QuarkXpress X: Five Years Later and Still Waiting

by Hadley Stern Feb 14, 2003

image Check out this press release from 1998, thatís right, 1998. Apparently Quark announced way back then that it would release an OS X version of QuarkXpress with its new release.

Itís 2003. Five years later and Quark still hasnít managed to do what every other major Mac-producing software company has done ó release an OS X version of a product, any product.

First of all, Iím biased. I started out as an Aldus PageMaker user. Thatís right Aldus, not Adobe. When Aldus PageMaker first came out it was the only application for the Macintosh (which, at this time, was the only desktop computer with a point and click interface) capable of doing professional level page layout. With PageMaker and a postscript LaserWriter you were in business, literally. It was a wonderful combination and I have fond memories of doing my first layouts in PageMaker on my Mac Plus. Back in those days, each time you wanted to zoom or pan the page was a decision to be taken seriously because the screen redraw time for more complicated elements could be up to a minute.

When I went to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to study design the computer labs had Quark Xpress on their machines. This wasnít a problem in the first year because students of graphic design at RISD donít use computers for the first year; everything is done by hand. In the second year, the computer was introduced as a design tool and suddenly I was confronted with Quark. RISD had made the decision to use Quark because it had become the design standard. How? Not because it was easier to use than PageMaker (it wasnít) or because it had more typographic power (it didnít). Quark had become the design standard because of its strong ability to do color separations, trapping, and other print-critical tasks at the output end. Quark became the tool of choice at the print-house which meant it became the tool of choice at the design-house. There was no choice.

I begrudgingly learnt QuarkXpress. I even came to like it the way one likes a quirky (and badly designed) car. You just get to know how to use it. I eventually weaned myself off of PageMaker but Iíll always have a fond spot in my heart for it.

As for Quark, it is just something I use. And, like many Quark users, it is a frustrating task. The upgrade from 3.32 to 4 was an absolute disaster. I know designers out there who still swear by 3.32 and wonít ever upgrade to Quark 4, let alone Quark 5. Quark bungled the upgrade on the important end, the printers, and for a long time printers wouldnít accept files created in 4.

Now I find myself incredulous and angry at Quark’s arrogance at not releasing an OS X version of QuarkXpress. How is it that a company like Adobe is able to release Illustrator, GoLive, Acrobat, Photoshop (possibly the most complicated program), InDesign, After Effects (a video program!!) and many more for OS X and Quark cannot spit out one application?! Macromedia has released Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Freehand and others for OS X and Quark cannot spit out one application?! I don’t think it’s technical difficulty thatís holding Quark back, it’s plain and simple arrogance. Quark has always been a company to put users second and to do things its own way. Right now Quark is responsible for keeping the adoption of OS X back more than any other company. And if you read their press releases or interviews there is always the veiled threat of not being on the Mac platform.

That said, I do understand their difficulties. Designing in Quark is one thing, outputting is another. Printers have many complicated issues to deal with: trapping, dot-pattern, separation, etc that are complicated tasks. Printers also rely on third party plug-ins that could be problematic with OS X. Apple also just recently changed the print engine with OS 10.2. Still, how can a company that puts out only one important product have so much difficult putting it out for OS X?

There is always the InDesign option, but for most businesses this is not an easy option. It is one thing for an independent designer or small studio to switch to InDesign, but large studios and businesses are unlikely to swallow the cost. Then there is the issue of output ó most printers and output shops today will not accept InDesign files. So we are stuck with Quark, with its quirky un-user-friendly interface.

Quarkís historic arrogance has always irked its users but this time the stakes are much higher. A significant amount of Mac users are Quark users, and until Quark switches to OS X they wonít either. This is bad for Apple. One wonders why Apple doesnít just buy Quark and get the job done for them. What do you think? Are you delaying moving to OS X because Quark isnít available yet?

Comments

  • We have Design Studios on all five continents, the UK one alone has over 100 Macs, the majority of which still run on OS9 because of heavy Quark usage.

    With the new bias in Quark 5 towards web page design, has Quark shot themselves in the foot? I know that our brass is looking very seriously at Indesign, which our print house does accept. I think that we may see more attitudes like this, particularly when you consider that for less than the price of 1 copy of Quark (£1020), you can get the complete Adobe design package (£820).

    Dan Ebeck had this to say on Feb 14, 2003 Posts: 23
  • I too, am an imprisoned Quark user. I am caught in a struggle between designing things easily and effectively in InDesign and then pulling my hair out on the production side, or struggling through everything with Quark in classic mode and feeling confident when it goes to print. At first, it was a no-brainer: struggle with Quark and bill more. But as anyone who has tried to work on anything while toggling between OSX and classic can tell you, it’s like water-torture:screen re-draw issues, font issues, printing issues. I don’t regret moving to OSX. I never will. What I regret, is ever learning Quark.

    Gregory Ng had this to say on Feb 14, 2003 Posts: 54
  • Please look at this link at quark.com

    http://www.quark.com/products/xpress/macosx.html

    It states:

    “Quark is absolutely committed to supporting the platforms our customers use, so QuarkXPress 6 will be a Mac OS X native application.

    With 3 million users, QuarkXPress is the centerpiece of many large-scale publishing workflows worldwide, and our customers’ productivity is our number-one concern. QuarkXPress 6 is currently being tested by customers, and we’ll ship it when we’re confident that you’ll be able to execute a productive and reliable Mac OS X workflow.”

    I can’t wait!!!!

    annon had this to say on Feb 14, 2003 Posts: 1
  • I agree that Quark is a very arrogant company with a disdain for its own customers (if its idea of “customer service” is any indication). But I don’t think this fully explains the long delay in bringing QuarkXPress to OS X. The main reason for this is utterly incompetent management.

    Quark has fallen into the trap of reducing its development to commodity status; in effect bean counters are now running the R&D of the company. Thus much coding is farmed out to India (though in this practice Quark is certainly not alone), because the bean counters are lured by cheap labor. Unfortunately, Quark looked at only the FRONT side of the equation and failed to consider the TOTAL NET cost and management problems of having multiple development teams in far-flung places.

    While the design and architecting of a product is a separate function from the coding of a product, it’s asking for trouble to split these teams apart. You can’t have a cohesive development plan under such a structure. Quality assurance suffers greatly—and project management overall becomes nigh impossible. One would think Quark would have learned this lesson long ago and ceased throwing good money after bad.

    But, yes, arrogance also plays a role. Quark thinks it has the market by the—well, you know what. And we see the result—an utter lack of performance by this company. There is simply no excuse for it.

    Meanwhile, Adobe is aggressively improving its In Design product, and Quark cannot assume it will not be surpassed at some point. Indeed, in some respects In Design has already surpassed XPress—and Adobe is not standing pat. Soon, after Adobe incorporates more key features into In Design, pre-press and printing houses may come to embrace it—because at least a vital company is fully behind the product and is committed to its continued development and integration with other key graphics tools. And when this happens, the once great Quark will become marginalized.

    It couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

    -Jeff Mincey

    Jeff Mincey had this to say on Feb 14, 2003 Posts: 74
  • Between the unjustifiable upgrade cost for a feature-poor Quark 5 to the fading OS 9 environment to the undetermined timeframe for Quark 6 X’s release, I cannot fathom what holds back companies from converting to Adobe InDesign. The small design firms such as ours have made the switch and it has paid off wonderfully.

    The move is no greater a switch than the PageMaker to Quark transition some 10 years ago. Once you get past the early curve, it really is a gratifying state.

    I strongly suggest InDesign to designers out there, not so much as an alternative to Quark’s foot dragging but that it is indeed a wonderful solution when given the opportunity.

    - D9

    D9 had this to say on Feb 15, 2003 Posts: 2
  • I’m not a Quark user, but I feel your pain; I’ve been waiting just as long for an OS X version of Coda Music’s Finale (more or less the QuarkXPress of music notation & publishing). I hear Finale 2004 will be Carbonized & available this summer, but I’ll believe it when I no longer have to boot into OS 9.

    Meanwhile, next time I’m between projects I’ll be trying out a demo of Sibelius (Finale’s native OS X competitor)...Quark & Coda, don’t keep us waiting too much longer!

    Pete Sawchuk

    Pete Sawchuk had this to say on Feb 17, 2003 Posts: 1
  • I have a soft spot for Quark as my path towards using computers and thus finding my primary hobby and resparking a childhood interest in math and logic.  I’ve defended it in forums around the web and learned every trick in the book for making the fastest workflow possible (or at least everything I could find)...  I loved learning quark and feel it has one of the best os 9 interfaces out there, it’s unbloated and extremely sparse for generating great typography.

    However, I love os x for everything else.  Since you can forget about using InDesign on a small monitor I was anxious to try Quark 6 for the big overall speed boost to my system.  I finally got a hold of a beta last night and it BLEW. No saving to QXD 4.x, tons of basic interface bugs like floating panels.  Terrible keybindings.  The same crappy redraw problems since 4.0, etc. etc. etc.  I know it’s a beta, but all this time!  Everyone there must work for marketing…

    This devoted Quark user it switching.  Our entire office will migrate to InDesign this summer when we redesign and move.  From what I’m learning about the native ID features, I’m sooooo excited.  XML post doc processing, PDF to clients, batch processing, excellent applescript support, transparency, full-res previews.  Even opening Quark files for legacy archive extraction.  I’ll have copy of QXP 6 around, but it will be on one workstation for reprocessing old layouts with full compatibility.

    Catman had this to say on Mar 04, 2003 Posts: 3
  • Catman, for curiosities sake: how did you ever defend the omission of Caps to lower caps in Quark?

    The interface wasn?t that good overall though. Think of the lack of scaling possibilities of list view windows (usage, color etc) and the nonstandard size of the scroll bars. And what about having to erase the 6,35 mm (1/2 inch) input that is always in the duplication dialog? Zero would have been more usefull. Forgot you always have to remove the checkboxes for red green and blue (RGB colors in a program that untill recently could not print decently to non-postscript devices) and scroll down when you want separated output? Bad UI-design to me.

    The only partially good part of the Quark interface is the parameters window. But why can?t I do multiplications the same way I do additions in it? And why will it let me specify non-printing properties for a font?

    I?ve been looking at a pre-release version of XPress 6 too. It looks like Quark 4 in an OS X interface to me. Almost no changes and certainly no improvements in the interface.
    Oh well, it?s been this way since version 3 I think, but still its sad to think of soooo many missed chances. Soooo silly not to team up with Adobe on postscript and PDF.

    BTW has anyone ever seen a decent review/comparo of what XPress delivers in a web publishing environment?

    MJ had this to say on May 04, 2003 Posts: 9
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