Book Page Layout Preparation: The Local Formatting Problem

by Joel Friedlander on November 11, 2010 · 20 comments

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It looks like it’s become manuscript preparation week here at The Book Designer due to popular demand. Today I’m going to tell you how to do one thing, and only one thing.

But this one thing can turn you from a hysterical, tearing-your-hair-out, mumbling automaton into a cool, calm book layout artist in one easy step.

You think I’m overpromising?

The Local Formatting Problem

There’s one problem moving long documents from a word processor file to a page layout program that has the potential to drive you nuts.

How do you deal with local formatting?

Okay, you need to understand exactly what I’m talking about. When we say local formatting, we’re talking about all the times you typed, let’s say, the title of a book. You then went back, selected the text and made it italic.

You know book titles have to be in italic, you congratulate yourself and off you go to your next chore. Good job!

Well, it’s a good job until it comes time to put your file into your page layout program. I’m using Adobe InDesign, so that’s the one I’m going to talk about.

Your book file in Microsoft Word is 320 pages. Perhaps you’ve used Times New Roman or Palatino or some other standard font you’ve got on your computer. It’s 12 point type, set on double line spacing, flush left and ragged right.

Of course, that has nothing to do with how the final book will look. Maybe you’ve been studying and decided to use Adobe Garamond. You’ve fiddled with the settings to get your page looking the way you want, and your sample is set in 11.25 type and the spacing between lines is 15.25. The type is set justified—even on the left and right—and you’re very happy with the way it looks.

Oops, I Just Lost All My Italics!

Now you dump your file into InDesign. Of course, it doesn’t look right, the typeface is wrong since InDesign by default will try to keep the formatting in your file intact.

Note: InDesign has powerful file import features that are more complex than the point I’m trying to make in this article, and that’s why they aren’t mentioned.

Your italic is intact, but everything else is wrong. What are your strategies now?

  1. You can click in each paragraph and select the Paragraph Style you’ve set up in InDesign. This will take quite a while and won’t solve all your problems.
  2. Instead of placing the file in InDesign, you can copy and paste it from your Word document. You will lose all your local formatting. That won’t be fun.
  3. You can use the “clear formatting” button located on the bottom of the Paragraph Styles palette (more on this in a minute). You can Cmd-Click in each paragraph to clear only the character-level formatting. That will eliminate your italic too.

Clear formatting in InDesign

Every one of these alternatives will lead you down a path you don’t want to travel. But there is a way. A way that will save your sanity.

Remember Those Styles?

Word and InDesign use both Paragraph Styles and Character Styles. These allow you to create sophisticated definitions of each type of formatted paragraph or character attributes.

I’ve talked before about using styles instead of formatting, and here you’ll see another example of why you need to make this a habit.

Let’s step through it together. For the sake of this example I’m going to imagine that this book has lots of italic in it, but no bold and no superscript. That is, italic is the only local formatting we have to deal with here.

  1. Place the file into your InDesign document.
  2. Create a character style called “text italic.” The only thing in this character style definition is “Basic Character Format” = italic.
  3. Find/Change using InDesign’s search and replace function. Search for any instance of italic, and replace it with your new text italic character style.
  4. Select All to select all the text in your publication.
  5. Clear Formatting by using that handy clear formatting button we just looked at.

Character Style in InDesign

Because we put the italic into a Character Style, InDesign will simply ignore it. You will end up with perfectly-formatted text and all your italic intact.

InDesign Find Change

Simple Steps, Big Rewards

Before this sequence was possible, I spent many hours making sure all the local formatting had translated from manuscript to layout. I missed some, I had paragraphs that were in the wrong typeface and had to be corrected in proofreading. In short, files were sometimes a mess.

I spoke to a client recently who was working with a person new to book layout. She told me she had spent over 30 hours replacing and checking the missing italic from a book heavy with citations. 30 hours.

So do yourself a favor. Use these steps and teach yourself how to keep the formatting you want, while losing the formatting you don’t want. Even if you invest an hour or two now, it will pay off big down the road.

Resources

Lynda.com has great training videos on a ton of software, and keeps current with the latest versions. If you’re tight for money, join for one month for $25 and plan to spend the month becoming an InDesign ninja. Check out their many free videos to get a feel for what they are like.

InDesign Secrets, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepcion‘s blog about InDesign is a terrific resource for learning real-world solutions. Their videos are models of great teaching.

The InDesigner videos by Michael Murphy can also teach you a lot about this program, including some of the advanced features.

Adobe’s InDesign Video Tutorials offer more free instruction on using the program.

InstantInDesign.com has a great series on creating ePub files for users of InDesign CS4.

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by boboroshi, http://www.flickr.com/photos/boboroshi/

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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    Maggie November 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Joel (my apologies for a long post today)

    The way I import Word into Quark (and I imagine it works the same way with ID) is to first set up all my styles in Quark with formatting for font, size, leading, etc., (I use nmemonics such as t, nl, bl, cn, ct, and so on; or I may be required to use a client’s preset style names), then I set up styles with exactly the same name in Word but without formatting (except for local) and make sure each element of my Word file carries the appropriate style.

    Then I bring my Word file into Quark and tell the import filter to use ‘existing’ styles (the ones in Quark I already set up), and the incoming file lands in Quark exactly the way I designed it, complete with local formatting that I promptly change to proper italic, bold, etc. with Quark’s “Usage” feature.

    The one thing Word users should be aware of is that Word’s automatic numbering and bulleting features for lists don’t translate into page layout programs (except that good old PageMaker could read them just fine!) and you wind up with paragraphs that have no numbers or bullets (or tabs).

    Sadly, you have to change these, manually, in Word before importing and put in the appropriate tabs as well. Quark, supposedly, has extensions (add-ons) that purport to address this issue, but I’ve not tried them. When faced with an entire book that’s nothing but lists, I fire up my old OS 9 machine, dump the Word file into PageMaker which reads the numbers and bullets, then export the file back out to Word, port the file over to my current computer, and go from there.

    The one piece of formatting I’ve heard that can’t be included in ID’s paragraph styles is hyphenation. I also heard that ID converts Word’s faux italic, bold, etc., into real italic and bold on the fly during importing, which sounds awesome!

    Thanks again for your clear and thorough explanations of what must be puzzling maneuvers to those new to page makeup. There are days when it’s puzzling to me and I’ve been at it for over 30 years!

    Reply

    Rima November 11, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Joel -

    Oh, thank you, thank you! What a terrific tutorial, and very helpful links! I am going to be greedy and ask for more. :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Rima, you were part of the reason I decided to keep writing on this subject so I hope you find it useful. Thanks for visiting.

    Reply

    Maggie November 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Rima:

    Joel’s great, isn’t he! I’ve been a book designer and typesetter for 30+ years and still manage to learn something new (or be reminded of stuff I’ve forgotten) almost every time I stop by Joel’s blog.

    Reply

    Maggie November 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Joel:

    Jumping in again because if I don’t, I’ll forget to mention this upcoming film:

    http://www.linotypefilm.com/

    I rarely watch TV or movies, but this is one I’d stand in line for.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Maggie,

    Great comment. I haven’t used Quark for years and haven’t kept up with recent versions, so it’s great to have someone who knows the program make the kind of contribution you made here. While InDesign is a deep and powerful tool, there are some things that Quark did better even 6 years ago and I miss those capabilities. while InDesign will convert your itals to real fonts on import, they remain locally formatted and can be quite easily lost if you don’t watch what you’re doing. The procedure I used here prevents that.

    And you’ve got me really curious about the Linotype film. What fun! Thanks for participating, Maggie.

    Reply

    Maggie November 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Joel:

    For me, when it comes to readability, hyphenation (or lack of it) can or break a book, which is why I refuse to read books on e-readers, most of which can’t handle hyphenation … a whole other story from the one discussed here.

    When it comes to ID ( for print purposes), can you include hyphenation in styles? In Quark, I have numerous hyphenation styles, depending on client. Some clients allow only 2 hyphens in a row, others allow 3. On top of this are number of characters before and after a hyphen. But one thing is common: no hyphenation of chapter titles and subheads.

    I bought CS3 two years ago and have used its version of Photoshop and Illustrator, and I nosed around in ID, but was dismayed by its lack of support for hyphenation within styles.

    Sorry to be so nitpicky and specific and this is probably not of much interest to your blog readers, but I’m curious about how current versions of ID handle this issue. If they’ve addressed it, I will definitely look at upgrading my current version of ID.

    Reply

    ronnie rogers November 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

    i really appreciate this site. i am new to it and new to taking writing seriously. i love it.

    might i ask a basic question and hopefully get back an answer, if anyone is so kind, that i can comprehend.

    i am now up to my 100th page and realizing that this thing could easily get out of control if i cannot put it in a chapter format.

    i have sorted what i have so far into about 25 chapters but am looking for a navigation tool from the table of contents.

    i am on a macbook pro. is there a mac program that you know of or any program for that matter, which allows for this?

    thanks

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Ronnie, I’m not clear on what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you creating an ebook and you want links in the Contents to jump to chapters?

    Reply

    Bill Nichols February 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I read the above article and tried to apply it. Question: How can you search for an example of italic when Indesign has eliminated all the italic text upon importing it? The direction below in the article seems to make no sense when all the italic has disappeared. Comments?

    Find/Change using InDesign’s search and replace function. Search for any instance of italic, and replace it with your new text italic character style.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Bill,

    There are 2 ways to get text into InDesign. You can use the Place (Cmd-D) command to select a file for import. Or you can copy the text in another program like Word and paste it into InDesign. If you do it this way you may well lose all the formatting, so try the first method and see if that works better.

    Reply

    Bill Nichols February 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    The text has been imported into Indesign with no italics from the original rtf document. I was wondering how to retrieve the italics. I will probably go through page by page and convert it.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    If you have italics in your RTF file and you are using Place and not copying and pasting, and your italics are disappearing then it’s a problem with your import options. Hit Cmd-D, select the file, but before clicking on “Open” select “Show import options” on the left side of that window and make sure the “Preserve styles and formatting…” option is selected. Hope that helps!

    Reply

    Anastasia V. Pergakis August 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Joel,

    I’ve beeng visiting and retweeting your posts here for a few weeks now, but never left a comment. I didn’t know what to say! Your posts are simply amazing and you don’t leave out important details we need to know!

    I’ve been writing for years and never considered self publishing. I always tought I’d go the traditional way. In recent months however, I’ve decided that I should do a little research into it and see if it’s right for me. Thanks to your blog, I know I’m on the way to having a self published book I can be proud of! Thank you so much!

    Reply

    Paul Brookes August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    @Maggie
    I used to do a lot of importing from Word into Quark. What you’ve said is correct, but I discovered a Word macro that converted bullets and numbers into plain text, which imported into Quark pretty well.

    Try this method, which I explain in my old website (which I keep archived): http://tinyurl.com/3lg5cga

    Reply

    Kim Phillips December 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    InDesign is more than most people (who are not professional graphic designers) can afford to buy, and the learning curve is steep. One really should have the entire Adobe Creative Suite to be effective, and that’s even more expense. Trying to advise the general public on how to jump from Word to InDesign is like advising them on how to jump from adding oil to their cars to replacing the engine. Non-designers need to hire a designer.

    Reply

    Colin OBrien February 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I just found this script today which was a huge life saver. It converts your bold and italic to character styles. Thus when you apply your paragraph styles your itals and bold is preserved. The way it works is your import or paste in your text from word. Then, insert the cursor anywhere in your imported text, and run the script. Then you can freely apply your pargraph styles without fear of losing your itals.

    http://www.jongware.com/binaries/preptext.zip

    Reply

    Jan Dildei June 27, 2012 at 2:27 am

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing! Will certainly be a huge time saver in the future (30 hours of manually correcting errors might be a bit crass, but InDesign _can_ be a b*tch sometimes!). And also thanks to the people who provided those useful links!

    Reply

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