Migrating from QuarkXPress
to Affinity Publisher

The best desktop publishing move you can make

I recently made the move from frustratingly buggy QuarkXPress publishing software to Affinity Publisher, a robust and full featured tool. The conversion of my large book project was easy, straight forward, and quick. If you have been frustrated trying to be productive using Quark, the following conversion steps will help get you up and running with reliable Affinity Publisher in no time. You can purchase Affinity Publisher for about what two months of QuarkXPress "support" costs. Now is an excellent time to make the change.

QuarkXPress is a bit player in the field of desktop publishing software. Unfortunately the consequence of this status is that neither the major player in the business, Adobe InDesign, nor the up-and-coming Affinity Publisher provide a way to easily import documents recently built with QuarkXPress. The good news though is that hand conversion is not all that difficult nor time consuming. The instructions below tell you how to do it.

Anyone interested in the horror show I had trying to deal with QuarkXPress and Quark Inc. may find my short review at the bottom of the page to be of some use.

What You Need

Your QuarkXPress Document Files

As well as all the graphics files used in the production of your document(s).

QuarkXPress Software

You'll need to run QuarkXPress to generate PDFs and to visually examine the current state of the document(s).

Affinity Publisher Software

Even the free trial version will do!



  • In QuarkXPress copy the entire document file hierarchy to a safe place. This will help keep these files safe in case of any screw ups in the conversion process.

Building the Destination Affinity Publisher File

Create the Color Palette

In Affinity Publisher, create the color palette for the document(s). There are a number of ways to do this. The two easiest are to import a pdf document and then generate the palette automatically from the document, or to generate a palette automatically from an image file. If your palette is large you may want to name all the colors in it to make it easier to use them in the following steps.

Transfer Page Settings, Guides and Styles

Transfer page settings, guides, paragraph, and character styles from QuarkXPress to Affinity Publisher, by hand. The facilities for setting all of these are similar in both programs. One difference is that in Affinity Publisher the character styles for a paragraph are set in the paragraph style itself.

Adding Pages

In Affinity Publisher, add as many pages to the document as will be required. Add text frames to these pages and link these frames together for the main text flow. This Affinity Publisher file will be the destination file for all the content of your QuarkXPress file. It can also be saved as a template for use in other similarly formatted documents.

Transferring the Main Text Flow

In QuarkXPress:
  • Open the target QuarkXPress file in QuarkXPress and modify paragraph styles used in main text flow to turn off drop caps. Also turn off all hyphenation. This is necessary because, when converted to a pdf file, hyphenated words will look like two separate words.
  • Remove all frames that don't have anything to do with the main text flow, like chapter titles, headers and footers, figures and their captions, etc.
  • Export as pdf. Then close the file but WITHOUT SAVING! The modifications made were only made to generate that pdf file.

    Note: The reason I had to move to Affinity Publisher is because QuarkXPress is critically buggy to the extent that it is not usable. This is nowhere more apparent than when attempting to Export As PDF, which frequently fails with the staggeringly useless error message "Unable to generate PDF." If you get this error in QuarkXPress, try breaking up the file into smaller pieces. Yes, this is a major pain in the butt, but do consider that once your conversion to Affinity Publisher is complete you will be free of QuarkXPress and all its many problems.

In Affinity Publisher:
  • Open the pdf file that was just created, using the following settings: Load all pages; Favor editable text over fidelity; Group lines of text into text frames. Now, both the destination Affinity Publisher file and the pdf file containing the main text flow will be open in Affinity Publisher.
  • Select the pdf file from the file tool bar, then look over the text frames. The importing of the pdf sometimes gets confused between the main text flow and other things. Modify as needed the size and location of any erroneous frames.
  • Link all the frames of the main text flow in the pdf file. Then select all the text in the main flow and copy it. Select the destination Affinity Publisher file from the file tool bar, then paste where the main text flow should go. Note that graphics objects that were originally inserted in the text will not copy over. Look over the text to be sure it is complete and edit as necessary.
  • Apply paragraph formating to the text in the main flow, paragraph by paragraph. To preserve character formatting while applying paragraph formatting, right click on the paragraph format in the Text Styles menu on the right side of the screen, and select "Apply to paragraphs and preserve character formatting."

Transferring Embedded Graphics

The pdf file will contain frames full of text and images. The latter are not in frames. Images embedded in the text can be copied right out of the pdf file and pasted into the destination Affinity Publisher file, but it is more versatile to reconstruct these in Affinity Publisher by making picture frames of the appropriate dimension and then filling these with the graphics images from your image files. Note that in Affinity Publisher, objects embedded in the text are called pinned objects. After each frame is built, it is moved into position, then pinned to the text. Positioning options are far more versatile in Affinity Publisher than in QuarkXPress.

In Affinity Publisher:
  • Select an embedded image in the pdf file and copy it. Go to the destination Affinity Publisher file and paste the image somewhere near where it will be located in the text. The location is not critical.
  • Create a picture frame the same size as the image by snapping to the corners of the image. Now select the image from the layers menu and cut it to get rid of it.
  • Set the wrap outline and settings for the frame. If desired, set a fill for the frame.
  • Use the Replace Image button on the Affinity Publisher tool bar to get the image directly from its source file.
  • Position the picture frame exactly where it should go in relation to the text. Go to View/Studio/Pinning to pin the frame to the text. Move the "pin" to the place in the text you want the graphics pinned to.
  • The above steps are repeated for all the embedded images.
  • The pdf file loaded into Affinity Publisher is no longer needed, so it can be closed.

Transferring Large Graphics, Captions, and Sidebars

The images, caption frames, and sidebar frames on each page can be multi-selected, copied, and then pasted into the destination Affinity Publisher file in their approximate positions. Everything to be done in this operation has been done before, so much of this should look familiar.

In QuarkXPress:
  • Open the target QuarkXPress file using QuarkXPress. Turn off all hyphenation in captions and sidebars.
  • Export as pdf. CLOSE QuarkXPress WITHOUT SAVING!

In Affinity Publisher:
  • Open the pdf file that was just created, using the following settings: Load all pages; Favor editable text over fidelity; Group lines of text into text frames. Now, both the destination Affinity Publisher file and the pdf file will be open in Affinity Publisher.
  • Select the pdf file from the file tool bar, then look over the caption and sidebar text frames. The importing of the pdf sometimes gets confused about the size of these frames. If there are gross frame size errors then resize as needed. Minor size issues will be fixed up later so they can be ignored here. The sizes of the images and their positioning will always be accurate, so no adjustment is needed.
  • The images, caption frames, and sidebar frames on each page are multi-selected, copied, and then pasted en masse into the destination Affinity Publisher file, then positioned so the images are exactly located.
  • The caption text frames will need to be resized a bit to fit to the guides and/or the images. Their text wrap settings will need to be set. Sidebar text frames are handled the same way as caption frames.
  • The caption and sidebar text is formatted using paragraph styles just as was done for the main text flow.
  • After all the caption and sidebar text frames are in order, picture frames can be made for the images. The picture frames are made by snapping to the corners of the images. This is done in exactly the same manner as was done to add picture frames for the embedded images.
  • Set the wrap outline and settings for the picture frames.
  • Now the document has images and picture frames, but the images are not in the frames. Although the images can be cut and pasted into the picture frames, it is probably better to delete all the images, then select each picture frame and use the Replace Image button on the Affinity Publisher tool bar to get each image directly from its source file. Again, this step is the same as was used for the embedded images.

Transferring Tables

The process of transferring tables to Affinity Publisher is tedious, because the text from the cells of a table must be brought over from the QuarkXPress generated pdf file one cell at a time.

In QuarkXPress:
  • Open the target QuarkXPress file using QuarkXPress. Turn off all hyphenation in tables.
  • Export as pdf. CLOSE QuarkXPress WITHOUT SAVING!

In Affinity Publisher:
  • Affinity Publisher has excellent table creation and formatting tools. They function very similarly to their QuarkXPress counterparts. Use these facilities to create a table in Affinity Publisher that duplicates the format of your table in the QuarkXPress document.
  • Open the pdf file that was just created, using the following settings: Load all pages; Favor editable text over fidelity; Group lines of text into text frames.
  • Select the pdf file from the file tool bar, then locate the table to be transferred. Select and copy the text (NOT the paragraph) of the first cell of the table. Select the destination Affinity Publisher file from the file tool bar. Paste the text into the appropriate table cell.
  • Repeat the step above for each cell in the table.

That's it - you're basically done moving your document to Affinity Publisher!


Here are a couple of additional things which are handled differently in Affinity Publisher version 1.

Bar Codes and QR Codes

There is no built in support for generating these. Try the nice application called qtZint, a versatile program which generates a lot more code formats and sizes than QuarkXPress does.

Books with Separate Chapter Files

Affinity Publisher works quite well with large files. Depending on the size of the book, there may be no need to separate the book into individual chapter files. For larger books like mine where the performance may be sluggish with a single large file, it is appropriate to break the book into some number of smaller files for editing purposes. When it comes time to generate index and table of contents and to press the book, these files can be easily combined into a single large file.


A Brief History of QuarkXPress

In may be difficult to imagine now, given its current sorry state, but during the 1990s QuarkXPress was on top of the desktop publishing heap. But in subsequent years Adobe InDesign continually chewed away at Quark's market share, to the point that QuarkXPress eventually became just a bit player in this software field. But Adobe was itself responsible for giving QuarkXPress a new lease on life when it decided to offer InDesign as a cloud based service only. Adobe software was never inexpensive, and they retained that pricing model when they went to subscriptions for cloud based InDesign. This put small and infrequent users of their software in a bind, and many publishing professionals simply continued to use their older computer based software, eschewing feature enhancements and support. It was clear that doing so is not a viable long term plan, but for many small shops their own economics drove this decision.

Quark took advantage of Adobe's greed, billing their software as an alternative that you own after buying it. Things may have worked out for Quark as an alternative to InDesign if they could keep their old and creaky software functioning, and if they had the computer based desktop publishing software market to themselves. Unfortunately for them, Serif developed Affinity Publisher, a brand new product developed from the ground up. As computer based software, this robust product would offer distinct advantages that Quark could not match.

Review of QuarkXPress and Quark Inc.

And at the beginning of 2020, this is where I stepped into it with my book project. Like so many small users I could not justify the expense of Adobe's InDesign subscriptions. Prices for new unused earlier computer based versions of InDesign went through the roof, as demand for this older software greatly outstripped supply. At the time Affinity Publisher was still in beta release, and I needed to get some work done without dealing with the constant bugs that come with that territory. QuarkXPress was really my only option. It was old software but I had no need for new features. The company had long since been sold by its founders (never a good sign in the software business) but the new owners seemed to be chugging along. So I bought QuarkXPress and started using it for my project.

Right away I found it to be buggy. In fact, I don't think I have ever used commercial software that was as full of bugs as QuarkXPress 2019 and then 2020. I had just finished a small book project using the free and open source desktop publishing software Scribus. Scribus was typical of open source software in that it was quite buggy, but I still could be productive using it, and it was free. In contrast QuarkXPress was far buggier, and I paid real money for it.

Having no set format requirements for the book I worked around most of the bugs in various features of QuarkXPress. But the software crashed on a regular basis, and of course each time it did I lost work. As a former software engineer I fully understand the consequences of fatal bugs. Software developers want to find and fix these quickly. Software that crashes all the time is software that pisses off users. Bigly. I won't bore you with the details of all the bugs in QuarkXPress that thwarted my progress, but there were many. The most basic features, like auto update, auto file saving, and auto backups didn't work. Each time the software was invoked, tool palettes were in different places or not visible at all. There were bugs in paragraph formating, in table formating. The list of bugs goes on. And on.

But the big deal was that the interval between crashes got shorter as time went on, with QuarkXPress eventually crashing multiple times an hour. I finally reached the point where I had to give up trying to use this mess. Quark's response throughout my ordeal was to offer new point releases, but it was abundantly clear that they just were not fixing the bugs that cause the crashes.

And that is when I decided to attempt to convert my project to Affinity Publisher. Fortunately by the end of 2020 it was well out of beta. By the time the free ten day Affinity Publisher evaluation period was up, it was clear that I would have far better success with Affinity Publisher than I did with QuarkXPress. I have found Affinity Publisher to be very robust. It is beautiful software. It has all the features I need for my project. And the price is far, far better than what InDesign and QuarkXPress offer. The cost of Affinity Publisher is about the same as what Quark charges for two months of "support."

Knowing full well after almost a year of trying to work with QuarkXPress that the likelihood of Quark fixing the fatal crashes was slim, I told Quark company president Chris Hickey that I wanted working software or a refund of the purchase price. He sent back a cursory reply, and even though I direct all my subsequent correspondence directly to him, he apparently just forwards anything from me to one of his minions. In what was one of the most tone deaf responses I believe I have ever received from a software company, Lohit Arora, a Quark Support Team member, offered me an additional six months of the same ridiculously ineffective support they had been providing all year. I kept pressing my demand, and made it clear that I was going to detail my experiences with QuarkXPress and Quark Inc. publicly on the Internet.

In response to my demand to Quark for working software or a refund, they offered a refund, in so doing implicitly admitting they could not actually provide working software.

But unfortunately for me Quark Inc. was not yet done wasting my time. Quark Director of Sales Lohit Arora informed me that that they had sent my refund to a credit card account which was no longer active. When I mentioned this was the case and told him they could either refund me via PayPal or send me a physical check, Arora said he'd check on this and get back to me. Which he never did. The next week, I sent email again to Quark Inc. president Chris Hickey demanding my refund, and received yet another tone deaf reply, this time from Rakesh Singh at Quark, telling me that they issued a refund according to their *policy* and I should try to track it down myself.

OK business students, here's a case for you. You've got a technically astute and really pissed off customer that is intending to expose the sorry state of your software and your company on the Internet, and your company has wisely decided it is prudent to refund that customer's money. You (A.) Promptly refund the money, with many apologies for his or her inconvenience; or (B.) do a desultory job of issuing a refund, and when that doesn't work, you tell the pissed off customer to deal with it himself/herself, in the process providing more damning information about your company that the customer will expose on the Internet.

I send yet another message to Quark company president Chris Hickey demanding a refund. Crickets.

As of early January 2021 I'm still waiting for my refund. But I decided to put this site up as a public service, and will add updates on my continuing dealing with Quark Inc. as they happen.

With this site up and running, I send yet another message to Chris Hickey, Quark's president, demanding my refund. In response I get a reply from the feckless Lohit Arora, asking me how I would like my refund, information which I already provided to him. Apparently the need to waste their customers' time is deeply ingrained in the corporate culture of Quark Inc. But I'm not really surprised by this. As a rule, defective software is usually made by defective companies. But the good news is, it appears public shaming has had its intended effect, at least as far as my refund goes.

Finally in late January 2021 I receive my refund check from Quark. With luck, I am done dealing with Quark Inc. forever! But if something comes up I will be sure to add it here.


Please feel free to offer your own comments on converting from QuarkXPress to Affinity Publisher here. And if you want to share your own recent experience with QuarkXPress or Quark Inc. please do. Comments are moderated.