Getting Started

Importing a Word Document

For this chapter there is both a video, with transcript, and written text on how to import a Word document into Pressbooks.

Video and Transcript

Transcript of video

In this video, we’ll be going through how to import a word document into Pressbooks. This is useful if you already have lots of content written out in a word document, but do note that the import function is not precise and chances are that you’ll still need to do work in Pressbooks to fix formatting issues, especially with heavily formatted Word documents. We’ve included a sample word document linked to in this video that you can download and use to follow along.

The first thing that needs to be done is to prepare the Word document file. So if we open it up, we should ensure that our document is formatted simply. Any basic content and formatting – images, tables, bold and italicized text, heading styles, bullet lists, etc. will stay formatted during the import process. Any fancy fonts and advanced styling will get stripped out.

The most important part of preparing the document is ensuring that it’s properly broken up into chapters. Pressbooks will create a new chapter every time there’s a Heading 1, so if you want your book to import into separate chapters, ensure that they all begin with a heading 1, as they do here. If you don’t use heading 1s, then your entire document will import as a single chapter, which is likely not what you want.

Now that our document is prepared, we’ll go back to Pressbooks, and on the left menu, we’ll click on import. Under type of file, select .docx, and then click on the “choose file” button and select the .docx file that you want to import. And then click upload file.

On this next screen, we can choose how this document will import. Since my document had 3 Heading 1s, there are a total of 3 chapters that I can import. If I want to import all of them, I can tick the “select all” box, or just tick one of the boxes if I only want to import one. I can also choose over on the right where these chapters go – right now they’ll all get imported into the main body part, but I can also choose to have them import into the front matter or back matter. Once I’ve chosen what I want, I’ll click start, and we can see that the document has been nicely imported. If we go into the text panel, we can see that the status of all of the chapters is only “draft.” To publish them, I’ll tick the “private” box next to each chapter twice, and this will publish the chapter. At this point, you should check for any errors, such as chapters importing in the wrong order, and go in and check on the formatting and see if any further edits need to be made within Pressbooks. For example, you’ll notice that these image captions aren’t actually formatted as captions, so you would need to fix those by copy and pasting them into the image caption field.

So there you go! You now know how to import a word document into Pressbooks.

More Information

Pressbooks includes a feature that allows authors to import content from a Word document into Pressbooks. However, this is not a precise import and it’s likely you will need to correct issues, especially if the Word document is heavily formatted. Here are the steps to import content from a Word document:

  1. Begin by downloading a copy of the Word file (.docx) of the textbook or content.
  2. Then, create a book in your Pressbooks account. Pressbooks automatically sets up an Introduction in the front matter, Chapter 1 in the main body and an Appendix in the back matter. Delete all of these from the Text view before beginning the import. If this is not done, then all items will import into the main body.
  3. Go to the “Dashboard” of the new book and “Import” on the left-hand toolbar.
  4. From “Type of file” drop-down menu, select “DOCX” (word processing file format of Microsoft).
  5. Using the “Browse” button, select the downloaded Word file.
  6. Select which content/sections you want to import.
  7. Click the “Upload file” button.

Once the import has occurred, you will land on a page that says “Import” at the top, and on the left-hand toolbar “Tools” will be highlighted, and “Import” under that.

  1. To ensure that each item ends up in the right place in the book, confirm that the correct part (front matter, main body, or back matter) is selected under each of those columns.
  2. Select each item to be imported by clicking on the box in the Import column. There is a “Select all” option at the top of the list.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the red “Start” button.
  4. Once this process has completed, you will be taken to the Text view.
  5. If an extra (and empty) main body part appears after the import, delete it from the Text view.

When a new book is created or imported into Pressbooks, the theme automatically defaults to the “Open Textbook” version. However, it’s a good idea to double check. Go to “Appearance” in the left-hand toolbar,  select “Themes”, and then confirm that the “Open Textbook” theme is activated. This theme will provide you with the most options for creating and adapting an open textbook.

Problems with Word

  • Everything other than basic styling is stripped out from a Word document due to the complex markup language used by Microsoft.
  • Italics, bold, bulleted lists should remain intact if standard markup language was used to insert these in the original Word document.
  • Pressbooks will create a new chapter every time there’s a Heading 1, so if you want your book to import into separate chapters, ensure that they all begin with a Heading 1
  • In the Problems section, see Word: Why don’t images come through with my Word import?


  • All chapters are imported as DRAFTs. A quick way to publish the entire book is to go to the “Text” view, mark all chapters as “Private” in that column, and change the book’s global setting from Private to “Public”. If you are not ready to make your book public, change the setting back to Private. This last action will not remove the publishing setting.
  • All chapters are assigned a Chapter Author by default (usually the account owner’s username). To change this, delete or change the Chapter Author in the Chapter Metadata section at the bottom of each chapter page.

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