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Exporting and Importing HTML with InDesign

InDesign has long offered the ability to export HTML. These days they call the feature File > Export for > Dreamweaver. I’m not sure whether this naming is supposed to imply that the HTML you get out of InDesign will definitely need to be tweaked by an HTML editor (it will!) or out of some bizarre misguided belief that InDesign users might have forgotten the name of Adobe’s HTML editor (we haven’t). Obviously, the stuff that comes out is HTML, not “dreamweaver code” so you can use virtually any HTML editor, not just Adobe’s.

There are also other ways to get HTML out of InDesign. For example:

However, these days I’m hearing that a number of users need to go the other way: Importing HTML into InDesign. For example, perhaps your content is on a Web site first, and then you need to put it into a print or PDF layout. InDesign won’t help you much here.

If you need to import HTML, it’s usually best to use some intermediary to convert it. For example, you can save the HTML to disk, open it in MS Word, export it as docx or RTF, and then place that in InDesign. It’s not a fun or quick process, but you can sometimes get it to work. Ultimately, many people give up and just use the old copy-and-paste.

There are also some Web to InDesign options starting to play out, including Russell Viers’ Atomic News tools and a number of larger-scale systems, such as ones by Woodwing.

Question for You:

So… What do you need? Are you wanting to import HTML or export it? Have you been using InDesign’s HTML export tools (or the XML workaround)? Does it work for you, and if not, why not? What are your “pain points” and what could be done to make it better? Can we come up with some ideas to throw at Adobe to make this whole cross-media thing better, easier, faster, stronger, cooler?

Let me know in the comments, below!

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
David Blatner

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26 Comments on “Exporting and Importing HTML with InDesign

  1. For years I’ve been using InDesign’s ability to export tagged files to export recipes that I can then use to populate pages with a little PHP code. Here’s an example: http://tinyurl.com/3x3nd3u If you look at the source it looks like simple HTML code, but all the text originated in a tagged text file exported by InDesign and read from the server by the PHP source.

  2. I’ve recently finished a large project where I used XML as a route to HTML. I kept the XML tags semantic, and did a large amount of XSLT work to convert the XML to HTML. I also needed to write a fair amount of Ruby to do various other bits of conversion that XSLT wasn’t good for.

    I don’t know whether I’d recommend this technique – it was a lot of work, but I needed absolute control over the HTML output. I also needed the whole process to be automated – no manual tweaks to the HTML after – because I was anticipating (correctly) having to make many changes to the InDesign and re-create the HTML.

    I definitely wouldn’t have approached this without basic XSLT knowledge and some scripting language (e.g. Ruby or Python) experience.

  3. I’d like something simple: if I have a paragraph style named h1, I’d like to export it to html as , not . As it is, I export with no CSS because it’s such a mess.

  4. At Rorohiko, we’re working on a new tool, called FramedWeb. The main purpose is to offer some usable way to import HTML+CSS into InDesign. We have made an early beta available for download – there’s still a lot of work to be done, but the tool is starting to show some usefulness…

    http://www.rorohiko.com/framedweb

    Right now, our focus is on mapping CSS styles into InDesign para/char style sheets.

    Cheers,

    Kris

  5. I’m searching for exactly this function after discovering I can’t import HTML into InDesign directly. I have a co-worker that labors over HTML and hyperlinks, so it’s important that whatever solution transfers all the links into InDesign. The ultimate tool will be a straight link to the HTML so that when it is updated, my InDesign text will update. I’ll try Rorohiko’s offering.

  6. I think this is what alot of people are looking for as Ive been looking for it myself.

    In the Overlay creator, windows>extention> on a mac, choose web content and selct the html file, javascript and css will be embeded in the application doc for indesign for devices and browser, some browser previews dont work, working on that.

  7. It’s amazing that Adobe still hasn’t enabled ID with a facility for reading html into an ID project and the attempted workarounds discussed here and elsewhere clearly illustrate the need.

    With more and more stuff originating in html based documents why does Adobe impede their appearance in print?

  8. Looking to convert html –> InDesign.

    Occasionally I want to create a nice-looking pdf from web text so that customers can download the info and print in (in addition to read it on-line).

    Seems there should be an easier way than starting over from scratch…

  9. I need to be able to import HTML files into InDesign/InCopy and be able to capture CSS elements as paragraph styles, character styles, and foot note reference/definition combinations.

  10. Hi! I would like to import an xml file, with one node with html. So for example if you rightclick a specific node in the structure panel, you can can select ‘render as html’ or something like that.

  11. Hello, I am also in need of a solution to helping indesign recognize HTML tags (, etc) when importing large amounts of information through Data Merge. Any help would be very much appreciated.

  12. David, I need to create a newsletter template to use with outlook. I thought there was a way to create it in InDesign and just exported to adobe’s version of dreamweaver (can’t recall name now). Then I would be able to somehow use it in outlook. From what I read here, it’s much more complicated?

  13. David, in Adobe CC 2015.3 edition, the Export to Dreamweaver has been replace with just HTML import. I am exporting a book with footnotes. In the old export system with Dreamweaver, it worked just fine. In the new export with HTML is adds the name of the file it is converting to all footnotes and return footnotes.

    Are you aware of any way to export without the file name being inserted, so far, I haven’t found any setting to do so.

    I can search and replace with nothing in the document and then separately in the footnote section, but that seems a bit needless to do.

    Any place you can point me to solve this problem would be helpful.

    Thanks

    • Winn: No, there is very little you can tweak about how HTML is exported. In most cases, you should expect to do a reasonable about of cleanup (meaning find/change, often with grep) to get it ready for real production.

      In this case, it sounds like you want a relative link rather than an absolute link. The link that it creates does work, though, right?

      (Yes, as you said, the “export for dreamweaver” feature was replaced many years ago with just export to html.)

  14. David, are you aware of any way to export a complete InDesign book file to HTML. Can’t seem to find any information on that.

    Thanks
    Winn

      • You can export all the documents in an ID book to HTML by going through a PDF file.
        a) Export all the book to PDF
        b) open the PDF file in Acrobat or whatever else you choose and save it as HTML.
        You’ll probably have to do a lot of cleanup, especially if the book has headers, footers, page numbers etc.

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