Designer using fonts on MacOS? This article is a must-read!

If you use your Mac professionally, you most likely also work with fonts.

Fonts are essential for designs and professional print.

And if corrupt, they can cause issues, even crash applications upon launch. Or change your output.

One of the best articles I have ever read, summarizing font usage, font management and how to solve font issues is this article by Kurt Lang. I feel it is a must-read for everyone:

Kurt has been a frequent poster on Apple’s forums and is constantly updating his article. If you benefit from his article, please consider making a small contribution via PayPal.

IDML import in use: why this is huge

Quark Inc is introducing IDML import as a beta feature in the January free upgrade to QuarkXPress 2017. It doesn’t import .INDD files, and it doesn’t import every feature — table structure comes across but not contents. Footnotes, indexes and other internal references don’t import. Nonetheless, there are three reasons why this is absolutely huge.

First off, what is IDML? Since CS4, InDesign has been able to save its files as InDesign Markup Language, an XML format which can be written and read by external applications, as well as by different versions of InDesign. It is not the same as InDesign’s native .INDD format, which is proprietary. Markzware can convert Quark’s .QXP files to .INDD and .INDD to .QXP, but other software cannot. However, given that there are many different versions of InDesign still in use, templates available from print vendors and template suppliers often come as .IDML rather than .INDD, and the ability of external applications to write them means that formatting a database can be achieved before InDesign is opened, saving time and minimising error.

Reason 1: Templates

Let’s look at a template downloaded from a site called StockInDesign. You could find lots of other templates out on the web, as InDesign has always been promoted as a strongly templated application.

IDML template example

This is a straight import. To do so, go to File—New—Project from IDML. You’ll be asked if you want to continue with the beta. Click yes. There really is no danger to you at all in doing so, it’s just that Quark likes to preserve a high degree of finish with its production features. In all my tests, I’ve never seen this actually go wrong. However, some features in ID will not be imported, as noted at the top. In a very few seconds, the conversion is complete and the document appears.

Now, you may have already used QX2017 or QX2016 to import a PDF file and convert it to native objects, as the basis for a template. You can still do this, but the IDML import does much more. As you can see from the screen shot, all of the guidelines are imported. Master pages with their objects come in as well, and so do stylesheets, although the character styles will be implicit in the paragraph styles (you can easily save them out if you want to). In terms of taking a published template, your job is pretty much done.

Why would you want to do this? It’s fair to say that the world could use a lot less templated documents in general. I groan inwardly whenever I see a PowerPoint presentation done from one of Microsoft’s standard templates without any thought for how it matches an organisation’s brand. Microsoft’s formatted letter templates are ridiculously complicated, and they give an impression of a different kind of company from the one actually sending the letter. When people start mixing different Office templates, the results are just higgledy-piggledy.

But, many print companies now provide templates in IDML format. One of my favourites, Zwartopwit print  in Belgium offers IDML and PDF templates for all of its different formats, complete with the correct number of pages and instructions. For an A4 magazine you might find this a little obvious, but when it comes to unusual sizes and folds, it can save you a lot of work and ensure that you’re not introducing mistakes. IDML templates are much richer than PDF templates, and you can get a lot out of this.

Likewise, although I would want to warn everyone against blindly accepting templates (look at all the identikit WordPress sites out there), the IDML templates you can download from template companies like StockInDesign tend to be more sensible than the Word templates, and it’s also a lot easier to conform them to your brand using QuarkXPress’s features.

Quark’s IDML import is not yet production ready to save all your ID files as IDML, cancel your Adobe subscription and then carry on seamlessly—it needs to import table content, cross references, lists and indexes first—which is why it’s a Beta feature. But it does support pretty much everything a decent template will support. Whether you are trying to get rapidly to a polished result from nothing, quickly mocking up a document for a client, or simply trying to ensure you work to the printer’s exact specifications, the new feature is golden.

Reason 2: Direction

I should say at this point that I don’t work for Quark, and I don’t have confidential access to their roadmap, so what I’m going to say here is an outsider’s observation. The second reason why IDML import is huge is because what it says about Quark Inc’s intentions. When InDesign was first released, it was aggressively promoted with free versions, and the promise was very clearly made: “InDesign can import your QuarkXPress files”. Now, this was never entirely true. InDesign could import up to QuarkXPress 4.1 files, but InDesign 2.0, which was the first production-ready version, came out only a few days before QuarkXPress 5, and InDesign has never been able to import Quark version 5 files or above. This is therefore the first point since 2002 that QuarkXPress or InDesign could read each other’s files. Native import of PDF files, introduced in QuarkXPress 2016, was an enormous step forward, because it meant that Quark was now the first (and still only) DTP application capable of natively editing ‘foreign’ layout outputs reliably. IDML import takes this a massive step forwards.

Reason 3: upgrade versus subscription software

Over the last years, Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative applications have moved from a pay-to-own, pay-to-upgrade (PTOPTU) model to one of continuous upgrades via subscription (CUS). Other software is attempting to go the same way, such as Strata 3d, Type DNA and Ortelius. The upside of PTOPTU is that you own the software, and you only spend money when compelling new features or operating system upgrades persuade you or force you to. The promise of CUS is that you get all of the latest upgrades straight away, for a lower initial capital cost. One of the crucial arguments for CUS is that software houses are increasingly reluctant to introduce free, intermediate upgrades offering new features, so that PTOPTU is no more than CUS under another name.

Now, Quark has been aggressive in fixing bugs and in issuing new releases to make it compatible with operating system changes and upgrades, but this intermediate upgrade with a flagship new feature, albeit in beta, should push users to re-evaluate the benefits of the CUS model.

Subscription software has sometimes lagged when it came to operating system compatibility, famously in the case of Mac OS X High Sierra, which left some CUS users floundering to restore their systems to Sierra in order to work at all. In this sense, the subscription model has not fulfilled its promise.

IDML import as a free, intermediate upgrade, takes us into new territory. Between Word for Mac 2011 and the current 2018 Office 365 subscription version of Word for Mac 2016, there were only six new features, all of them interface related, and four enhanced features. QuarkXPress introduced 16 major new features and 16 enhanced features in its 2016-2017 upgrade alone. Annual upgrading in QuarkXPress already costs less than paying a subscription for its competitor.

If Quark is trying to demonstrate that PTOPTU offers better value for money than CUS, then the inclusion of IDML import as a free intermediate upgrade is a very strong argument in its favour.


IDML Import (InDesign Import) in QuarkXPress 2017

When you need to import layouts from Adobe InDesign into QuarkXPress 2016/2017, you had two possibilities:

  1. When you InDesign installed on the same machine as QuarkXPress 2016/2017, then you can copy objects in InDesign and “Paste as Native Objects” in QuarkXPress.
    This will make objects editable, bezier elements will be bezier elements, text stays text, boxes in QuarkXPress are the same as in InDesign.
  2. You can always import a PDF created from InDesign in QuarkXPress 2016/2017 and convert it to native objects. For that just create a picture box in QuarkXPress, import the PDF page you need to be converted, and right mouse click it. Choose “Convert to Native Objects”.
    This will make objects editable, bezier elements will be bezier elements, text stays text, boxes in QuarkXPress are the same as in InDesign.

Though both methods work well, on Macs and Windows PC, and make all objects editable, there are two disadvantages: Conversion is limited to one spread at a time and certain elements do not carry over, like master pages and style sheet names.

So since January 23, 2018, you have a third method in QuarkXPress 2017:

NEW: Native IDML Import in QuarkXPress 2017

Besides bug fixes, the free “January 2018 Update” to QuarkXPress 2017 adds a new feature:
IDML Import (beta).

If you are using QuarkXPress 2016, on MacOS or Windows, please run “Check for updates” to first install the free “January 2018 Update” for QuarkXPress 2017 (internal version number 13.2).

Steps to import an InDesign file into QuarkXPress

Step 1: In InDesign save the layout as IDML (File > Save As…, Format IDML):

Save as IDML (in InDesign)

If you are getting the file from a colleague or client, please ask them to do this for you. This works in InDesign CS4, CS5.x, CS6 and all InDesign CC versions.

Step 2: In QuarkXPress choose File > New > Project from IDML…

IDML Import in QuarkXPress 2017
IDML Import in QuarkXPress 2017


Step 3: Choose the IDML file.

And you are done! InDesign objects, text, style sheets, master pages etc. are all being converted as a new QuarkXPress layout.

What does “beta quality” mean?

Beta quality means that there are certain limitations and not all features are being converted. Most notable right now are probably tables (they just get removed) and drop shadows (they do not appear) and text that is tagged (it is removed). Read about all restrictions here:

Quark is asking you for feedback to further improve the quality of the IDML Import filter.

Video Demo

See a short demo video here:

IDML Import available in Trial Version of QuarkXPress 2017

Even if you do not own QuarkXPress 2017 yet, you can try IDML Import (beta) in the trial version of QuarkXPress 2017:


Please leave feedback here:
or here:


Charting, graphing and timekeeping with OpenType specialist fonts

When QuarkXPress introduced colour Open Type transformations in 2016, there was just one font, Chartwell, that could take advantage of them. Chartwell was a neat trick: you type in numbers, and it turns them into graphs and charts. But Chartwell was expensive, and it only offered a few, fairly basic, chart types. Times have moved on: with more support, more font makers are making self-transforming icon fonts. But they’re hard to find (mainly because there’s no established word to describe them). It’s time to have another look, because there’s a lot more available now, and some of it is free.

Self-transforming fonts
Self-transforming fonts: Chartwell, Amazing Infographic, Spark and Clocko

Essentially, all of these fonts take advantage of the programming capabilities in OpenType. Fonts have been available for 20 years that offer you pie charts, but these depend on having one glyph for every different pie. These looked quite cool at the time, but they really only offered one colour fonts, and could only show 10%, 20%, 30% and so on, with just one thing. Self-transforming fonts are like going from candles to colour changing LED lights.

The fonts we’re going to look at are Chartwell version 2, Amazing Infographic, AtF Spark and Clocko. Amazing Infographic and Spark are available for free, Clocko for a few dollars, and Chartwell for $25 for a single style, and around the $300 mark for all eighteen styles. Chartwell, Amazing Infographic and Spark do charts and graphs, while Clocko does (you guessed it) clocks.

If you’re interested in how the trick is done, OpenType has a basic programming language built into it so that, when you type ‘if’ it can set the correct ligature (QuarkXPress can do this for non-OpenType fonts as well), or combine a letter and its accent. As OpenType has grown up, this has steadily advanced, so that there are now all kinds of tricks that can be done. These are designed to make creating and managing fonts and their variants easier and more consistent, but, as with anything, clever people quickly start finding other uses for them. Before you start reaching for the trial version of FontLab VI to make your own, you ought to know that creating self-transforming fonts require a fairly unique pairing of design and programming skills, and a lot of work.

But you don’t need to be able to create them to make use of them.

Use case

First, though, what’s the use case?

Let’s see. You’re doing a corporate report, and the PR team who wrote it want you to include lots of little bar and pie charts. They’ve helpfully sent you a hundred Excel charts to include, each with about five numbers in them. Now, you could copy and paste all these charts as native objects, reformat them all to match the corporate style and then paste them one by one anchored in the text, but, first, this is a lot of work, and, second, you can just bet that they’re going to come back at the last minute and want to change half the numbers, or, worse, decide that the bars should be pies, the pies lines, and the lines circles.

Now, I have to say that, when I first bought Chartwell, I was doing exactly that, and it was a fairly simple business decision to pay the $300 and save myself a couple of days work, which, within the total project price, was a win for me, and a win for my customer.


The original Chartwell could do a few things, but version 2, which has now been repackaged into a co-ordinate series and a volume/area series, does areas, lines, rings, roses, radars, bubbles, scatters, and floating lines. You can’t delete your copy of Excel yet, but almost anything that will actually look clean and good in a corporate report can be achieved with Chartwell.

In use, it’s very easy:

Chartwell numbers only

You just type in the numbers, put a + between them, and then turn the Open Type feature ‘discretionary ligatures’ to on. The one annoying thing about Chartwell is that the charts come out quite small, so you have to blow them up. To use different colours, you have to have the QuarkXPress preference Project: General: Allow OpenType Transformations on Mixed Colour Text turned on.

Chartwell font in use

If you add particular prefixes, such as A=, you get gridlines. What you get depends on which font variant you’re using, but the instructions are clear and comprehensive, though I find I have to look them up again every time for anything complicated.

This is all well and good, and if you’ve got a job coming up that will pay for them, it’s an easy purchase to make.

Amazing Infographic

On the other hand, if you just want to play around, or you’ve got those kind of clients who demand everything but are never willing to pay for it, then investing $300 might seem a bit of a stretch. In that case—or if you just like having different options—then you should definitely take a look at Amazing Infographic. This font does bar charts, circle charts, pie charts and people icons. The syntax is a little different. For the examples at the top, you would type in @c@c099% @b@b6262% @p@p8787%. Like Chartwell, you can change the colours, and, unlike Chartwell, you can put numbers in charts, regularly coloured or reversed out. Your corporate clients might be more demanding on having exactly the type of chart they want, but, for a bit of fun, a newsletter, or pitching to the client what you could really do if they only had the budget, Amazing Infographic will do the things you’re most likely to want, and for free.

AtF Spark

AtF Spark is made for creating sparklines, which are those in-line charts which you see in the financial pages of newspapers, and anywhere else people can think of putting them. Spark is also free. To quote Edward Tufte, who popularised them, “A sparkline is a small intense, simple, word-sized graphic with typographic resolution.” The Spark font does bars, rows of dots, or dot lines. Again, the format is slightly different. For the examples at the top, you would type: {10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,90,100} 4,1,5,6,1,5,4,2,3,4,2,5,4,2,5,7,3,5,8,7,7,7,8,9}, and you select a different variant from the six Spark fonts. Unlike Chartwell, AtF Spark has been exactly sized to fit on the line, and works (as it were) ‘out of the box’.


For a change of pace, Clocko makes clocks. At only $5, I bought it because I just couldn’t resist it, even though I didn’t actually have a commercial use for it at the time (and still don’t). In interface terms, it could teach all of the others something about user-friendliness. All you do is type in the time, like 12:23, and then set the font to Clocko. If you make an error, it just displays the numbers you typed. If you put a letter of the alphabet in front, you get different frames for the clock. In the examples at the top, I typed x12:23 y14:22 z1:32. As with the others, you can alter the colours, though this is not as useful (or attractive) as it is in regular charts.

What’s next?

So far as I know, these are the only infographic type fonts which use OpenType transformations (I would be very interested in hearing about any others). There are a lot more fonts out there which use the transformations the way they were designed. But more will be along. Over the last year, the OpenType specification has gone through another round of expansion, and we’ll be seeing ever more possibilities. Right now, available colour fonts and variable fonts are at the strictly novelty stage, but we’re going to be seeing some genuinely useful examples appearing over the next twelve months.

Perhaps as importantly, the latest iteration of FontLab, which is arguably the most significant font design tool, makes the business of designing harmonious, well-balanced and well-kerned fonts, and manipulating them with OpenType substitutions, dramatically quicker than it was previously—although long-term users are complaining that it looks and feels different.

The other thing to keep an eye on is font-licensing. There are still, regrettably, amateur designers putting out fonts marked as ‘for personal use only’. Some websites tell you about this before you download them, but, with others, you have to check the license carefully when you get them. My rule is: if I can’t use it for every project, then it doesn’t get space on my system. Mercifully, we are seeing more fonts issued under the SIL font license, which protects the font name (so we don’t have a thousand unofficial variations on the same font), but allows derivative versions and modifications.


What is the QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan?

As you know, QuarkXPress is subscription-free.

QuarkXPress does NOT force you to rent software: You decide whether features in a new version are worth the upgrade price. If you are happy with your current version, just continue to use it as long as you want without ever paying anything additional.

Feedback from the majority our customers is, that subscriptions are unfair. And that YOU want to decide whether a new version is worth the upgrade price (and not want to be forced to pay regardless of what features are offered).

QuarkXPress is always rent-free, no subscription!

However sometimes you prefer to pay a yearly fee and not worry about upgrade prices and when upgrades are being released. You just want to be current.

Therefore for over two decades Quark has offered an optional maintenance plan for QuarkXPress, which continues to be available. It’s called “QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan”

QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan explained

When you purchase a new license or when you upgrade you can optionally add a QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan.

There are two variants of the Upgrade Plan, one that runs 12 months and one that runs 24 months.

As long as your Upgrade Plan is valid, you will receive all updates AND upgrades (major version jumps) for free.

At the end of the Upgrade Plan period, the Upgrade plan does not auto renew. A few weeks before Quark will also remind you about the Upgrade Plan due to expire. You have two options:

  1. You can either purchase a new Upgrade Plan (via Quark direct or an authorized reseller), for 12 or 24 months.
  2. Or you do not renew the Upgrade Plan. Your software will continue to run.

For example:

August 2015: You purchased QuarkXPress 2015 as an upgrade from QuarkXPress 9. You add the optional 12-month QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan.

May 2016: QuarkXPress 2016 is released. Your Upgrade Plan is still valid, so receive the upgrade of QuarkXPress 2016 FOR FREE.

July 2016: You are being reminded to renew the Upgrade Plan. You buy a new 12-month QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan via a reseller.

May 2017: QuarkXPress 2017 is released. Your 12-month Upgrade Plan is valid, so you again receive the upgrade of QuarkXPress FOR FREE.

July 2017: You are being reminded to renew the Upgrade Plan. You decide to not renew the QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan. Your software continues to run.

September 2018: Your software (QuarkXPress 2017) will continue to run.
If there’s a new version of QuarkXPress available, you can always upgrade, however you will NOT get it for free.

December 2018: Your software (QuarkXPress 2017) will continue to run.

If you do not renew the Upgrade Plan, your software will continue to run “indefinitely” (as long as you have hardware and an operating system still allowing to run your current version). At any point in time you can decide to upgrade to the current version of QuarkXPress. Optionally you can add an Upgrade Plan again.

QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan pricing

A 12-month Upgrade Plan costs $169 (plus tax if applicable), so approx. $14 per month.

An Upgrade from QuarkXPress 2016 to QuarkXPress 2017 costs $185.

There are more benefits of the Upgrade Plan, please see here:

Upgrade Plan for Free?

In January 2018 & February 2018 Quark is offering you a 12-month Upgrade Plan for free when you buy a new full license of QuarkXPress 2017 or an upgrade to QuarkXPress 2017.

So when you buy QuarkXPress 2017 now and Quark releases a new major version of QuarkXPress in 2018, then you will receive it FOR FREE!

QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan Promo
QuarkXPress Upgrade Plan Promo (Jan & Feb 2018)


You decide:

  • Whether you want to pay annually and receive upgrades for free.
  • Whether you want to look at features first and then decide if you want to spend money for the next major version.
  • Or if you want to continue to use your current version and not pay anything.

The choice is yours. Always.