March 18, 2009

In like a lion, out like a lamb

Posted in advice, Tools, Typesetting at 10:06 pm by India

lion and lamb

I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday converting two files: one Quark XPress 6 document to InDesign CS4, and one WordPerfect document to MS Word 2004. Part of the time-suck was because my apartment is disorganized and I couldn’t, um, find one of my laptops. Most of it, though, was because I’ve forgotten a lot of my old file-conversion juju.

I used to have to jump through these kinds of hoops all the time, salvaging manuscript files that had been prepared in weird old programs on MS-DOS or whatever. But since I drifted out of the exciting world of typesetting, I haven’t had to convert a lot of texty documents. Video, audio, and image files, yes, but not so much with the text.

So, in case anybody else has forgotten or never knew how to do this stuff, here’s what I had to relearn yesterday.

Quark XPress 6+ to InDesign

This is totally obvious, but just in case there are still some folks who haven’t figured it out, here’s the drill:

  1. Find someone who has a modern copy of Quark XPress and have him or her open the file and resave it down to the lowest version possible. As far as I know, this works only one step at a time. That is, XPress 6 will save down only as far as version 5, and version 5 will only save down to version 4. I don’t know about versions 7 and 8, because I’ve never used them and have no interest in doing so, except insofar as they might provide me with more reasons for being an InDesign fangirl.
  2. Repeat this down-saving process until you get a version 4 doc. Yes, you will need a machine that still runs Classic (speaking of which, has anybody out there tried SheepShaver?), and, yes, you will need access to working copies of all the intervening umpty million bugtastic versions of XPress. I didn’t say this conversion method was simple, accurate, or fast, just that it’s obvious—and, if you have enough versions of Quark XPress lying around, free. That’s $200 cheaper than Q2ID. Only you can tell whether that plug-in—which is reported to be quite effective—will give adequate return for such an investment. For me, it’s never seemed worth it.
  3. Open the version 4 document in InDesign (any >1.0 version of ID will do, I believe) and tidy it up as necessary.

Some kinds of formatting will, of course, get screwed up or lost in this brutal process. There’s some documentation at about what might get messed up. You may find it quicker to rebuild some documents from scratch.

WordPerfect x to MS Word or RTF

The short version: Try Zamzar or AbiWord.

The long, unnecessarily detailed version:
It’s a nuisance to receive WordPerfect files, as WP for the Mac was discontinued several years ago and, although Corel continued to distribute it free for a while, is difficult to find copies of online. Supposedly MS Word 2008 can open WP files, but I won’t “upgrade,” as it would break the Editor’s Toolkit Plus macros that I can’t live without.

I found some listings for WP 3.5e on torrent sites, but nobody was actually seeding them. So I dug up my old backup drive that contains the sacred folder called “Irreplaceable Installation Files,” wherein my archival copy of the WP installer resides. Then, because I was working in OS 9, I had to use Type and Creator Changer to make WordPerfect recognize my troublesome file as something it could open.

Once everything was set up, however, WP would only show me a preview of the offending document, flash the text on the screen for half a second, and then close the window. I couldn’t get it to actually open the file. This may mean that what I had was a WP for Windows file—I seem to recall that WP 3.5e could convert something from another version, or from another platform, but not both at once. In any case, it was a drag.

So I Googled around some more and was reminded about the Zamzar online file converter. Zamzar’s rarely worked for me in the past, and it’s often been slow, so I uploaded the file but kept looking. Then I found a page recommending using the free, open-source word processor AbiWord as a converter. This turned out to work perfectly, and eventually Zamzar also sent me a good conversion of the file.

Got any other workarounds, be they nutty or smooth, for files that won’t open? Do share.

Photo: The lion and the lady by Unhindered by Talent / Nic McPhee; some rights reserved.


  1. Elisabeth said,

    At work I use this plug-in. It works like a miracle, and I haven’t opened Quark XPress since I got it. Highly recommended. So – If you are stuck with a Quark document you need converted, you know who to email. ;-)

  2. Moeskido said,

    Once upon a time, MacLinkPlus by Dataviz was helpful for some of the simpler versions of these problems. More on the word-processing side than the page-layout side, of course.

  3. India said,

    Yeah, I’ve used MacLinkPlus in the past. It costs $80, though, and since I don’t have to do this kind of stuff very often, that’s too much for me.

  4. Elisabeth said,

    Well, you could always email me whatever Quark doc. you want converted to InDesign, and I’ll do the magic for you. ;-) And I’ve got MacLinkPlus too …

  5. India said,

    I will certainly keep that in mind. Sometimes, though—and I hate to bring this up, but I hope we’re good enough friends that you won’t get offended . . . sometimes, Elisabeth, you’re asleep when I’m working. I know you don’t mean to be, it’s just what people do on your part of the planet, etc., etc., but there it is. I’ve said it.

  6. Elisabeth said,

    But India, since you (and I’m pretty sure about this) never sleep, I don’t quite see the problem? And to be honest, I really don’t sleep all that much either.

  7. Moeskido said,

    India, I hear you about the monetary cost of that utility, but I’m wondering if you exceeded that in the amount of time and effort you spent pursing a free solution. Had Dataviz supported the QX-to-ID conversion, I’d use it.

    That said, I can’t imagine the gymnastics I’d need to do if I were to suddenly need to resurrect any of my old Quark docs.

  8. India said,

    Considering that my net income right now is somewhere in the negative numbers because I’m in school, and I didn’t have anything more lucrative to do at the time, I think it was the right choice.

  9. Bridget said,

    And for those annoying WordPerfect files, send them my way. I’ve got it on a couple of computers for work reasons (I know, I know!), but rarely use it myself.

  10. Shorty said,

    I bought the Q2ID plugin. It’s a Godsend. I just open the file up, save it, and voila! in two seconds I have a perfect Indesign file.

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