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Opening Microsoft Publisher Files in InDesign

As more and more people start relying on our favorite page-layout program, the question is bound to come up: How do I open a Microsoft Publisher file in Adobe InDesign? In the past, the only solution I could offer was to open the file in PageMaker for Windows (you’d need a free converter from Adobe to do this; you can find more information on this page), then save it as a PageMaker file and open that in InDesign. But not only did that require PM, but it only worked with Publisher 95 and 97 files.

Now there are two other methods you might consider. First, you could export the file from Publisher as a PDF file and use Recosoft’s PDF2ID plug-in. That will attempt to keep the look and feel the same, though you’ll almost certainly have to do some cleanup in InDesign.

Another option is Markzware’s new PUB2ID. (Why do all these plug-in names make me feel like I’m watching THX 1138?) Note that PUB2ID hasn’t been released yet; it’s just in beta. But if you need this kind of thing, and are willing to give Markzware some feedback, give it a shot! Let us know what you think.

(Personally, I’m pleased to say that I don’t have a single Publisher file on my computer, or else I’d try it myself.) ;)

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 are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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36 Comments on “Opening Microsoft Publisher Files in InDesign

  1. Wow, sounds very interesting. This is one of the few reasons I use Windows and Office Virtualized via Parallels on my Mac. I personally Hate, no HATE Microsoft Publisher but I have clients who will send me documents in that format or people in my networking groups so if I have to repost stuff on the web or redistribute the files for them I will convert them to PDF via free PDF converter in Windows (no sense in paying for Acrobat twice on the same machine). If I could open Publisher files in InDesign in OSX I would be one step closer to dumping my virtual Windows Install.

  2. In the interest of keeping things as accurate as possible, the publication converter that ships with PM 7.0 will convert Publisher 2000 files.

    That said, back in the olden days when I tried this I had very little in the way of success.

    I’m sure the Markzware plugin is going save quite a few headaches.

  3. I have had a little success (more than none, but definetly not a reliable workaround) with opening the publisher document, selecting all, copying – then pasting into an Illustrator (it keeps all those wonderful clip art images vector). Granted there is some cleanup afterwords, such as replacing all the fonts with the find font feature… and then you can make the spot colors what ever you need them… Hope this helps someone out there.

  4. I just PDF the Document and open it in Illustrator. Clean it up a bit, drag individual elements to InDesign and text and things like that. Although the text does not follow a logical path in columns/tables etc. It’s easily edited within Illustrator though. I think.

    But I have to say the last thing I got to do in Publisher was absolutely rubbishly designed, as expected, so I just exported the text to RTF or something similar… and then imported to InDesign. Not fantastic workaround. But it’s from Publisher, so not bad.

  5. We bought PDF2ID… it converts pdf-documents, but clean-up is needed. And some documents really need what you might call… spring cleaning! But if you have no other way… it?s nice not have to do the layout once again from scratch. But… bear in mind, this is only first version of the plug-in – improvement is expected in an updated version.

    A publisher to indesign plugin sounds nice – but my guess is, it?ll need cleaning too. Sometimes you?ll get a job in publisher, and the customer, who spend a lot of time building it, will often expect it to look as he or she did it, and not have to approve the document once again.

    The safest way I think… lean publisher, convert it to pdf – and print it. But I could be wrong… I hope!

    Best regards

  6. I have always enjoyed the fact that I couldn’t open Publisher files. I made sure I didn’t install the filter in Pagemaker. Typycal Publisher users fancy themselves to be designers and are very happy with what they’ve created. I could say, “Sorry, we have no way to open or import your document. Please send plain text or unformatted Word file, and we’ll work something up for you.” That way, I didn’t have to deal with the politics of staff members of clients who think what they created is great.

  7. The Solution
    After a lot of experimenting, take a hard copy, scan it in, get the photos and text supplied (MS Word & Jpegs etc) and start the job from scratch. This is the FASTEST way and least fustrating. Trust me. with regards to opening the pdf in illustrator…dodgy unless it was created in Illustrator.

  8. Want to get all text and graphics easily out of Publisher (and a whole lot of other) programmes?
    I use FileJuicer
    You may need to get rid of a bit of rubbish at the top and bottom of the file.
    Even Leopard ready.
    No – I have no affiliation with them.

  9. Publisher is no problem…print postscript to PDF, use Pitstop to tweak, such as convert RGB images to CMYK. With Pitstop, you can make it rain during drought…lol

  10. Sorry to interupt but i got a problem with Pdf2Id myself and hope you can help me. :)

    Sometimes when I use Pdf2id, my pictures in Indesign becomes text. Someone knows why, and how I can fix it?

  11. Wow, that’s kind of strange, Linda. I encourage you to contact tech support at about that. I know that they’ve just moved to a new office so they’re a bit behind in responding, but they’re usually very responsive.

  12. “That way, I didn?t have to deal with the politics of staff members of clients who think what they created is great.”

    WOW “Laberday”… how incredibly elitist of you to think that just because someone is using a sub-standard tool, that their work is automatically junk. Last time I checked, owning the best tools doesn’t make someone an “artist”. Maybe, just MAYBE someone that works in Publisher or another sub-par DTP application might just design something even better than a “master” such as yourself. Climb down off your high horse. YOU might think your work is “all that” because you use Adobe. Others probably think its average at best, or complete crap. Have a nice day! =)

  13. Patrick, you make a good point: Someone using Publisher or Word could create a beautiful layout. It’s the designer, not the tool! That said, I think you have agree that the vast majority of people using those programs are not doing great design.

  14. The best way to convert MS Publisher files to InDesign is to save your publisher document as a Publisher 2000 format. Then, using the tool that will install on your computer titled Converter for Microsoft Publisher & QuarkExpress that comes with the demo version of Adobe Pagemaker 7.0 will convert the document for you beautifully. I haven’t really seen a need for cleaning up after conversion. Hopefully this will help. No need to buy third party software to successfully complete this task.

  15. Ever the elitist way to get work done…I cannot believe a simple “plug-in” costs $199 per license…and the juicer is only for Mac apparently. I don’t have punisher on my Mac, and it is an old version on my PC, and file was saved in a newer version. I have CS4 on my PC, but still no way to convert. Crap. I can’t see spending $199 for one file.

  16. @Tim: I don’t need to defend Markzware’s pricing, and I agree that it’s always a hassle to spend money on something… but you’re not just buying a plug-in, you’re buying a Workflow. You’re buying the ability to do something that you need to do. If you can recreate the document in 4 or 5 hours of work, then it’s perhaps it’s not worth it (depending on what you consider your “hourly rate” to be). But for some people, it would pay for itself in an hour!

  17. totally agree with Patrick, having InDesign won’t make you a better artist, if you’re hopeless you’ll be hopeless with any software and if you’re brilliant you would be able to create amazing things in Publisher (and InDesign).

  18. I’d have to agree with Laberday on this one. Publisher (at least the older versions) were incapable of outputting documents that could be printed in any sort of quality, so matter how good the “artist” was who created them.

  19. Are you people all missing the fact that Publisher is an office tool used mostly by small to medium enterprises that cannot justify the high cost of InDesign, both in terms of Adobe’s prices and training?
    We encourage our clients to use Publisher for their small in-house jobs and to send the job to us if it needs a more professiuonal presentation or it’s for intended for commercial printing.
    I can’t see much point in describing Publisher as sub-standard when it does what it was intended to do very well.
    Perhaps you need to recognise that InDesighn and the rest of the CS4 suite is a very por tool for an office person who needs to occassionally layout a page.

    • Publisher is an entry-level tool. It does not allow the flexibility in layout, typography or design that, for example, inDesign does. However, the bottom line is knowing how to use the tools you have. And if you are planning to produce high-end typography, you need to also have some basic grammar skills (such as knowing that “layout” is a noun, and “lay out” is the corresponding verb) .

  20. It’s only sub-standard when compared to InDesign.

    In saying that, Publisher is ok for making printed documents. It’s not as good (sub-standard) as InDesign. But it can be done. I’ve helped people who weren’t able to afford InDesign/Quark with creating Publisher files for print.

    To be honest, it was relatively easy. And the printed booklet was as good as anything I’ve seen done in InDesign. To look at it you wouldn’t know it was done in Publisher.

    If I got a Publisher file in tomorrow that was relatively easy to fix up and prepare for print I’d do it in Publisher.

    If it was more complex and needed that extra bit of attention, I’d take it to InDesign and work with the tools I’m most comfortable with. No point faffing about in Publisher if you can’t get the job done as efficiently as you can in InDesign, and quicker.

    The point of the post I supposes, is that if you have to convert your Publisher file to InDesign, you can.

  21. The issue should be addressed as a problem only when being an “indesign-designer” can not match the “indesign-delivering-client”. The discussion here turned into about who is using the right tool, which is quite irritating. I was bugged by Publishers rather sluggish temperament and resource eating performance, “everything taking hours, etc”. But often the .pub file is already there, it has already been worked on, often for man hours or days. So whoever can afford pointing fingers at a customer about their “bad unprofessional software” is more than often not competent enough to satisfy the customer in the first place.

  22. I have been using the Markzware plugin since beta, and I have to say that it is BY FAR the best option out there. Well worth the price. The least amount of “clean up” needed after conversion.

  23. I suggest that within your Publisher file…Click Edit and Select All. Then Click Edit and Copy. Then open up MS Excel and click Edit – Past Special and paste as a Bitmap. Then just adjust the picture as you would any other picture in MS Excel. Then save as a PDF, etc.

  24. Hi,my problem is closely related to the topic, so I’ll just post here. I have designed this huge billboard on Publisher (dunno how to use the Adobe Suite correctly), and have to send it to a advertising/publishing agency. Thing is, this billboard is so big (and heavy) that i can’t convert it to PDF, or copy-drag/paste it onto InDesign. Long story short, I am really stuck. Is there anything I can do ?
    Please forgive the mistakes/mistypes I might make, i’m French (:

  25. @Flavien: I do not know what “big and heavy” means. Why can you not export to PDF? That is strange. Have you tried this Markzware’s Pub2ID to convert to InDesign? Perhaps your advertising/publishing agency can convert it for you.

  26. @Patrick.

    No…it doesnt seem elitist to me what Laberday said at all. More often than not the people who have Publisher and use it ARE undereducated in what is expected of them, and ARE jersks about it. The number of times people have come into my friends print shop…complaining and moaning because things look different. It has nothing to do with the design. It has to do with the times. Things are moving forward, and I can understand if poeple cannot aford the Adobe package, but then those people still have no right whatsoever to complain and moan when other people try their hardest to make things work for them. I say Laberday should have as much fun with his ‘sorry no publisher’ policy as possible. Its about time we realized the customer is NOT always right. More often than not, their an idiot. And they are jerks about it.

  27. Hi Friends,

    How to automated the layout for indesign CS4. For example Head level 1 for 46p width and following the text area is 30p. Any idea for thru XSLT based on XML.

  28. Just coming back to this post after 3 years. Not sure which is more amusing, Patrick’s diatribe about my elitist opinion or Ren thinking I’m a “he.” ;)

    I didn’t mean to insult people with design talent who produce products in Publisher. I primarily design manuals. While I am extremely technically proficient, there are lots of people more talented than me.

    That said, I do not want Bob’s secretary who thinks she’s the bomb handing me her proposal with 15 fancy fonts in it and expecting me to send it to the printer. “I’m sorry Mary. I know you worked really hard on this, but we just can’t use Publisher files. Let me work something up for you and let Bob look at it.”

  29. I need to convert a publisher file to insite as this is the platform my client’s printer uses; however, I cannot locate the plug-in via the link on your blog post. If you could kindly direct me to the correct location, I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you!