If you’ve watched much science fiction, you know things always go wrong in time travel. Somebody drops a USB drive in ancient Mesopotamia, and next thing you know, dinosaurs are roaming the streets of New York.
Same thing goes for back-saving files for earlier versions of software; I always caution designers to avoid this if possible. However, I realize that designers often encounter mixed versions of applications, especially when freelancers are involved. I try to always keep files in their native habitat, in terms of software version and platform. The notion of opening up an innocent PC Illustrator CS5 file in a Mac CS4 version of Illustrator makes me twitch.
I’ve had my convictions strengthened this week; I’m working on a book in InDesign CS5, but the publisher wants the final files in InDesign CS4. I’m taking advantage of the Track Changes feature in CS5 to work with the editor, and that’s working great. However, when I export to InDesign Markup (IDML) — the only way back to CS4 — things fall apart. Paragraph formatting goes wonky. Styles based on other styles have forgotten the overrides that separated them from the parent styles, and the original formatting (mainly nested styles that I’d un-nested) bubbles back up. Like a zombie movie.
I don’t recall this happening when I back-saved from InDesign CS4 to CS3. I don’t know if I was lucky, or if back-saves have become more dangerous in the new version. The moral of the story? If you are forced to time-travel, make a PDF before you jump. Place the PDF in a separate layer in the converted file, and turn its visibility off and on, so you can check for issues.
Be careful out there. Watch for dinosaurs.