Okay, I have a markdown file (.md) that has all my book's content. I want to style and arrange this content in InDesign. Then I want to export this styled content to a PDF for reading.

The way I was trying to go about this is using Pandoc to convert the .md to a .icml and using File -> Place in InDesign to place the .icml into a .indd document ala this tutorial. However, this means all the .icml content is not editable.

There are some default styles (paragraph, header 1, bulleted list, etc) I can change, and some of these changes are reflected in the document. However, I cannot change what content uses what style, or cut text from one text frame to another (i.e. inserting page breaks instead of using the text frame overflow).

Basically, if I had pasted the text into an InDesign text fame directly, I would be able to double click into the frame, highlight some text, and apply a style or cut and paste it into a new frame on a different page. The File -> Place'd content, however, does not let me interact with the text frame beyond moving/resizing.

Even worse, every time I change the .md and re-export to .icml using Pandoc, it breaks the File -> Place in InDesign and I have to delete every text frame with placed content, create a new text frame, place the new export in there, then click the overflow button and create new frames for each page.

Is there some way to edit placed .icml content in a .indd document? Failing that, is there a better way to import .md content into InDesign? I am at my wit's end with this!

  • So.. you want to edit markdown for web content (CSS) using InDesign styles? Why use InDesign at all? what is the ultimate output goal here?
    – Scott
    Apr 30, 2017 at 19:31
  • 2
    I want to export to PDF for a book. The goal is: markdown (content) -> InDesign (style) -> PDF (reading). I don't want to use actual CSS, I just meant I want to use InDesign functionality to style the book in the same way CSS styles a website. I will edit the OP to make this more clear. Apr 30, 2017 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


You need to check-out the content first to edit the placed ICML.

In the layout, select the text or graphics frames to edit and choose
Edit > InCopy > Check Out.

See Working with managed files

If the content is already checked-out it might be that the content was never checked back in again. Find the hidden lock file and delete it. (something like: ~docname~kwi4s-.idlk)

Also, if you want to relink your ICML you can open your links panel and relink your placed content there. (Note that if you unlink your ICML here, your document will be editable, but any changes you make won't be saved into the ICML file)

Personally I use docxicml, it is not perfect (See #Supported Elements) but it suits me well. Any contributors are welcome!

  • how do you handle adjusting letter spacing manually? All spacing done in InDesign is lost after relinking the ICML file even if only a small part of the text changes.
    – mb21
    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:25
  • You will need to merge the changes of both ICML files first before re-linking. stackoverflow.com/questions/4402102/… But generally, I try to avoid all this by making sure my styles are set up properly (Good H&J) and use GREP-Styles to handle any kerning issues at hand.
    – Bruno
    Jan 8, 2018 at 23:10
  • Thanks, I've written a summary: github.com/jgm/pandoc/wiki/Importing-Markdown-in-InDesign
    – mb21
    Mar 18, 2018 at 15:34

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