QuarkXPress Still Going Strong

June 24th, 2015

As some of you know, I came to the Mac via prepress. By night, I labored as a freelance writer, and by day, and sometimes into the evening, I worked as a typographer in New York City. While the jobs changed, for some curious reason, I always found employment within a few blocks of an area near 5th Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan.

In any case, the arrival of the Mac changed a lot of things. I had already become comfortable playing with those early personal computers, and had a smattering of knowledge of Basic and DOS, but I was especially pleased to be able to do everything via point and click. Till then, the traditional typesetting computer front-ends I worked on were mostly text-based, and graphical layout schemes were primitive and usually inaccurate. I could usually figure things out better via the command line, but the Mac was a revelation. Finally, there was a proper way to handle graphical interfaces.

With the arrival of Adobe PostScript and laser printers, it was possible to place a prepress operation in your living room, which is where I set up my first home-based Mac. There were two major publishing applications that allowed you to create fully formatted professional calibre documents, and a number of lesser contenders. Of the former, PageMaker came first, designed to mirror the actions of a graphic designer on your computer’s display. So instead of using a physical layout table, you placed the elements of your document on the screen by dragging them into position. The other contender, QuarkXPress, took the typographer’s route, opting for precision, using frames — text and picture boxes — to assemble your layouts.

Over the years, I put together literally thousands of ads and brochures in XPress. Later, I combined my writing skills to prepare manuals for one of the larger American audio manufacturers. I also put together magazines and books for several clients. In case you’re wondering, I still have most of those document files around somewhere, but no current application will read them, even assuming I had a floppy disk drive around to retrieve the data.

In any case, serious publishing professionals largely adopted QuarkXPress. PageMaker, later acquired by Adobe, was slow, buggy and just not precise enough. Printing to high resolution output devices could be inconsistent. I know that I did a number of booklets in PageMaker and learned to tolerate it. Put the emphasis on tolerate. When Quark owned the market, they once attempted a hostile takeover of Adobe without success. Had it succeeded, PageMaker would have been sold off to satisfy antitrust concerns, but the effort was laughed off.

Well, in 1999, Adobe released InDesign 1.0. It was promoted as a totally new app, but the PageMaker lineage was evident in the interface, and it still could be slow and flaky. But it was well integrated with other Adobe apps that were mainstays in the publishing and design worlds, such as Illustrator and Photoshop.

Now Quark Inc. wasn’t without its problems. From bugs to abysmal customer service, it was the app you loved to hate. Much of the blame for these issues fell on CEO Fred Ebrahimi, who was notorious for blaming customers for the company’s failures. In 2002, in response to the poorly-received QuarkXPress 5.0, he bitterly announced, “the Macintosh platform is shrinking,” and went on to suggest customers switch to “something else,” being, of course, Windows.

Over the years, InDesign continued to improve, and it seemed that XPress languished, and more and more designers and publishers decided to adopt InDesign. For a few years, it appeared that Quark’s days in the sun were numbered, although some people, particularly those in the corporate and book publishing industries, continued to use it.

New management helped restore Quark’s reputation, and fairly frequent updates have added a decent amount of new features that answer the needs of publishers. Earlier this year arrived QuarkXPress 2015, with huge across-the-board improvements. Rather than list them all here, I’ll simply point to the company’s full listing. Notable improvements include, at last, full 64-bit support for better performance, enhanced tables, and content variables, including running headers. I’m particularly pleased to discover the ability to import footnotes and endnotes from Word documents; it’s a feature I would have loved to try out when I laid out a long book in the previous version of XPress.

Add to that improved e-book tools, more powerful PDF features, including the ability to create PDF/X-4 files, and you end up with a well-rounded publishing app that will definitely answer the needs of existing XPress users and perhaps dissuade some from jumping ship to InDesign.

As for me, I’ve used the app for more than 25 years, and I’ve long become accustomed to its power and its quirks. XPress 2015 has fewer of the latter. In particularly, it’s no longer apt to crash and burn at uncomfortable moments.

As to InDesign, well, I’d be pleased to give the latest version and try and report back to you readers. Unlike Quark, however, Adobe is often reluctant to grant tech reviewers extended cloud access to write long-term evaluations. I might consider signing up, but access to any documents I create would require keeping up the subscriptions for as long as Adobe Creative Cloud lasts.

I do have projects at hand that were begun in InDesign, which I’d like to update in the new version. But without Adobe’s cooperation, I might just export them to XPress and be done with it.

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15 Responses to “QuarkXPress Still Going Strong”

  1. James Lee says:

    I really enjoyed this nice long, somewhat historical, article. It gives a nice history of the Quark/Adobe competition as well as a more well-rounded overview of you.

    One thing you did not mention is whether Quark has any sort of cloud effort to compete with the Adobe Creative cloud? Or, perhaps they can get by w/o cloud computing entirely. I know many of us were irritated when we could no longer buy and own the latest Adobe products, but instead are forced into their cloud and a subscription. I actually gave up on Adobe at that point. The cloud stuff is a “nice to have” but I will not be forced to use it. I want the app on my Mac, when I need it, where I can find it, and whether I am connected to the internet or not.

    Thanks for the nice article!
    Jim Lee, Tropical

  2. Bradley Dichter says:

    James Lee apparently has not even tried to download a trial of a Adobe Creative Cloud application. Despite the name’s implication, the program is downloaded and runs on your Mac, just like previous versions did. While the subscription part is true, as opposed to perpetual license like earlier releases, you can ignore the cloud integration, save your files on your computer as always and work pretty much the way you have been for decades. You only need to connect to the Internet every once in a while.

  3. Bradley Dichter says:

    Perhaps yourr readers would be better served by knowing that Quark offers the free converter from very old formats to a current version for those who may want to come back to QuarkXpress after spending time with Adobe InDesign. http://www.quark.com/Support/Downloads/Details.aspx?fid=289 Of course this is most useful for folks who have a copy of QuarkXpress 2015. Get your trial version here: http://www.quark.com/Support/Downloads/Details.aspx?fid=294 Fair warning, while the trial is fully functional, it is only good for 3 days from the first launch, so you do have to commit some time to it.

  4. James Lee says:

    Hi Brad!
    Long time! I have not seen you since my last TopXNotes preso at LIMUG!

    Yes, you are correct that I never tried it. I am an occasional Adobe user, not enough to sign up for a subscription, even if the concept did not irritate me.

    The existence of those Quark converters is great to know about.

    Jim Lee

  5. Bradley Dichter says:

    To Gene Steinberg, if you no longer pay for a Creative Clould subscription, your application(s) stop working immediately. So you could say they they get you hooked, but I suppose you could offer up another email address, and get another 30 day trial out of Adobe. Not that I’m advocating it, but I heard that people have found a way to pirate the new CC apps, so if you are willing to commit federal copyright infringement and find out how to do it, it’s possible, I hear.

  6. Sjakelien says:

    I think the author’s history largely coincides with the history of early Mac adopters. Until the point where he sticks with Quark XPress.
    Yes, I would love to hear what you think of InDesign, and I’m really surprised you haven’t had the need to at least play around with it, the way you did with PageMaker.
    In a way, I’m fed up with Adobe, not in the least because of their licensing scheme. So, I’m ready to switch back to QXP as soon as that would make sense. For that, I need a well-informed comparison between the products. I think this article says: “QXP doesn’t suck that heavily anymore”, but I for the rest I don’t see a good reason to dump InDesign.
    So, yes please, review InDesign, and convince me to go back!

  7. mdt1960 says:

    As a big fan and educator of QXP for years, this past year I found disappointment with Quark. First of all, now that they are no longer the top dog in page layout (by a stretch too), I was hoping they’d provide a significant discount to our student Mac labs, but they didn’t budge and it was too big of a chunk to justify for the minor player status they now hold. Further, most of our advisory members have basically told us that we only need to teach ID… if our students run into QXP once they are in the job market, they’ll be able to pick it up pretty fast if they know ID, and likely won’t be using it much even if they see it. That was a hard pill to swallow. Nevertheless, at home, I have a very swell 7.0 version on my G5 Mac that—for the most part—has everything I’ll need until I bow out of this rat race.

  8. LINDA W says:

    I use Quark extensively for our twice a month newsletters, programs, etc. as well as layouts for business forms, and much more. What has me puzzled is why there is not a “bookletizing” option available in Quark itself. I’m now on Quark 9.5.4 and hesitate to upgrade because I am still able (not without problems) to use my Bookletizer 8 extension that I bought in 2009. If anyone has a solution to this problem, I’d sure like to hear about it as the Bookletizer is buggy in this version. Help?

  9. LINDA W says:

    Yes, I checked immediately. They have not upgraded it, which is why I haven’t upgraded it.

  10. shaylois says:

    does anybody knows if i can use quarkxpress 2015 with wordpress?please please !!!
    We are going to publish our book on our Website but when I asked Quarkxpress 2015 sale staff this question they didn’t have an answer. I have a GoDadddy Domain.

    • @shaylois, In terms of what? Preparing a document for a WordPress blog? You might save it in Word format, or just use the WordPress online editor or one of the add-ons (plugins) for enhanced formatting. I don’t think QuarkXPress is meant to serve that purpose, although it can generate standalone HTML content.


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