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Beta IDML-to-QuarkXPress Workflow

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Yes, we’ve seen all the snarky comments before, such as “you mean Quark still exists?!” After all, it’s true that InDesign has largely replaced QX in most designer’s toolkits over the past 18 years. But yes, Quark and QuarkXPress not only still exist, but it’s still being actively developed and improved in some pretty cool ways.

(In fact, our own Editor in Chief, Mike Rankin did the most recent QuarkXPress Essential Training courses for Learning.)

So we’re well aware that there are still many people who choose to (or have to) use QuarkXPress. So the news that Quark was releasing an IDML-to-QX converter made my ears perk up.

idml to qxp

You may know that Markzware has a tool called ID2Q that converts files. (Markzware has been on the forefront of file conversion for over 25 years and it seems they know these file formats like no one else.)

More after the jump! Continue reading below
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But now Quark has determined that they should be able to open IDML files directly. (For those who are not familiar with it, the IDML format is what you can use to save your file so that it can be read by earlier versions of InDesign.)

Now, in the January 2018 update to QuarkXPress 2017, Quark is including a beta version of an import filter. Here’s the Mac version; here’s the one for Windows.

But it’s important to note that, currently, a lot of InDesign features are dropped in the conversion. Matthias Guenther at Quark wrote up a list here, which includes bullets and numbering, tables, hyperlinks, and so on. So this really should be considered just something to test with, and not yet ready for prime time.

What interested me most, honestly, was that it’s rare to find people outside of Adobe who are taking advantage of IDML files. That’s too bad, because IDML is an amazing format. It’s basically a zip archive filled with XML files that describe how to build the original InDesign file. What’s cool to me about IDML is that anything can write one. For example, you could program a database to spit out an IDML file and then open it in InDesign. But I digress.

Anyway, if you’re an InDesign user but you need to interface with QX users, this development might be helpful someday.

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
  • Maybe interesting, here are some examples of a Dutch Adobe Community Professional testing IDML Import:

    (Just look at the images or use to translate please)

  • Jeff Potter says:

    I keep all data for issues of our newspaper in a MySQL table, which controls our website and CMS. I’ve developed a PHP script that will create an IDML file with data for a given issue as Text Variables.

    When I build templates for a new issue, I can go to Text Variables and import the data for the new issue from that automatically generated IDML file. You do have to select “show all files” so it’s not greyed out in the file list.

    Also, snippets are really useful because you can similarly manipulate data to be placed into documents. Our advertising is similarly kept in a MySQL table, and I’ve created a script to create Snippet files that aggregate all ads in order of size and color/bw status. The script creates graphic frames for each ad and then imports the PDF of the live ad from that client’s folder on the ad server. Those files are dynamically updated every time an ad is created or deleted.

    Point is, it is incredibly powerful to automate aspects of production on a periodical with IDML and IDMS. This ad placement stuff has easily saved me two hours a week since 2010.

  • Chris Thompson says:

    ” a lot of InDesign features are dropped in the conversion … tables…”
    That’s fairly serious. Is there something fundamentally different with Quark tables compared to ID ones?
    Way back in the CS3 era, it was ID’s superior table abilities that convinced the company I was with to drop Quark.

    “… it’s rare to find people outside of Adobe who are taking advantage of IDML files”

    One workflow that makes use of IDML files is language translation using CAT (computer-aided translation) tools like Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast et al. In essence, 1/ designer saves an IDML, 2/ CAT tool extracts the text for the translator to translate, 3/ CAT tool recreates IDML with target language, 4/ designer tidies up the result.

  • Dariusz Janczewski says:

    I tried few times this Quark feature with a text and formatting-heavy journal that I typist. Each time I use it, Quark crashes… yeah, it’s still in Beta, no kidding… :-)

  • Hi Dariusz,

    yes, it’s beta and many customers already get good results out of it. We noticed that InDesign CS4 writes IDML differently than the other versions, so currently CS4 files unfortunately do not convert.

    Can you send me the crashing IDML please, so that we can fix it?

    mguenther at quark com


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