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Save Down From InDesign CS4 to CS3 with INX

Whenever we get two or more emails on a subject within days of each other, I know it’s time for a post about it.

For example, Reuben wrote:

Could Indesign CS4 save a .indd file that could be open and edited in Indesign CS3?

The simple answer is: Use File > Export, then choose InDesign Interchange (INX) from the Format pop-up menu. The resulting INX file can be opened in CS3. (If you’re using CS3, you can do the same thing to downsave — or downgrade or save backward or whatever you want to call it — to CS2. To jump from CS4 to CS2, try this trick.)

But every answer, even apparently simple ones, always come with a caveat or two. Reuben continues:

I’m currently working on a magazine on InDesign CS4. But, my printer company has requested me to downgrade from InDesign CS4 to InDesign CS3, as the designer in the printer company is familiar with CS3. So, my question is… Can I save all files in InDesign CS4 for the designer to be opened in Indesign CS3? He wants it to cross check before printing.

Well, here’s where it gets interesting. There is a reason Adobe doesn’t let you “Save As” to an earlier version: Using Save As (they reckon) should save every bit of your document; you shouldn’t have any data loss. However, moving a file from CS4 to CS3 can very easily mean losing parts of your document.

For example, lets say you use GREP Styles to apply formatting to text inside a paragraph. CS3 doesn’t have that feature, so the formatting disappears. Oops.

If you only use the features that are in CS3, then this workflow should be okay. Most stuff gets saved just fine when you downsave. But I would always proof carefully. In the situation you describe, I personally would never send him INX files. If they can’t bother to upgrade to the newest version, find a different printer.

INX is better suited for situations where you need to clean up some minor corruption in a document (especially after opening a QX or PM file, for example). Or if you’re sending a file to someone else, where you know they’re going to work on it more. Just remember it’s not a perfect interchange format.

By the way, in CS4, Adobe introduced IDML, which — we hope — will make interchange slightly more reliable in the future. But CS4 will still not be able to handle CS5 features (whatever those will be). How could it?

David Blatner

David Blatner

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 are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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60 Comments on “Save Down From InDesign CS4 to CS3 with INX

  1. David (Laufer ;) ): Be sure to triple check your versions. Saving down as INX from CS4 is exactly what Adobe had in mind, to transfer files to CS3. If you are sure about that CS3, check if all updates were applied.

  2. Hi Jongware: Thx for quick response. We thought about this- the CS4 (running on Snow Leopard) is v 6.0.6 and the CS3 for Windows is v 5.0.4 we looked on the adobe site but could not find a way to tell what the last update for CS3 Windows should be.

    any thoughts?

  3. Anne-Marie: thanks so much. Since our versions are not the problem, any thoughts on why we can’t get the .inx file to open in CS3? is it a cross platform issue? Is there a way to ‘strip out’ the plugin information when I export? Thanks, David

  4. It’s extremely unlikely that it’s a plug-in issue. And it’s very unlikely that it’s a mac/pc issue. It’s far more likely that either the INX file is corrupted or her version of CS3 is corrupted (try rebuilding preferences?).

  5. OR, this could be a PIBCAK* issue. Has the client *ever* been able to open an INX file? Or is it just this one problem child. I’d be curious to learn that.

    Make sure the client is first Extracting All what you send him (assuming it’s zipped — it should be) and putting the extracted INX file on his desktop or other convenient place on his local drive. They should not be trying to open the unextracted-but-visible INX file.

    Then make sure he’s opening the INX file from InDesign CS3’s File > Open menu, instead of double-clicking the INX file itself in Windows Explorer. Only because sometimes Windows has a conniption with extensions it’s not sure of.

    Can you yourself open the INX file in CS4? Do you have CS3 still installed … can you test it?

    *Problem Is Between Chair and Keyboard

    • ray: it might be listed as “InDesign Interchange Format” or something like that. INX lets you save to CS3. IDML lets you save down to CS4, 5, 6, CC, etc.

      • Thanks, appears it worked fine from another machine. Seems there may be an issue with one particular machine.

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