I have taken on a freelance project.

I sent in a cover letter to the client saying that I use InDesign and Quark and was offered work by a publisher.

They sent me all the files I required, and detailed instructions on the layout they would like. I spent a few days putting the book together in InDesign and send them a PDF to have a look at.

They are requesting that I send them the Word document of the completed book.

How do I go about telling the publisher that Word is not a typesetting/layout program and they cannot have the InDesign files supplied as a Word document so they can make changes themselves?

If I try converting the InDesign document to Word then all the margins, running heads/footnotes, images/layout are not kept exactly as requested.

  • 2
    Oh my god this sounds like a nightmare. I feel for you
    – Katie
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 22:46

4 Answers 4


Sounds like you already know...

"Word is not a typesetting/layout program and they cannot have the InDesign files supplied as a Word document so they can make changes themselves. If I try converting the InDesign document to Word then all the margins, running heads/footnotes, images/layout are not kept exactly as requested."*

I mean.. that's essentially what I would tell them.

"If you want a Word file, I can give you one, but it will not be a designed layout. It will be a text file. Word is unsuitable for professional printing and can not maintain design in many instances. I'm happy to send a Word file. However, you should be aware, at this stage if you were to make changes to a Word file and send it back, it may require me to restart the design processes from the beginning."

Beyond just spitting out a text file from InDesign you can use Acrobat and a PDF to save as a Word file, some type sizing, color, etc. can be retained that way. It still won't be a "great" Word file, but it may be slightly more aesthetically altered than simple plain text. (Generate the PDF from INDD, Open PDF in Acrobat, Save as Word)

Either way, you'll need to educate the client. Like many, they probably just assume everyone uses Word since that's what they use. Most often they are accustomed to editing Word files so that's why they are requesting a Word file. If you take the time to explain that they can mark up a PDF with edits/corrections they may be fine with that.

What you can do .... and keep them happy

I've done this in the past for some client that fail to grasp the breakpoint between a designed layout (Indesign) and a text file (Word)....

  • Send them a Word file, and retain a copy yourself.
  • Preferably as "plain text" as possible. I like to strip all color and styling if possible. I may leave type size variations so headers pop out a bit more, but I convert everything to one font (Calibri for Word).
  • Request that they keep Word's Tracking feature on when editing.
  • Let them edit it and sent it back to you.
  • When you get a revised file back.. you can check the Tracking feature to see all their changes and then merely implement those in your layout file.
  • Should they failed to turn on Word's Tracking.. merely compare documents between what you sent them and they sent back.

You should easily find all the changes and be able to implement them without any need to break your existing layout and start over.

Lastly. some clients may request a Word file because to them, that means they have a copy of your work and they can then use it in the future rather than paying you or someone else to rework things. They may be ignorant to the fact that Word is never used for commercial reproduction. (Well nearly never - realize there's always an exception to every rule). So...

Send them the raw, untouched, spit out, Word file from a PDF. The more elaborate your InDesign layout, the more "wonky" the Word file is going to be. In almost every single case page breaks will be horrible, object positions will be shifted... etc. If they complain, well, there's the opportunity to explain that Word isn't used as tool by professional designers and it fails to support object positioning, CMYK, etc....

If no part of your agreement stated that the client is o receive final deliverables as native files.. then don't provide such files. Any contract/agreement should clearly state what the final deliverables are. In my case, it's always simply a PDF and explicitly never "native" or "working" files.. (relevant question)

  • 5
    oh gods I'm having flashbacks to the nightmare clients at my old shop. We used to get this kind of request all. the. time. This^^ answer is exactly right. The client wants the ability to update the files in-house and not pay you, and they don't understand that it won't work. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 11:19
  • 2
    As someone that was forced by contract to do inDesign levels of quality on Word in the past, I can't stress enought that while it is possible to make something very pretty on word your efficiency will be extremely abyssal for anything except the simplest layouts.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 13:36
  • 2
    But then.... @T.Sar .. You run into transport issues. What I've found here is.. I can spend hours getting something "laid out" in Word, much to my displeasure. I can get it looking as great as it's going to look. Save the file, and then give it to someone else. They open that same file on their system... it's changed layout with no rhyme or reason. :) It's just a futile pursuit. :) I refuse to do any sort of layout with Word any more, regardless of how simple or what that may be.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 18:09
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    Please, don't call Word document "text files". "Text file" has a well defined meaning and Word documents are not them. Please, don't contribute to the confusion.
    – n0rd
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 3:25
  • @n0rd I think you'll discover for many graphic designers Word is seen as generating text files. It may not be proper nomenclature for all professions. However, it's not "wildly" inaccurate in the design profession. Just as "stripping" has a very defined meaning in the printing industry, but a very very different meaning to everyone not in the printing industry. I don't feel I was incorrect in calling a Word file a "Text file".
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 4:06

I think you are overthinking this.

PDF is a paginated file format. Word is a paginated file format.

Are you sure they don't want you to simply slap page-sized PNGs/JPGs into a word file?

If they were expecting to edit the book via Word then they are S.O.L. Converting your InDesign work into an editable Word file is what I would call a "Change Order" and those are pricey (wink wink).

If your contract did not specify Word deliverables then they need to pay for such work.

If you want an easy way out then just find a PDF-to-Word converter and give it a shot. Let them know that your work's integrity is not guaranteed in a word file.

  • 2
    :) I have yet to run into anyone asking for a Word file that would be pleased with page-size JPG/PNG images. That would probably infuriate anyone I've spoken with. They'd take it as a "smart-ass" retort. (Which would not be beneath me :))
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 0:32
  • @Scott Count your blessings. I've supported users that that print PDFs and use the copy machine's email feature to send an unaltered copy to their co-worker.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 17:39

You should always mention deliverables in writing when taking on such a job, some clients and especially many inexperienced clients who go around on sites like Upwork, will just have no idea of how things work and will assume the wrong things. Before you take a job like this, they need to be explained in writing "i am going to deliver this in PDF" and they need to agree to that, otherwise you end up where you are now.

InDesign comes with a basic text exporting plugin which can dump the raw text content into TXT format, with all design elements removed. Then, there's a few paid plugins out there (google Rorohiko Text Exporter) that can somehow keep some of the design and export to RTF format, but generally speaking, everybody in the field knows there's no perfect INDD to DOCX conversion.

Your client needs to understand this. Otherwise, i guess you can just show a screenshot of InDesign's export panel with all the available formats :)

More recent INDD versions may have an export to DOCX (i don't have access to the latest INDD CC), but again if such an option exists, they need to understand what the limitations are.


All of the differences between Word and InDesign outlined in other answers are correct. They work very differently and serve different purposes, so that is something to be careful of.

You might also find ID2Office from Recosoft helpul: https://www.recosoft.com/products/id2office/

It can convert InDesign files to Word. I'm not entirely sure how it handles layout items (because of the differences between the two programs), but it might be worth a look.

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