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Maintaining Text Formatting When Copying

Vincent wrote:

We often have to lay out all our text in Photoshop (along with the graphics), and then, later in the process, copy all text in InDesign for the final layout. The problem, as you would expect, is that InDesign doesn’t retain formatting from Photoshop or Illustrator when pasting. Do you know a way to bring text from Photoshop to InDesign with retained formatting and still be able to edit the text in InDesign?

You’d think that something as simple as copying and pasting formatting text from one application to another would be simple — especially among applications in the Creative Suite! But no, there is simply no good way to copy and paste formatted text from Photoshop to InDesign. Or even Illustrator to InDesign! Sure, the text is pasted just fine, but all the formatting is stripped away.

Curiously, you can copy and paste formatted text between Photoshop and Illustrator… or even between these programs and After Effects. But not InDesign. The reason ostensibly has to do with how these programs handle text internally, but I would say the reality of the situation is that not enough people have complained to Adobe about this rather bizarre limitation.

By the way, my guess is that Adobe probably got caught up in “well, if we can’t figure out a way to copy and paste formatted text perfectly among these applications, then we just won’t let them do it at all.” They often get nervous that customers will complain if they don’t implement something perfectly. That’s why I usually try to explain, when making suggestions, that even a partial solution is better than no solution at all. For example, I would be fine with Illustrator or Photoshop just putting plain RTF on the clipboard. That would solve most people’s problems, even though it wouldn’t keep all the text formatting you can set in these programs. What do you think?

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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29 Comments on “Maintaining Text Formatting When Copying

  1. But it’s worse than that!

    Not only can you not copy and paste formatted text from Illustrator or Photoshop into InDesign: You cannot export as RTF from either Illustrator and Photoshop either!

    Here’s a workaround that may help sometimes with a lot of Illustrator formatting: (1) Save the Illustrator file as PDF, choosing to Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities (you can use the Illustrator Default PDF export preset. (2) If you have Acrobat Standard or Professional, choose File > Save As and select RTF as the format. (3) In InDesign, choose File > Place and turn on the options to retain formatting.

  2. If you’re happy with the Photoshop text formatting, why not save as PhotoshopPDF – text will remain vector. (I think the compatibility options in Photoshop prefs need to be turned off so that the flattened version saved with the file is not loaded into InD)

  3. I have Illustrator layout files that I have recently started converting to ID. I have found this to be an issue as well – Rather than converting the file to PDF, just place them into ID as native .ai or .psd files. That way you can easily edit them without having to make a change, create a PDF and revise the link.

  4. guys, i think it’s because indesign rocks on CSS stylesheeting, which would be awesome if we could figure out how to `port text from one application to another and even as far as exporting illustrator-formatted text direct on to the web or log a CSS stylesheets file form illus.

    blahhhh! come on adobe.
    you have our money,
    give us our gold.

  5. Does anyone have some help for me?

    I am pasting text from one InDesign document to another. However, when I paste the text into the new document, all of the character formatting is stripped, it highlights the text pink (like it does if the font is missing), and changes everything to a version of Helvetica that I don’t have on my machine.

    I am using paragraph styles in the original document, if that makes any difference.

    I am completely stumped; this has never happened before–usually you are able to preserve character and paragraph formatting in copy/paste between 2 InDesign document, right?

  6. Laura-

    Sounds like the document you’re pasting into has styles with different definitions from the other document, including a Based On attribute that’s causing the evil pink non-Helvetica. My post called “Copy and Past, Without the Pink” might help.

  7. If you have Freehand, you can copy the formatted text over from Photoshop fully formatted. Freehand can export RTF via the clipboard (Edit > Special > Copy Special). The only remaining problem is that ID’s RTF import isn’t too good…

  8. Yup, I agree. Adobe needs to correct this, I don’t understand why we can not copy text from Illustrator to Indesign.

  9. Just amazing they have not solve the problem to copy and paste from one application to another in the very same Creative Suite. Actually, i don´t think is in the interest of Adobe because of marketing reason, InDesign with more punch could overtake on having the need to use Illustrator, for example.

  10. I heard some time ago that Adobe bought a commercial layout program that was dying out (like QXP) and tweaked it to fit with the rest of the CS’s which is why it’s inherent behavior is different. They didn’t build it from scratch. And that seems to make sense to me.

  11. Wanda, could that be Aldus Pagemaker?

    You must be talking about another “commercial layout program” in the Creative Suite, because I’ve followed InDesign’s evolution from 1.0 and at that time I wasn’t really impressed by their “we start from scratch” approach because boy! was that a beta or what? And every next version of ID was clearly built upon the previous one.

  12. Adobe bought Aldus with their eyes on InDesign. Aldus had already realized that PM was a road to nowhere with code so bad that even the people that wrote it couldn’t work with it anymore.

    InDesign was already in development at that time. One of the remaining mysteries in all of this is why Adobe continues to sell PM, a program that won’t run properly on any modern operating system.

  13. I think I have worked out a good way to do this. It’s a little bit long-winded but it definitely seems to work keeping the roman, bold and italic etc. Firstly, Save your Illustrator file as a PDF, making sure you have the text editable option clicked. Then open the PDF in Acobat Professional and save as a Word Document, lastly import the Word Document into InDesign. Hopefully, all formatting is kept.

  14. Little off topic … came across this whilst searching for an answer.

    Does any know or have suggestion on how to export from Indesign and edit the text in acrobat without the text format being lost?

    Once in Acrobat, it sees all the text as one big text box, and all formats go out the window!

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

  15. Stevie G, Liverpool, England

    Listen to this guy Stevie G. Thanks mate – almost pulled all my hair out – Create a PDF from your source document, copy text from the PDF and Roberts your fathers brother!! Thanks!!

  16. adobe messes up everything like different shortcuts, different zoom function etc. i wish they go to hell soon. a bit more competition on the market would probably help

  17. For those of you still struggling with this, I recently discovered a trick.

    Even if text is broken up and disjointed, if you export it as a PDF from Illustrator, and then open the PDF in Preview for Mac; it will not differentiate between different blocks.

    You can then copy/paste and large-scale harvest content from duff PDFs and Illustrator files.

  18. It’s 2015, and still no decent copy/paste between these 2 apps. I cannot even copy plain text from illustrator to indesign without it messing up the text (cuts it into different text boxes).
    I’ve had it with Adobe. Since 1997 they have not focused on really improving their products, but on piling on useless features just to be able to charge for an update.
    For Web theres Sketch to beat their asses. Soon there will be more competition, hopefully.

  19. 2016 and counting. I don’t blame adobe for not addressing these issues and improving the quality of their software because it’s users never seem to complain or apply pressure to them. There are more complaints about changing and updating features for the better – than lack of features, slow performance and backwards user experience combined

  20. The year is now 2017…11 years after this thread originally began, and Adobe has still not addressed this issue. Interesting that in the last 11 years Microsoft Word has been improving. That’s something I thought I’d never say. I used to hate using Word, but the UI has improved dramatically. I can also copy and paste text from Illustrator to Word. I do use Indesign, but consider it’s handicaps and I plan on nothing from other programs being editable. I’ll either do things from scratch, or just import the big ugly boxes and edit in native file. Dumb. See you next year!!!

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