Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Adobe InDesign CS - No Backward Compatibility

I made a nasty little discovery today. InDesign CS (or 3.0, whichever you prefer) is not backward compatible with InDesign 2.

Our in-house design group recently upgraded to Adobe’s new Creative Suite. Because we are strictly an InDesign house (we don’t even own a copy of QuarkXpress), one of the driving reasons behind the upgrade was the new features in InDesign CS like contextual palettes and improved color management.

Well, after several traumatic installs with missing DLLs galore, the CS programs are up and running, interestingly enough, concurrently with the older versions of PhotoShop, Illustrator and InDesign.

However, I made a nasty little discovery today. InDesign CS (or 3.0, whichever you prefer) is not backward compatible with InDesign 2. In the help files of IDCS, there’s a tiny blurb that says:

You can export InDesign CS documents in InDesign Interchange format (.INX) for compatibility with InDesign 2.0. To open these documents in version 2.0, you’ll need to obtain and install the Scripting plug-in and the XML Reader plug-in. You can obtain these plug-ins from the Adobe Web site.

Well, the export function out of IDCS works just fine. True enough, it produces an Interchange file that opens up just fine in IDCS (with some minor glitches in text rendering) but is completely unrecognized in ID2.

So off to to find the required plug-ins. Well, lo and behold, they’re not there. Not only are they not anywhere in the main download page, they are not in the Windows or Macintosh download pages of InDesign. Conducting a search on the Adobe site produces nothing relevant; their Search function is about as useful as a Windows help file. So it’s off to Google. Again, nothing. A bunch of pages on Adobe Reader, endless PDF’s on Adobe’s XML marketing jargon and a few third party pages that mention PhotoShop 7’s scripting plug-in. And when I go back to Adobe to triple-check, I go to the page “Help With Downloading” and click on “Unable to Find the File I Want to Download.” Whoops, there’s a 404 error.

This lack of supporting legacy formats is standard across the CS line, but not nearly as severe in Illustrator and Photoshop. An Adobe knowledgebase document sheds some light on the reasoning behind not supporting older formats, citing a new type rendering engine that is simply too different from the previous model.

However, for a company to claim some level of reverse compatibility and then not provide a means to attain it is inexcusable. The situation poses a serious problem with users who happily shelled out the loot for the new functionality of CS. For a company that is so obviously gunning for Quark’s throat, they would have been wise to release a fully functioning product rather than locking users into a format their colleagues, printers and service bureaus may not have.

If anyone has any knowledge about this issue, please let me know. In this case, I want to stand corrected.

commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Tuesday September 27, 2005

hi i have adobe indesign 2.0 and i am unable to find the plug-ins to be able to read documents created in indesigncs in indesign 2.0. it says i need the scripting and xml reader plug ins bt i am unable to find them on the adobe site, would you be able to help me there?


wrote the following on Sunday June 25, 2006 says:

According to the manual, you can save files back to InDesign 2, but they have to be exported as ‘InDesign Interchange Format’ . ID 2 users then have to install a Scripting plug-in and the XML Reader plug-in. These are apparently downloadable from the Adobe site, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Then I found this little note after a lot of searching on the Adobe site:

Saving InDesign CS documents for use with InDesign 2.0
The InDesign CS user guide and help documentation includes information on using the InDesign Interchange format export option to save documents for use with InDesign 2.0. This information should be disregarded, as this export option does not support InDesign 2.0 compatibility. Opening InDesign CS documents is not supported in InDesign 2.0.

Elke Watson

wrote the following on Wednesday January 31, 2007

I wasn’t aware of this and discovered this nasty surprise yesterday. I find this arrogant approach to their customers by Adobe totally unacceptable. If they can’t get their software to be backward-compatible, I have to hunt around for some workaround solution (after forking all out all this money)? Shame.


wrote the following on Tuesday April 24, 2007

Is there really no remedy to this problem?!? I have a client who thought she was good to go with her old version of ID 2.0, but now it seems, I am the jerk who cannot give her the files, because I have ID 4.0! WTF, I know there must be a way, but how much searching on this subject can one do?

jaclyn lewis

wrote the following on Friday August 29, 2008

i am looking for a solution as well. I am writing over a year after the last person to comment. has anyone found an answer on how to open and use files made on IDCS on ID2??? if so, please let me know!

Paul Stavert

wrote the following on Monday August 17, 2009

And one year later somebody is still searching for a solution. I don’t think an answer will come…

Mike Kangas

wrote the following on Saturday December 26, 2009

I found a link that has specific details to a solution. I haven’t tested it but it looks good.