If, like many designers, you’re in the process of making
the big switch from QuarkXPress to InDesign,
you know it’s not a trivial undertaking. You have
to retrain your brain to a new way of working and
remind your fingers which keys to hit for those newfangled
You’re in a hurry to get up to speed, and you’ve
just been asked to create a client’s next newsletter
in InDesign. The template for the newsletter is currently
in QuarkXPress. You’ve finally come to that
fork in the road: Do you build a new newsletter template
from scratch, or do you take the easy way out
and just open the file with InDesign? If there’s a lot
of work in the template, go for File > Open. While
it’s surprising this works at all, you should know
what converts and what doesn’t.
OPENING QUARKXPRESS FILES
Since the beginning, InDesign has had the ability
to open QuarkXPress files created in versions
3.32 through 4.11—that hasn’t changed since
InDesign One-Oh. What has changed, of course, is
QuarkXPress itself; after all, we’re up to version 7.0
now. Yet InDesign CS3 still cannot open up documents
created in QuarkXPress versions later than
4.11. Why is that?
At the release of QuarkXPress 5.0, the file architecture
of QuarkXPress documents changed—one
imagines, to thwart opening by wily InDesign users.
Don’t blame Adobe for not providing a way to open
late-model QuarkXPress files in InDesign: It was
a matter of respect for the proprietary nature of a
competitor’s file format. The solution, then, was for
those scheming InDesign users to save QuarkXPress
5.0 documents as QuarkXPress 4.0 documents.
That would have worked just fine, except that
an awful lot of QuarkXPress users didn’t upgrade
to 5.0. Many skipped that version and waited for
QuarkXPress 6.0 to ship so they could finally use
QuarkXPress under Mac OS X. And QuarkXPress
6.0 offered no method for saving to the ancient version
4.11 format. The bridge was out.
You’re probably acquainted with the fine folks
at Markzware, who market the FlightCheck products
I hope you’re using to preflight your files before you
send them off to the printer. Markzware’s file conversion plug-in Q2ID (as in Quark-to-InDesign) is a
plug-in for InDesign CS2/CS3 that allows users to
open files created in all versions of QuarkXPress—up
through and including version 7.0.
We’ll get back to the joys of Q2ID in a bit.
First, you should know the basics of file conversion
so you can be prepared for the process in general—and the results. Even though you’re probably dealing
with QuarkXPress files of later vintage, put that aside
for the moment so we can consider the issues you
face in conversion, regardless of version. The following
sections are based on conversions of QuarkXPress
4.11 files, without help from Q2ID.
Keep in mind that, even though it’s as easy as File >
Open, converting a QuarkXPress file to InDesign is
a translation process. And you know what happens
when translations aren’t perfect. You’ve no doubt
read poorly translated handbooks for electronics:
“Please to not be pressing ON with this hairs dryer
when the bathing will happen.” You get the idea.
That said, a lot of things survive the trip:
1. Document structure is intact. That is,
facing pages don’t come unglued, and no
Now that you’re in a good mood, let’s take a look
at the somewhat less rosy side of conversion.
2. Picture boxes become InDesign graphics frames
and retain any content (but see the Not-so-good
news section for some caveats).
3. Text boxes become InDesign text frames.
4. Character and Paragraph styles become
5. Master pages become InDesign master pages.
6. Guides are retained at proper locations.
7. Box borders and lines are translated to the
closest InDesign styles. Dashed borders may
change pattern (short dashes may become long
dashes), and the fancy bitmap borders, such as
the Certificate and Yearbook styles, become
solid strokes. (Hey, you shouldn’t be using
those tacky things anyway!)
8. Groups remain intact, unless there are
nonprinting objects in the group. If a group
contains nonprinting objects, none of the
objects (whether printing or nonprinting
objects) will be grouped after the conversion.
But any nonprinting objects retain their nonprinting
9. Multi-ink colors are converted to mixed inks
in InDesign. However, if the multi-ink color
doesn’t contain a spot color component, it’s
converted to a plain old process color.
1. You cannot open QuarkXPress libraries or
book files. (You can, of course, open the individual
QuarkXPress documents that are governed
by a book file.)
2. There is no support for Microsoft OLE objects
3. Transformations may not be identical; i.e., an
image scaled at 112.3 percent might be scaled
at 108.9 percent after conversion.
4. The position of transformed images may be
incorrect within their frames.
5. Flex spaces become standard en spaces.
6. Trapping settings are lost.
7. Embedded graphics are not converted—for
example, images that have been copied/pasted
8. InDesign has no type style equivalent to the
Superior style in QuarkXPress (often used
for dollar signs). After conversion, superior
characters become full-size characters with the
9. Content created by third-party XTensions may
not convert correctly. If a file fails to convert,
or crashes InDesign during conversion, an
XTension may be the villain. Open the file in
QuarkXPress, delete the content created by the
XTension, resave the file and attempt the conversion
The most common complaint about QuarkXPress-to-InDesign conversions is that text reflows. Quark-XPress uses single-line composition; that is, it makes
line-by-line decisions. InDesign looks at paragraphs
as a whole, which is why it sets smoother text. But
moving from one composition environment to the
other results in text reflow. If you don’t mind the
change in line breaks, fine. But if you need to replicate
the line breaks from the original QuarkXPress
document, try switching to InDesign’s Single Line
Composer. Click in a paragraph (or select a range
of paragraphs), open the Paragraph panel (Window
> Type and Tables > Paragraph), and choose Adobe
Single Line Composer from the panel menu. There’s
no guarantee this will restore the same line breaks
as the original QuarkXPress file, but you may find it easier to massage line breaks in the single-line
mode. See figure 1 for a comparison of the original
QuarkXPress document, a straight conversion and a
conversion using Markzware’s Q2ID.
USING THE Q2ID PLUG-IN
Installing Markzware’s Q2ID plug-in for InDesign
adds quite a bit of functionality. In addition
to allowing you to open up even late-model
QuarkXPress files (including version 7.0), Q2ID
refines the conversion of QuarkXPress documents of
all vintages. For example, the Superior type style is
resolved, resulting in correct text size and position.
Transformed graphics are correctly converted, without
the position shifts and slight size changes that
plague an unaided conversion. You’ll still probably
experience some reflowed text, but you’ll find that
Q2ID definitely reduces the amount of massaging
necessary after conversion.
If you frequently need to convert QuarkXPress
files, I recommend you check out the product information
at www.markzware.com/q2id, and request a
demo. I don’t get a kickback. I’ve happily spent my
own money to buy Q2ID and couldn’t live without
it. It’s available for Mac and Windows. There’s also
an XTension for QuarkXPress users who want to
convert InDesign files to QuarkXPress.
There’s more to conversion than just choosing File
> Open: You should prepare for the conversion, and
it’s wise to perform some cleanup afterward.
Before: Start with healthy files
Whether you’re using the Q2ID plug-in or not,
before performing the conversion you should make
sure the original file is healthy. In QuarkXPress,
make sure that all pictures are updated, and all
needed fonts are active. Make a PDF of the file so
you have a “snapshot” for checking the conversion.
Resolution isn’t important; you’ll just use the PDF
to check line breaks and art position. Save and close
the QuarkXPress file.
After: Check your work
In InDesign, choose File > Open and select the
QuarkXPress file (remember, it has to be v. 3.32–
4.11). Create a new layer, and place the PDF you
created earlier. To place all the pages of a multipage PDF, check the Show Import Options box in the
import dialog. Set the Crop option to Trim, and
position the placed PDFs at the upper left-hand
corner of each page. Check the Transform proxy to
make sure the PDF is positioned at the 0,0 point
so you can use it to accurately check the position of
text and graphics in the converted file.
Check the results of the conversion:
1. Toggle the visibility of the layer you created to
hold the referenced PDF pages, and note what
differs from the original file. To better see all
the details, choose View > Display Performance
> High Quality Display.
Polishing off the rust
2. Modify unwanted line breaks and text reflow.
3. Take a quick look in Preview mode (View >
Screen Mode > Preview, or press the W key on
the keyboard) to check for nonprinting objects
(they’ll disappear in Preview mode).
4. Check text wrap: Remember, InDesign allows
objects to generate text wrap regardless of
stacking order, whereas QuarkXPress limits
text wrap to objects beneath text.
5. Massage the positions and scale of graphics as
necessary. See figure 3 for a typical image shift
that may affect some scaled or rotated images.
Before you start building the next newsletter atop
your freshly converted file, it’s a good idea to
perform a purification ritual to ensure future file
health. Choose File > Export, and select InDesign
Interchange for the format. InDesign will create a
file with the .inx extension. Close the working file,
and then open the .inx file. Choose File > Save As,
and, if you intend for this file to serve as the basis
for future documents, choose InDesign Template
for the format. InDesign will create a file with the
.indt file extension. Otherwise, just save as a regular
Why do I advocate this extra step? It’s based
on past experiences with converted files. I’ve
encountered numerous neurotic files that began
life as converted documents (as if they’d had a
troubled childhood), and they’ve benefited from the
Interchange route. I do think files converted with
Q2ID are more stable to begin with (at least I seem
to have fewer issues with them), but it’s still a good
idea to get the best start possible.