Converting from QuarkXPress to InDesign knowing what gets interpreted correctly

Q2ID is an Adobe InDesign plugin from Markzware to convert QuarkXPress to InDesign. Q2ID allows you to open Quark content in Adobe InDesign CS4, CS5 and CS5.5. Here is a Q2ID review by Claudia McCue:

If like many designers you are in the process of making the big switch from QuarkXPress to InDesign, you know it is 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 shortcuts. You are in a hurry to get up to speed, and you have 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 does not.


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 to convert digital images and text 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.

Good news
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 pages disappear.

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 InDesign styles.

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 attribute.

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.

Not-so-good news

Now that you’re in a good mood, let’s take a look at the somewhat less rosy side of conversion.

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 (Windows).

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 into QuarkXPress.

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 Superscript attribute.

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 again.

Text reflow

The most common complaint about QuarkXPress-to-InDesign conversions is that text reflows. QuarkXPress 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.


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, 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.

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.

Polishing off the rust

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 InDesign file.

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.

Figure 1:

In the original QuarkXPress text, the dollar sign and double zeroes use the Superior type style. Note line breaks in the body text, and the space between the price and the body text. The middle example was converted without the Q2ID plugin. Note line breaks and reduced space between the price and the body text. The example on the bottom was converted with the Q2ID plug-in. Note the Superior text has been corrected, although line breaks are still incorrect.

Figure 2: Choose the pages of a PDF you’d like to place. Separate the range with dashes (1–8), and separate noncontiguous pages with commas (1–8, 10–12). Position the reference PDFs exactly, using the coordinates for the Transform proxy in the Control panel.

Figure 3: Note the crop position in the original QuarkXPress file. Because the image is scaled in QuarkXPress, the initial InDesign conversion (bottom, center) results in a shifted position. Markzware’s Q2ID, however, retains the correct crop position during the conversion.


Recommended resources

Markzware Q2ID

Adobe InDesign CS3 Conversion Guide (geared toward QuarkXPress users making the switch, but includes a section on converting QuarkXPress files)

Adobe InDesign CS5 Conversion Guide

Adobe Guide to Converting QuarkXPress files

Claudia McCue is a consultant, trainer and writer focused on the practical aspects of designing for print. She is author of Real World Print Production (Peachpit Press) and a frequent presenter at industry conferences.

Q2ID, the InDesign plugin to convert QuarkXPress files to Adobe InDesign.

Converting from QuarkXPress to InDesign knowing what gets interpreted correctly

Title: Converting from QuarkXPress to InDesign knowing what gets interpreted correctly
Published on: May 8, 2008
David Dilling

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