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I have a big issue. I created a brand book on Illustrator as it was initially easier to work with vectors. It is now 120 pages as it is constantly evolving, and I now need to transfer everything to indesign to facilitate editing.

Is there an easy way to transfer everything? I am copying/pasting every page but sometimes the format changes and the text becomes a vector.

Would appreciate any tips / shortcuts to ease this task.

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  • I dont think there is a easy way. "format changes and the text becomes a vector" then it means you have an effect on the text these do not transfer.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 14:54
  • Yup. I think you're out of luck. There's no "easy" way I'm aware of.
    – Scott
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 16:25

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Pasting from AI to Indesign sometimes (rarely) works and sometimes it doesn't. The result can be a vector but the texts can be a group of objects which contain a line or a few letters. If there's something more tricky than plain text, the glyphs can appear as outlined vector shapes. Try to paste a complex drawing and texts at the same time - you may even get a bitmap image.

It's not especially good idea to paste objects directly from Illustrator to Indesign. You can select text in Illustrator with the text tool and paste it as plain text to an Indesign text frame. That works like you had typed the text. Pasting vector images from Illustrator is a gamble. The pasted result is still editable in Indesign if the vector image doesn't contain any effects, it's only closed no-stroke paths. Strokes will be expanded to closed filled shapes. The proper way is to save the image as an AI file and use File > Place in Indesign.

You can Place an AI file like any image file. It appears in Indesign as a linked object. It can be scaled, rotated, cropped etc... as a whole, but the only way to edit it is to let Indesign open it in Illustrator for editing.

This all looks idiotic, but the development paths of Illustrator and Indesign have started with different goals in different software companies. Adobe hasn't succeeded (maybe even not tried) to unify their internal data structures. It has surely needed a substantial amount of work even to implement the current copy and paste functionality.

A web search reveals that numerous people have the same problem. The demand has inspired at least one programmer so much that there exists commercial 3rd party tools which are claimed to translate AI files for Indesign. One of them is an Indesign plugin and the other is a standalone program, both are made by Markzware.

I have never seen in practice how they work. But check this by yourself: https://markzware.com/products/pdf2dtp/

The advertisement says that program PDF2DTP was made to convert PDFs for Indesign, but it understands to some degree also AI files. There's some ads more in YouTube.

A cumbersome workaround

As I said, you can copy in Illustrator text with the text tool and paste it in Indesign to a text frame. The harmful thing is that you need to make the text frame at first or the result will be unpredictable. There's an old workaround which may still be useful. Adobe Acrobat Pro reads AI files or as well PDFs which are saved in Illustrator. Acrobat can save as Microsoft Word file.

You can select & copy text in Word and paste it to Indesign. A proper text frame is generated automatically. But you must move and adjust its size.

You can copy and paste also vector drawings. They are not editable in Indesign, but they can be pasted back to Illustrator for edits. Only remove the clipping masks. Such extras seems to appear without asking. After an edit it's surely better to save as an AI file and place the edited vector image as a normal linked graphic file. But the trip via Word causes losses. Effects are expanded and smooth strokes are changed to dense polylines. It's infinitely better idea to save the original vector images as AI files and place them to Indesign. The Word trick only speeds moving the texts and the benefits are marginal.

Is this the easy way? No. Essentially you recreate the layout manually in Indesign. But do it now when you have only 120 pages, not for example 1200.

It may be a good idea to study some tutorials how to put together a book in Indesign. This knowledge earns some compound interest if the book will be printed.

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  • I would like to point out that "unify their internal data structures" is a bit pointless as it would eliminate the need for one of the applications. If inDesign could do all that illustrator does then there would be no market for illustrator. On the other hand the goals of illustrator and inDesign don't match so it would be hard to do so without sacrificing usability
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 17:33

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