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Cleaning Up Hyperlinks from Word Text

Like many InDesign users, Terry V. is not fond of Word’s hyperlinked text. He writes:

To me it is a major annoyance that when I import a Word file, all the hyperlinks are in boxes with blue underlined text. Word automatically makes hyperlinks clickable and gives these this hideous layout to make sure your eye doesn’t miss this ugliness, hoping that I click on it so the color changes to another ugly color.

I usually delete the character style ‘Hyperlink’ without keeping the formatting. But then there still is a box around it. Even when I cut the text and paste it without formatting, the box remains visible.

So my questions:
– What is that annoying box?
– How do I get rid of it (or bring it on in the totally theoretical case I might want to use it)?
– How do I avoid those hyperlinks from being imported and messing up both my perfectly fine layout and my happiness being an InDesign user?

The problem is that one of Microsoft Word’s default behaviors is to automatically turn anything it recognizes as a web site or e-mail address into a hyperlink as soon as the user types it. You can click that link in Word and it will bring you to the web site or create a pre-addressed e-mail message.

When you bring the text into InDesign by pasting without the formatting, the “hyperlinkness” of the text still comes through — the hidden HTML code that Word added. The gray boxes that you see are the default appearance for any hyperlinks in InDesign, so that when the file is exported to PDF, it’s easy for the user to find the linked text.

Stop them in Word
It’s a pain to “unlink” these in Word, even if the user could figure out how. So the best bet is to ask your Word users to turn off the default behavior, if not for all their documents, then at least for the articles they’re preparing for your layout.

It’s simple: Go to Word’s Tools menu and open the AutoCorrect… dialog box. Click on the AutoFormat as You Type panel and in the Replace As You Type section, turn off the checkbox next to “Internet paths with hyperlinks.”

This doesn’t clear out any links it’s already created in the current document, but does prevent it from adding links to text that’s typed from then on.

Remove them in InDesign
The only way you’ll end up with Word’s hyperlinked text in your InDesign document is if you retain Word formatting when you place the file. If you choose Remove Styles and Formatting in the Import Options dialog box before you place it, you won’t get the hyperlinks – no formatting, no hidden code. (So this is a better option than pasting without formatting, as the user was doing above.)

However, if you turn on the option to Retain Local Formatting (usually a good idea to retain specific bold and italic formatting), no code is retained but the links will still appear in that lovely RGB blue color and underlined. Not a big deal, it’s just a local override. Hold down the Option/Alt key when you apply your Paragraph Style to get rid of it.

You will see both the boxes and the blue/underlined formatting if you place the Word file with formatting intact.

Even in this case, it’s fairly simple to clean them up:

  1. In your Character Styles palette, delete the one called Hyperlink (it came with the Word file) and at the prompt, replace it with [None] and turn off the Preserve Formatting checkbox. That clears out the blue color and underlines from the affected text.
  2. Go to Window > Interactive > Hyperlinks and shift-click all of the entries that appear in the palette. (If you actually have some hyperlinks you created in InDesign that you want to keep, select only the ones that came with Word — they’re called Hyperlink, Hyperlink 2, Hyperlink 3, and so on.) Then click the trashcan icon at the bottom of the palette to delete the Word hyperlinks. The gray boxes disappear, but the text remains.

Of course, if you want to keep the links (for your PDF) but don’t want the gray boxes or blue text, you could change their appearance.

  1. Edit the Hyperlink Character Style to your taste, or delete it all together as explained above.
  2. Select all the entries for the imported Word hyperlinks in the Hyperlinks palette, then choose Hyperlink Options from the palette menu and change their Appearance to Invisible Rectangle.
Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at or on Twitter @amarie
Anne-Marie Concepcion

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26 Comments on “Cleaning Up Hyperlinks from Word Text

  1. One quick and easy way to get rid of all your hyperlinks (and their formatting) in Word is to ctrl-A to select all and then ctrl-6 (not on the numeric keypad). Saves me a lot of messing about!

  2. Or, select all hyperlinks in the palette, click “Hyperlink Options” from the fly-out menu, and set the appearance to “invisible rectangle” to keep the links without the box in PDF format. That’s what we do in MDJ.

    Our true Word-ID annoyance is that after six years, InDesign still botches importing Word hyperlinks that have #anchors in them. It gives the text the “Hyperlink” character style, but it does not actually create a hyperlink with the URL, so you get blue text (or whatever your style mandates) with nothing behind it. Even Mac VB in Office 2004 can get to these links, so it’s baffling why InDesign can’t after all this time.

  3. Thank you, Kazimierz, Ctrl-6 (Command-6 on a Mac) is fantastic! What is that doing, simply removing links in Word? Is it a shortcut for a menu command (which)?

  4. I’m not sure whether it’s a menu command or not to be honest, it’s just something that I got told a while back by a colleague!

    But yeah, all it seems to do is remove all the stuff that tells Word it’s a hyperlink, leaving you with just the text.

  5. Thank-you Kazimierz!

    I have used the save as function creating a text file. With Word 2003, I can save it as an ASCII file which replaces those smart quotes and dashes with ascii equivalents.

  6. We recently upgraded to InDesign from PageMaker. Sometimes when I save a new ad as an EPS, it won’t open in the Preview window as a pdf and when placed in Quark it’s just an empty box. Other times it works fine. We receive ad copy by email and save it as text to place in the ad format. Could it be something there or a font problem??

  7. Thanks SOOOO much for the hyperlink removal tutorial! I got rid of the blue lines but could not, for the life of me, find the menu to delete the “ruled box” bugger. (I only started working in InDesign a year or so ago, being a lifelong Quark user.)

  8. Useful! I was scratching my head over this… Couldn’t find that hyperlink window in InDesign on my own :D
    The cmd-6 shortcut in Word was also really useful!

  9. What if I want to *add* formatting to hyperlinked text? I’m starting the process of adding hyperlinks to a long document and I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to automatically apply a hyperlink character style to all hyperlinks *without* manually selecting the text and applying the style. It seems like there should be a menu option in the hyperlinks panel for that kind of thing. Ideas?

  10. This may be old news for ID CS3 users, but I just discovered that in the View menu, you can select Hide Hyperlinks if you want to get rid of the gray boxes. This is much easier than before!
    The link to the url is retained when exported to PDF (provided the text is placed, not copied).

  11. In theory, you can create a character style named “Hyperlink” and choose whatever formatting you want for it. When you place a Word doc containing hyperlinks, those will be automatically assigned to the newly created “Hyperlink” Indesign character style.
    That’s what I did, because I want the text to look exactly the same as any regular text, BUT I don’t want to have hyphenated websites, like at the end of my lines. So I checked “No break” attribute on my “Hyperlink” character style.

    Now all sounds good, BUT as I said in the beggining, it all works only in theory (and InDeisgn CS2), not in InDesign CS4. For some reason, when I place the text, the character style doesn’t apply to the text.

    If anybody has ideas why, please drop me a line or comment.


  12. Pingback: InDesignSecrets » Blog Archive » InDesignSecrets Podcast 109

  13. Yay! It worked to get rid of those darn little boxes! I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to get rid of those boxes for about 30 minutes. Mine weren’t grey though, they were just a black box around white background.


  14. Anne-Marie, about Ctrl+6 KBSC for Word.
    If you know your shortcut and want to determine which command it belongs to, do the following:
    Menu Tools > Customize > Keyboard. Select any command (for example FilePrint) and try to assign a new keyboard shortcut to it (here ctrl+6). Word will tell you, that it is already assigned to UnlinkFields.

    And here comes my own quetion about hyperlinks.
    Is there any way to set the default way in InDesign for the formatting of hyperlinks? I don’t want to select the existing hyperlink(s) and change its options; I’d like to define the options before the creation of hyperlinks. Or the visible rectangle is inevitable?

  15. I have black boxes around every image i inserted into Indesign. They are not a part of my design aesthetic and I was wondering how I could remove them?

  16. @elizabeth: Are the black boxes hyperlinks that can be deleted in the Hyperlinks panel? Or just strokes around the graphic frames that you can remove by setting the stroke to None? Or (I have seen this) black strokes around the image themselves — that is, they’re part of the picture.

  17. To remove the hyperlink box on the text(cs4)

    go to window-interactive-hyperlink
    hold shift key and select all hyperlinks
    go to option on the corner of the box
    select hyperlink options
    in the visible box select invisible.

  18. In my case, I WANT InDesign to import hyperlinks from Microsoft Word documents so that I don’t have to go back and re-create them after making a PDF out of the InDesign file. I just want to get rid of the rectangular box.
    Here is what I do now:
    Just before exporting or distilling indd file to PDF:
    1. I choose Edit Hyperlinks (CTRL-K)
    2. I then highlight all hyperlinks in the InDesign file
    3. From the Hyperlinks drop down menu, I choose Hyperlink Options…
    4. In Appeance, under type, I choose Invisible Rectangle.

    This is incredibly slow and clunky, so I want InDesign to automatically make any hperlink, imported or added manually, an Invisitble Rectangle.

  19. To remove all hyperlinks in a Word document, press CTRL+A to select the entire document and then press CTRL+SHIFT+F9.

  20. What is the general rule for representing web addresses for print documents? I prefer to not include http:// in the web address but I have a manger who insist the http:// remains. I prefer a cleaner look for the publications. Any links to sites referencing this would be great. Thank you.

  21. I am working on a supplied InDesign file. Everything with a “.com” on it becomes black underlined and prints underlined. How do I remove this underline? It is not a Paragraph or Character style. I have broken all links to styles It does not have Underlined assigned to it. The little Icon with the letter T underlined in the Control menu is on and cannot be turned off. Am I nuts or should removing these lines be a no-brainer?!

    Please HELP!!!!

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