InDesign tricks from 'HerGeekness' : cleaning up those nasty MS Word files in InDesign

by Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie - HerGeekness - Concepcion Importing Microsoft Word files into InDesign? Is it like, a real pain cleaning those files up? Designing Woman and Adobe Creative Suite expert, Anne-Marie "HerGeekness" Concepcion, knows you've been there! She sent in this cleverly hidden InDesign trick -- to save you a ton of time!

We caught up with Anne-Marie in snowy Chicago the other day while getting ready for the big Print + ePublishing Conference coming up April 28 in Austin, Texas. Read her tip here, and then we'll show you how you can get a special discount code to attend PEPCON, the InDesign event of the year for anyone who creates or produces print, PDF, e-book, or tablet publications.

Quick Clean-up of Imported Word Files

How much of your workday is spent slogging through your layout to remove extraneous spaces, returns and tabs in the text you've imported from colleague's Word files? Too much! Luckily, InDesign has a secret automation tool that'll do this work for you. It's called the "Find/Change By List" script. (Don't let the word "script" scare you --- no coding required!)

You can find this script in the Scripts panel (see image) along with more than a dozen other free scripts. As with any InDesign script, just double-click its name in the panel to run it. Find/Change By List will ask if you want it to clean up the selected story (the active text frame) or the entire document. Choose the option you want, click the OK button, and in about 2 seconds (max) it's done.

What did it do? Look at your text again: it's clean! Find/Change By List ran ten different Find/Changes on the text, but so blazingly fast that you weren't able to see the process, only the result. These Find/Changes include:

  • Replace two or more spaces in a row with single spaces
  • Replace two or more returns in a row with single returns
  • Replace two or more tabs in a row with a single tab (great for cleaning up columnar text)
  • Replace any "space hyphen space" pattern with an en-dash
  • Replace any "hyphen hyphen" pattern with an em-dash
  • and a bunch more!

It's easy to see all the Find/Changes that the script does, and even add a few more that you'd like it to do. They're all listed in the FindChangeList.txt file, which appears in the FindChangeSupport folder right under the script.
* Right-click on this text file in the panel and
* choose Reveal in Finder (or Explorer, in Windows) from the contextual menu to see where it's located on your hard drive, and then double-click the text file to open it. At the top you'll find instructions for editing the file, at the bottom you'll see the list of Find/Changes it runs.

It's in the Scripts panel, which you'll find in InDesign The free scripts that come with InDesign are one of my favorite features, and the FindChangebyList.jsx script is probably the script I use the most. The next time you're looking at a story riddled with double spaces after the periods and tons of tab runs, give it a try!

At right : FindChangebyList.jsx is a Javascript that works in Windows and Mac versions of InDesign. It's in the Scripts panel, which you'll find in Window > Utilities > Scripts in InDesign CS5 and CS6, or in Window > Automation > Scripts in earlier versions. The panel has two folders, Application and User. Click the reveal triangle next to Application, and do the same for its subfolders Samples and then Javascript, as shown.

That's why we love “HerGeekness” ... she's always coming up with these tips and tricks right about the time your client gives you a 30-page manuscript in MS Word to format into a corporate handbook -- and YIKES! You're scratching your head when you discover there are 16,000 double spaces in the file!!! YIKES!!! Thank you, Anne-Marie!

We also love Anne-Marie because she and David Blatner (A design and publishing all-star in his own right!) have put together the annual Print + ePublishing Conference that takes you from crawling to running in the design and publishing fields.


PEPCON brings together the world's top InDesign and print and digital publishing experts for four days of workshops, seminars, and fun networking events, including IGNITE InDesign (where the attendees take the stage!). Come to PEPCON to get up to speed with all those acronyms: EPUB, DPS, PDFs for print and interactive, and --- yes --- free scripts and plug-ins.

Design field gurus and celebrities: Anne-Marie Concepcion, Deke McClelland, David Blatner, Colin Fleming, Thomas Phinney, Diane Burns, Erica Gamet, Claudia McCue, Russell Viers, Ron Bilodeau, Gabriel Powell, Olav Martin Kvern, James Fritz and a dozen others!

Austin, Texas, April 28 -- May 1 -- learn more about this year's agenda, speakers, venue, and registration costs at the PEPCON web sites :

GO PEPCON on Facebook Facebook page at for late-breaking information, or contact Anne-Marie and David with any questions about the conference by emailing info [at] with DTG Question in the subject field.

GO DTG Readers get $75 off: Use the discount code DTG13

to receive $75 off the cost of any 2-, 3-, or 4-day (Gold Pass) registration!
Make this the year you get up to speed with e-books, tablet apps, and rock-solid PDFs from Adobe InDesign.


Hope to see you there -- and, thanks for reading . . .

Fred Showker

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