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Word Tips

In our last blog, we talked about the best way to insert graphics into Microsoft Word and demonstrated the settings that would preserve the quality of the original image without decompressing the life out of them. Following that procedure is a huge improvement toward maintaining the quality of your final printed document, but the best approach is to always keep the original graphics files as separate files, not just a copy of the file embedded within Word.

But we all live in the real world. Sometimes images are inserted into a Word document and then wander away from the herd. How do you extract graphics from Word and get them into your InDesign document in a way that gives something better than poor results? We’ve found a couple of approaches, one better than the other, and we’re happy to share that knowledge with you.

First Method: Word to HTML conversion

  • First, do a Save-As of your Word document, selecting as your new file type “Web Page, Filtered”. It will create an HTML version of your Word file and open it in Word. (You might want to remember this tip for the next time someone asks you, “How can I make a webpage from a Word document?”)
  • We’re not concerned with the resulting Word / HTML file itself, so you can go ahead and close it.
  • Use File Explorer to go the directory (aka folder) whree you stored your Save-As HTML file and you’ll find all of the graphics from the Word file saved as GIF files. They’re small and they’re bitmapped, but they’re there. Use them as you see fit.

Second Method: Word to ZIP conversion

  • Save a copy of your Word file as a DOCX file.
  • In File Explorer, rename the DOCX copy from filename.DOCX to filename.ZIP. (You’ll get a warning message that says something like “Are you sure you want to do this?” Yes, you want to do it.) The Word DOCX file format is really just a disguised ZIP file! Who knew?
  • When you unzip the newly named ZIP file, there will be a number of folders inside. You might need to drill down through a layer or two of folders to find what you need, but you’re looking for a folder called “Media”. The Media folder has all of images broken out as either EMF (Enhanced Meta File) or JPEG files, either of which can be imported into InDesign. Or you can bring them into Photoshop and edit them as desired.

Recent Results from Testing Both Methods

In a recent test we performed, the files extracted by the ZIP method were much better quality than the GIF files produced by saving the Word file as a Filtered Web Page. By comparison, one of the extracted GIF files was 14 KB, 72 dpi, and measured 2.83″ x 3.25″. The same file extracted from the ZIP file weighed in at a hefty 2,596 KB at 96 dpi and measured 7.83″ x 9.24″. Now that’s something you can work with! While 96 dpi is too low resolution for high-quality printing, the graphic was only needed at 3″ wide. When we downsized the graphic (without resampling it) we were able to boost the resolution to an acceptable level.

This process is an emergency recovery method that you don’t really want to have to resort to. Even the better of these two (darned cleaver!) approaches will not give you results that are as good as using the original source graphic files. Your best option is always to keep the original graphic files and provide them to your desktop publisher when you’re ready to move your document from the draft stage to a professionally desktop published document. Your promotional products vendor will also thank you when you provide a decent logo for an order of pens or T-shirts.

One final thought: Always keep the original graphic files!

I’ll bet you already know how to insert an image into Microsoft Word. You’ve probably been doing it the same way for years. It’s easy and it works. Right up to the point where you want to print the file with anything close to decent quality. The graphics come out looking anywhere from marginal to pure crap. Why is that and how can you prevent it?

Word’s default setting compresses graphics by decreasing their resolution. It does it automatically in the background, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you didn’t even know it. And you probably didn’t know that there was something that you could do to change it. (We didn’t until recently.)

Go to the File menu and select Options down near the bottom of the list. The Options dialog box opens with a menu in the left column.

You want to select Advanced.

The Advanced Options dialog box has a lot of stuff in it that you’ve probably never seen before. Some of it can be darned useful for giving you more control over how your Word documents are created, saved, and printed. The various options are grouped together under subheadings. I’m using Word 2010. In my version, the stuff we’re looking for right now is in the third subhead, called Image size and Quality.

Word OptionsRight next to the words “Image Size and Quality” is a drop-down box. This will give you the option of applying the settings you’re about to change to this document, to any other Word document that you currently have open, or to all new documents. I went with the All New Documents. (See the top circled box above.)

There are a couple of check boxes under the subhead of Image Size and Quality. The second check box says “Do not compress image in file.” There it is! Put a checkmark in that box to disable the automatic file compression that’s been taking place since forever. (See the second red circle above.) Not only will this make your images print better, it will also be the best option for when you lose the source graphic and have to resort to copying the image from Word and pasting it into another file.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss extracting graphics out of Word when you have to have a discrete source file.

Microsoft® Word® does an excellent job of converting text to tables – it’s easy and quick when you know how to do it and how to avoid common pitfalls.

In this video you’ll learn how quickly you can convert text to a nicely formatted table in Microsoft Word. If that’s all you need, feel free to bail out after that. The second half of the video walks you through correcting the most common problem users encounter when creating tables from existing text. If your table doesn’t format properly after watching the first half of the video, stick around for the second half.


OK, this might seem like an article way out of date, but you’d be wrong. Sure, I’m going to discuss Microsoft Office formats from more than five years ago, but you’d be surprised at how often we get asked about the new (!) Office file formats. So here’s the scoop – the one that uses a trowel, not a snow shovel scoop.

When Microsoft® released Office 2007, they introduced a new file format in their various programs that was based on Open XML. (Extensible Markup Language – do you really want more detail on that? We didn’t think so.) Microsoft’s new file format applies to Office products 2007 and beyond. The new file format was incompatible with previous versions until Microsoft released “converters” for older versions of the software, so no need to fret now – you can download the converters and all will be well with your world. (OK, maybe just a little piece your world will be well, but a little piece is better than none.)

To distinguish files using the new file format from the previous format, Microsoft added an x or an m to the extension –

of File

2003 and
Earlier Versions

2007 and
Later Versions













What’s the difference between the x and the m?

  • The x signifies an XML file with no macros
  • The m signifies an XML file that does contain macros

What’s it mean to you?

  • If your file has macros, you will need to save using the m extension.
  • Yes, files are backwards compatible, but you will need to download file converters for earlier versions of Office.

Why’d they do it? It’s a security thing largely. They say it makes for smaller files, too but I haven’t found that to be true.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Microsoft Word (or any other word processing software) is great for composing text that will be poured into InDesign for professional desktop publishing. But Word and InDesign are very different programs made by different companies for very different purposes. They don’t always play well with each other.

Some common practices that are OK for a word processor document aren’t appropriate for a professionally desktop published document. Also, text imported from word processors often have hidden codes that control the formatting in the word processing program. These hidden word processing codes can show up in a lot of unexpected and unwanted ways in your InDesign document. It’s up to you (or if you prefer, us) to find and fix them. Fortunately, many can be fixed using InDesign’s Find/Change feature.

To open the Find/Change dialog box, go to the Edit menu and select Find/Change. The Dialog box that opens will have several tabs at the top. The one you’ll use the most is the Text tab. We’ll save a discussion of the other tabs for another blog. (Powerful stuff. Stay tuned.)

Here are some fixes for the most common problems you’ll encounter.

Replace a hyphen with an en dash
Find: [space]-[space] (hyphen with a space before and after it)
Change to: [space]–[space] (the keyboard code for creating an en dash is to hold down the Alt key and then type on your numeric keypad 0150)

Replace two hyphens with an em dash
Find: — (two hyphens)
Change to: — (em dash: Alt-0151)

Replace two consecutive tabs with one tab
Find: ^t^t (two tabs in a row — the carat symbol that you will need for this and many other commands is Shift-6)
Change to: ^t (one tab)

Delete an extraneous tab before a paragraph return
Find: ^t^p (tab before a paragraph return – why do you care? Because a tab before a paragraph return can add an unwanted blank line between your paragraphs)
Change to: ^p (paragraph return)

Use an indented paragraph style instead of a tab stop at the start of a new paragraph
Find: ^p^t (tab at the beginning of a paragraph – use paragraph indent instead of a tab to indent the first line of a paragraph)
Change to: ^p (paragraph return)

Use a properly defined paragraph style with space above or below instead of two carriage returns to separate paragraphs
Find: ^p^p (double paragraph return)
Change to: ^p (single paragraph return – use space above instead of double paragraph returns)

Delete unwanted line breaks
Find: ^n (line break)
Change to:  (space)

They taught you to use two spaces after a period in typing class, but it’s never used in professional typesetting. Delete the extraneous space.
Find: [space][space] (two spaces)
Change to:  [space] (a single space – two spaces are never used in professional typesetting)

Use an ellipsis character (yes, it really is just one special character) instead of three periods
Find: … (three periods)
Change to: … (ellipsis, Alt-0133)

What’s normal for some isn’t appealing to others. Case in point: the “Normal” text style in Microsoft Word. The Calibri font? Really? I don’t think so. So let’s do something about it.

To change the default “Normal” style in Word:

  1. Create or open a document that has two or more paragraphs made up of more than one line of text each. You’ll want to see how your new Normal style looks within the context of a multi-line paragraph and between paragraphs.
  2. Select two complete paragraphs of text.
  3. To change the font specifications, open the Font dialog box (Ctrl+Shift+F). Select the font and size that you want as your new default. OK it.
  4. With the two paragraphs of text still selected, right click within the text and click on the “Paragraph…” option. (Software trivia: Anytime you see a command that is followed by an ellipsis (…), that means that clicking on it will open up a dialog box).
  5. The Paragraph dialog box is where you’ll make changes to indentation, and spacing within and between paragraphs. This may take some trial and error to get the way you want it. Microsoft’s Preview pane that they include on their dialog box is pretty useless. You’ll have to OK your selection and go back to your actual page of text to see a live demo of your changes. Right-click back into the Paragraph… dialog to tweak it to your heart’s content. (Phil goes with the defaults for General and Indentation, but modifies the Spacing to Before = 0 Pts , After = 0.5 Line , and Line Spacing = Multiple at 1.2)
  6. Got it the way you like it? To make it so that this becomes your new “Normal” for every new document that you create (please note that this will not override styles applied in existing documents — this is just for new documents you create from now on), go up to the Command Ribbon and select the Change Styles drop-down box. From there, click on “Set as Default.”
  7. Hey presto! Now you’re stylin’ your own personal way.