Seconds Instead of Minutes: from QuarkXPress to InDesign Conversion

Nick B. Davies shares his insight on Markzware‘s Quark to InDesign data conversion software, Q2ID. (For more information on InDesign plugins, see the Markzware Products page.)

Nick Beresford Davies
discusses Q2ID with Markzware

1. Nick, can you confirm your title and organization, and tell us about your role there?

I am the Creative Director for Tinstar Design Limited, a small graphic design studio based in Lymington, Hampshire in the south of England. I founded the company with a business partner in November 1997, and we’ve diversified over the years to adapt to the changing economy and nature of the market. When we started, our biggest clients were publishers, such as Macmillan and Heinemann Library. And although we still undertake book design and packaging work (the endless takeovers and mergers of big publishers shrunk the amount of outsourced work along with the budgets), the emphasis today is on small business and corporate accounts.

There are three designers at Tinstar. An old boss of mine believed that a studio like ours should never grow above five employees to remain efficient, and the passage of time has proved him right! I project-manage and oversee all the work that leaves our studio, although I’m still most comfortable in a graphic designer‘s role. I am also writer and editor of the training website, which was originally created as a training manual for our new designers, but which has evolved into a surprisingly (and gratifyingly) popular website.

2. In this role, are you currently using the Adobe Creative Suite? Can you confirm the version of the software you’re using?

We recently upgraded to Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium. Adobe has pretty much sewn up the design and page layout market, so we can’t afford to stay tied to old versions for too long. I suppose that makes us a model customer for the Adobe Marketing Department! However, as far as the new features of CS4 are concerned, in the words of Frank Sinatra, there seem to have been “a few; But then again, too few to mention”… but maybe I haven’t given it a fair crack of the whip yet.

3. What types of creative projects do you produce using Adobe InDesign?

We use InDesign for 99% of all page layout projects, from business cards and brochures to complex educational books and other publications. It’s excellent for the simple as well as for the complicated. A typical project would involve us creating or editing elements in Photoshop and Illustrator, and then bringing all the elements together into the layout program, InDesign.

I know that there’s plenty of scope to use Illustrator for simple layout projects (as can be seen by the multitude of pre-designed templates which accompany it), but I like to play to the strengths of each piece of software. The strength of Illustrator lies in its peerless CAD illustration tools, whilst the power of InDesign is in its layout capabilities.

4. Did you previously use QuarkXPress, then transition to InDesign? And if so, at what point did you make this change?

I used to use nothing but Quark – about ten years ago, it was the only realistic industry-standard layout program. The first layout software I learned to use was actually Aldus Pagemaker (later Adobe Pagemaker), but Quark was always its big brother.

When most of our work came from publishing houses, our clients insisted that we use not only QuarkXPress, but the same versions of QuarkXPress that they used in-house. As the years went by, this became absurdly inefficient, particularly when the new Mac OS X meant that Quark had to run in the virtual environment of Classic. As a result, as late as 2004, we were still developing projects using QuarkXPress 4.

The fact that Quark seemed determined not to produce an OS X native version of their software left the door open for Adobe. We were simply waiting for someone to produce a good, native, stable program for OS X. InDesign got there first, with the CS2 release in 2002. It had time to get its hooks into disenchanted Quark users before Quark 6 came out, about a year later. We were amongst those who made the transition. We were ‘pushed’ over the edge by the fact that, when we did eventually order Quark 6 from Switzerland, it took six months to arrive…

5. How did you find out about Markzware’s Q2ID plug-in?

As the Quark versions progressed it became increasingly difficult to convert Quark files to InDesign because the only version that was possible to be imported was version 4. Since we needed Mac Classic (or an old Power Mac running OS8 or 9) to run Quark 4, we needed to find a solution.

Q2ID was the obvious (and only) choice.

6. What role does it play in your creative workflow now? And how often do you use it?

Now that we don’t have to back-save Quark 8 to 7, 7 to 6, 6 to 5 and 5 to 4 and then import the version 4 file to InDesign CS4, we have been having a bit of a conversion festival recently. All the old Quark-created books and other archived projects from the past have been dusted off and converted to InDesign. This is partly because a lot of the old books are having new editions designed, and partly so that if we need to revisit a project we don’t have to waste time messing about with my Power Mac 6100/66 which is great for X-Wing, Marathon and Myth but is getting a bit fed up with re-saving old Quark files.

7. Do you find that the conversion from QuarkXPress to InDesign is seamless and reliable when using Q2ID? Have you encountered any problems with conversion? And if so, what types of issues have you run into?

I think that Markzware will be the first to agree that no conversion is seamless. There’s always work to be done on a file that’s been imported using Q2ID, just as if the file had been converted using the back-saving method. However, the resulting file is certainly as faithful to the original (if not more so) compared to one created by any other method of conversion. And the big bonus for us is that it takes about 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes; and I haven’t yet come across a file that I haven’t been able to import.

Issues which we tend to encounter range from the fairly minor altered hyphenation rules to the potentially time-consuming changes in the flow of the text within the (faithfully positioned) text boxes. But these are all just tweaks really. I have written an article roughly detailing my experience of converting one such project.

8. Was the investment in Q2ID a good investment for you? And would you recommend it to other creative professionals who need to convert content from QuarkXPress to InDesign?

The investment was, without doubt, worthwhile. The time alone which I saved on the first day of use was worth double the cost of Q2ID. I would (and actively do) recommend the plug-in to creative pros.

Note: You can buy Markzware’s data conversion software via the Q2ID page. See more conversion tools on the Markzware Products page.

Seconds Instead of Minutes: from QuarkXPress to InDesign Conversion