3D | Fotografía :.. » Convertir PDF a InDesign | PDF to inddd conversion

  20. This sounds wonderful, and something I’ve dreamed of for ages. I’ve had a drive die and lost a bunch of .Indd’s although I had the .PDFs I sent the client/printer/publication. With this I could reconstruct the .Indd’s even though a bit of work would be needed. I can think of a dozen other uses as well, but what if Adobe decides to put this function into ID as they should have done years ago? (I guess Recosoft has some sort of arrangement with Adobe and will slip ’em a few mill for it – I’m guessing that’s how these things work?) I suppose I’ll find out in a few days when I have CS3!

  21. can you convert FM files to Indesign? I tried using XML and didn’t work? Is the plug in mentioned now available? What is it called and how do you get it.

  22. 22. Paul said: January 16th, 2007 “We are on track for a April-June 2007 release at present.”
    . . and we’re sooo patiently awaiting!! . . {staring at Jon’s worry beads}

  23. Yes, it’s always dangerous to announce when software may be released. ;) I saw the Recosoft plug-in at The InDesign Conference earlier this month and it was pretty impressive.

    But it’s very clear that the main use for this is recovery of text and graphics that might have been lost (if the original files were trashed for example). The PDF has no record of things like pararaph style names, names of the placed images, and so on. So all that is lost. You just get locally-formatted text (not necessarily threaded together the way you’d expect) and automatically-generated image names.

    It’s going to be a huge lifesaver for some folks, but it’s not exactly a “round-trip solution.” PDF just doesn’t record that much info about the originating document.

  24. Hi Sandee and all,
    PDF2ID has now been shipping since Sep. 13. Did anyone try the release yet? Impressions?!

    BTW, Sandee, good to meet you in Stockholm this winter, we enjoyed your keynote!!!

  25. @Gil: I have not seen that problem; perhaps it’s a secured PDF or something like that. It’s probably best to contact the developers at for product support.

  26. Just to let you know, I spoke with someone on Facebook who actually USES this plug-in, and he says it works flawlessly. So, at least we know someone who has used it and knows that it does work.

    Just thought I’d let you know.

  27. @Adrian: You mean like a page curl? You cannot do that in PDF, as far as I know. It’s a SWF thing. That’s one of the SWF export features in CS4.

  28. With Acrobat Pro you can select several different ‘page flip’ effects (in the Pages panel; select one or more pages, then select “Page Transitions” in the popup menu). These are the same ones as in CS4 … except, of course, the page curl.

    By the way, these effects only appear when in Full Screen Mode.

    Oh — and InDesign has a preview of the effects!

  29. That’s great…i’ve just lost the indd file and i wanna reconvert the pdf file generated into a indd file…
    but…there’s a problem: the pdf contains itself pdf tecnical drawings…and they aren’t converted as images but are converted as lines, circles, object etc..(very very heavy….) ….is there a way to convert them as jpg/tiff/ images? maybe some options to check/uncheck??



  30. We have just announced PDF2ID v3.5 with ID CS6 support. PDF2ID has evolved over the last so many years now to support Windows XPS file to InDesign file. Its a PDF and XPS file conversion tool for InDesign. We’ve added many more changes into PDF2ID v3.5. Note that the same installer we release will install PDF2ID against ID CS4-CS6.

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