Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

Importing Word Styles Only

Maryanne wrote:

Can you import only paragraph styles into InDesign CS5 from a Word document without importing the document itself? I have an InDesign file that I would like to format using paragraph styles that are used in our Word doc. template. Is there a way to import only those styles or do I have to create them manually in the InDesign document. I can only find info on how to capture the paragraph styles while importing a Word document.

If you want to bring in styles from a Word file, yes, you do have to import the Word doc manually. (The Load Styles command in InDesign’s Paragraph Styles and Character Styles panel menus can only import styles from other InDesign docs.)

However, once you import styled text from Word or from any source into an InDesign file, the styles that came along for the ride are now part of the InDesign file itself, even if you delete all the text you just brought in.

A placed MS Word file (the text to an Alcott novel) brings along all its lovely Word styles.

Delete the text, and the styles remain. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want.

So the answer to Maryanne’s question is to import the Word doc into a temporary text frame, like on the pasteboard. The styles get added to the INDD file. Then delete the text frame, and the styles stay, ready for to apply to text in InDesign.

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

Latest posts by Anne-Marie Concepcion (see all)

  • - November 30, -0001
Related Articles

20 Comments on “Importing Word Styles Only

  1. My main issue is that ALL the styles come into InDesign.

    Usually I’ll open a new InDesign document and place the text in there. Then I’ll copy and paste that text into the InDesign File that I was working on.

  2. Hi Anne Marie,
    I am sure you have seen hat the Word paragraph and character styles of a Word file to be placed into an open InDeseign document are added JUST AFTER clicking the OK button in the Import Options window, even BEFORE actually clicking or dragging a text frame for temporary placing the text.
    Therefore, just click the ESC key for not even placing any text on the document!

  3. @Eugene,
    After you import all the styles to an InD document save it. Open a document where you want the Word styles to be copied, “Load Paragraph Styles”, target document you just saved, choose styles you want.
    Hope this helps.

  4. The problem with style mapping is that all of the styles that exist in the Word doc, whether they are used or not, show up in the Microsoft Word Import Options dialog box, which can make it difficult to tell how to map a style. This is where Auto Renaming might come in handy, perhaps?

  5. I am a paperback writer, frustrated with MS Word. Can I simply begin a 500 page project within InDesign 5.5, set my styles, and write the whole 500 pages there? When it comes to exporting to epub, I farm that out. But dealing with MS’s ‘bring along formatting’ seems like a nightmare.


  6. Hi Brian, sure, of course you can.

    I would make sure that you’ve set up the Smart Text Reflow option in Preferences so that as you write, InDesign adds new pages (with a threaded text frame) as you need them.


  7. Smart Text reflow only works with Master Text frames right? Make sure you select Master Text Frame in the New Document setup dialog box.

    Then override that one frame on the page by mashing the bottom left of the keyboard and clicking the text frame to unlock it from the spread.

    Hope that’s right?

  8. Eugene what you described is one way it works, and that’s turned on by default in Prefs if you haven’t fiddled with it since it was installed. But even then you’ll need to manually add page 2, then after that, InDesign will add more pages on its own as you bump up against the frame’s bottom edge.

    But if you go to Prefs, you can turn off the option that restricts the usage to Master Page frames. That way, any story you create (and thread between at least 2 frames on 2 pages) will be enabled for Smart Page Reflow.

  9. Ah that must have been what I did. I remember having it behave that way and it was adding pages to a x4 page document where I preferred if it just overset the text rather than add pages. Thanks for clearing it up!

  10. Dear AM
    Thanks for your prompt and encouraging response. I’m upgrading from CS5 to Design Premium 5.5 to prepare myself for my next book – imagining that I can do most of the ebook additions, pictures, plus outputting to Kindle as well as paperback etc without having to send it out to someone else.

    FYI – Link to my first book, “Hawk.”

    Would you advise writing the next book in Word first and then importing it into InDesign for the addition of style and flourish, or should I just do the whole thing in InDesign from the start.

    And last question, have you noted any installation problems upgrading from a stand-alone CS5 to the more robust Design Premium 5.5?


    I added the link to “Hawk,” just in case your husband is a fan of award winning spy novels :)

  11. For authoring, my preference is a word processor, partly because it divorces design from content. The author and designer hats are better kept separate (even when they’re being done by the same person!).

    If you’re like most of us, you already have enough trouble keeping your inner editor at bay while you write the first draft. If your inner designer is also trying to butt in while you’re banging out story, that will only be another distraction and can’t help the narrative.

    If you name your styles adroitly in Word, you can map them to your InDesign styles on import, and unless you have a lot of illustrations, call-outs or other graphic bric-a-brac, you won’t lose any time overall, and will probably gain time by writing without the mental overhead of trying to lay things out while you’re supposed to be creating the content.

  12. For writing, you might want to look into the top-rated Scrivener, which has versions for Macs and Windows, with the latter in beta. It’s got features that make writing flow much, much better than either Word or InDesign. Unlikely either, it’s designed for writing books.

    Scrivener also has built-in support for export to ePub and the Kindle, along with a Word/rtf export that’s simpler and thus less like to cause trouble when importing into InDesign.

    My workflow is to write in Scrivener until the content is virtually done and then import into InDesign for the final layout.

  13. Mike

    Thank you for the referral to Scrivener – a program I’ve not heard of. I’m on my way to check it out, but wanted to thank you first.

    A question about your importing to InDesign – As you know there are articles written even within this feed that discuss the problems incurred when importing to InDesign and trying to eliminate formatting that comes with whatever your program of initiation was. Are you saying that Scrivener doesn’t have such problems?



  14. Scrivener for Windows is great news. I’ve not been following development so I’d missed that. Thanks, Mike!

  15. Elaine, yes. In the Import Options dialog box (when you’re importing the Word file), in the Formatting section, choose Remove Styles and Formatting from Text and Tables. If you want to retain individual applications of bold and italics and such, also enable Preserve Local Overrides.

    All text will then get your default Paragraph and Character styles applied (usually, Basic Paragraph, and None).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *