Earlier this year, I assisted in the production of Essential Chinese Formulas, a book of Chinese herbal medicines. We used QuarkXPress 10 because of its robust support for East Asian languages, and the author’s previous familiarity with QuarkXPress. (A decade earlier, we used QuarkXPress to produce his award-winning clinical desk reference Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines.)
Because Adobe recently beefed up the EPUB features in InDesign, we thought it would be smart to “future proof” the new book by converting it to InDesign CC 2014. So, we turned to Markzware’s time-tested plug-in for converting QuarkXPress documents to InDesign, Q2ID.
The results were as good as I could have hoped for:
Disappointments and Surprises
My first disappointment wasn’t the fault of Q2ID: it was the difference in text clarity (and therefore production efficiency for my eyes). QuarkXPress displays text much more clearly than InDesign does. Quark’s advantage in this area is especially valuable when working with Chinese characters, which require more attention than the English characters I’m more familiar with.
The second surprise was in how each program displays a page at “100%” size. InDesign is more accurate — QuarkXPress displays pages 30% smaller than their actual size, so to see a realistic representation of the pages required zooming in to 130%. (In the screenshot above, the QuarkXPress spread is viewed at 130%.)
Getting to the moment of actually seeing our layout in InDesign had some challenges as well. It’s not that Q2ID is difficult to use — converting a QuarkXPress document is as easy as choosing a menu item:
Or, even more seamlessly, you can simply use InDesign’s standard File > Open dialog box, which magically now shows QuarkXPress documents. (You can even batch-convert multiple QuarkXPress documents by holding down the Shift or Command/Ctrl keys and selecting multiple documents in the Open dialog.)
Our challenge was that, for whatever reason, Q2ID froze when attempting to convert the QuarkXPress 10.1 document. The quick solution was to open the document in QuarkXPress 10 and export it as a QuarkXPress 9.1 document.
Q2ID then happily converted the 9.1 document. The conversion of this 665 page document containing mostly text took 4 minutes, plus an additional 3 minutes for InDesign to display it. (On my MacBook Pro with a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 8 GB of memory, running Mac OS X 10.9.4.)
Other than a few slight changes to line breaks and pagination caused by InDesign handling leading and hyphenation differently from QuarkXPress, and text wrapping differently around some images, the conversion was fairly accurate. As Markzware clearly states in their promotional material and in the documentation available from the Help menu, Q2ID does NOT convert with 100% fidelity. It can’t. There are just too many differences between the features in QuarkXPress and InDesign.
The difference that affected this project the most was that QuarkXPress allows you to define leading in relative amounts, such as +3 points. This lets you keep the leading at 3 points greater than whatever the point size is, as you experiment with font sizes. Many QuarkXPress users have enjoyed this ability for decades, but InDesign doesn’t allow it. The converted text appeared to have double the intended leading. To fix this, I went back to the QuarkXPress document and replaced all relative leading with absolute leading. (For example, we changed +3 pt leading on 10.5 pt text to be 13.5 pt leading.) The text then converted as expected.
Another unexpected change was that the original cover featured a circle with a radial gradient fill from White at 100% opacity to White at 0% opacity, which InDesign doesn’t support, so the gradient fill was converted to 100% Paper color. Therefore, we needed to create a new radial gradient fill in InDesign, from Paper to Orange:
Markzware’s documentation lists a number of things that won’t convert exactly the same, mainly due to differences in the InDesign and Quark XPress feature sets. For example:
• If any item is locked in a group, then the item will become unlocked and the group itse
lf will be locked. Also, grouped anchored boxes are not supported.
• Inline graphics are placed on top of the text.
• Locked guides become unlocked.
• Table of Contents and Indexes are not converted — the text is converted, but not as a “real” TOC in InDesign.
• QuarkXPress Projects can contain multiple Layouts of any size and orientation. Q2ID can convert one or all Layouts at once.
• QuarkXPress has more control over Bullet placement, so bullets may move a bit.
• Hyperlink data is lost. The text will convert, but without the associated hyperlink data (URL, etc.).
• Some transparency effects may change, such as dashed Frames (Strokes in InDesign).
• Arrows with tailfeathers are not supported in InDesign, so are converted to tail-less arrows.
• Items created by third-party XTensions may not convert. (This is extremely rare.)
• Linked Table Cells are not supported in InDesign.
• Text Runaround may change on picture boxes.
Because InDesign doesn’t allow you to define horizontal and vertical scaling separately for Subscript, Superscript and Small Caps, Q2ID will use the Horizontal value if it is not 100%. Therefore, Small Caps in InDesign are considerably uglier than in QuarkXPress. Other text conversion limitation include the following:
• Justified Center or Right Drop Caps are not supported.
• Rules Above and Below for Drop Caps will not be positioned correctly.
• Rules Below may be displayed in InDesign even if the paragraph has no Paragraph Return.
• Forced Justification will be converted to “Justify with last line aligned left.”
• The Outline typeface is supported by converting the text to a stroke of .25 pts with a fill of None.
• Shadow typeface is not supported
• Only Nonbreak Hyphens are supported by InDesign.
• Hexachrome colors will be converted to CMYK.
• Process Coated EURO may convert to CMYK.
• Metallic and Pastel colors are converted to LAB.
• Multi-Colors must contain at least two colors and one must be Spot.
• QuarkXPress Trap settings are ignored.
• QuarkXPress “Picture Effects” (including Picture Background Color) are not supported.
And there are a few others… be sure to look through the list in Markzware’s Q2ID Conversion Notes document before attempting a conversion, to have an idea of what changes to expect.
The toughest challenge: keeping up with new versions
Here’s one final warning: since Q2ID must support both InDesign and QuarkXPress, and both of those mature, robust page-layout applications are constantly being updated with new features, Q2ID may lag behind the latest versions as Markzware’s developers struggle to catch up. Fortunately, as we discovered with this project, QuarkXPress lets you export a document down to the previous version. And Adobe has adopted the practice of keeping both the previous version of InDesign and the new version of InDesign on your computer when they significantly update InDesign’s code — this means that Q2ID should continue to work on the version where it’s currently installed.
The final word
Overall, Markzware’s claim that Q2ID will save you significant time compared with rebuilding a QuarkXPress document in InDesign is true. Just be ready for some cleanup work.
Price: 12 Month Bundle Subscription or CS6 perpetual license, $199
Pros: Converts ANY QuarkXPress document to InDesign
Cons: Conversion isn’t 100% identical; Q2ID sometimes lags behind updates to QuarkXPress or InDesign
System Requirements and Availability
• Adobe InDesign CS5 or higher
• Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher or Windows 7 with SP 1 or higher
• A valid license for Adobe InDesign
• Internet connection to activate and register Q2ID
• Adobe recommended hardware requirements to run your version of InDesign