It’s 1996, the previous 7 years of my career have seen an industrial revolution in the pre-press or repro world that I was working in, I’d gone from an old Scitex Imager One that I performed my traineeship on to the high end world of Contex Graphic Systems that were sold through a division Xyvision, Mac’s and PC’s were, well slow and before then didn’t really have the stability that was required for consistent and efficient production. Our imagery composition was done with Alias Eclipse far more powerful than the Photoshop at the time, even with Photoshop available for the Silicon Graphics Irix OS, Alias Eclipse was just awesome in its speed and the tools it offered.
But we’re not here to talk about that, 1996…. what happened then to make this such a pinnacle year in the article, well 1996 was the year that Quark release version 3.3 of their desktop publishing software, previous versions were so unstable that using it was like visiting the dentist for a tooth extraction. But this year also marked some serious other changes that would alter the course of history, in 1996 Steve Jobs made the purchase of NEXT and Apple had started working on what would 2 years latter be the first IMac.
The creative design studio’s around the globe were beginning to realise the cost of production had started to plummet as they were able to purchase desktop Mac’s or PC’s and bolt them into their networks & fileservers. Unfortunately still plagued with the stability problems of OS9 on the Mac, and the grinding of Windows Quark fought on to become the powerhorse of page layout. A few years earlier Adobe had purchased PageMaker from Aldus to have its own page layout application in the market, unfortunately it was no challenge to the feature rich QuarkXpress which gained almost 90% of the market share during the 90’s.
It wasn’t until 1999 when Adobe capitalized on Quark overly long innovation cycles and it’s high market cost and released it’s challenging product Indesign. It’s slick interface and docking pallets that were similar to other Adobe products made it feel familiar to Photoshop and Illustrator users, yet the actual application was clunky and there were some erroneous workflow errors in the application that confused and hindered users to use it. (Indesign v1.0 colour management anyone!)
In 2001 Apple released OSX changing desktop publishing forever, and wow was Adobe quick to react and cash in on the creative industries desire for stability, in January 2002 Indesign V2 was launched with full OSX capabilities, it came with something all all creative’s wanted, native drop shadows and transparencies. From a design efficiency point of view this was a wonderful time saver and because a creative addition to many designs at the click of a button, although would the consumers of the printed matter get bored of the now common place drop shadow (I know I did, much the same as I did with the good old reflection effect on images that Itunes first introduced)
Indesign had now established itself as serious competition against QuarkXpress, while Quark gathered its senses to launch V6 that would also be OSX compatible, Adobe donned the big guns again providing them with a almighty kick in the gut by packaging their applications into a Suite of products that cost literally the same as QuarkXpress on its own, this along with a buggy V6 release really hurt Quark since so many of the Quark user base had skipped the upgrade to V5 feeling that there was nothing special in the application that warranted the outrageous upgrade cost.
Still with Quark losing serious market share now they carried on developing their products, it would appear that people still liked the simplicity of the Quark application, this with the users back catalogue that needed to be repurposed on a continual basis Quark managed to hold on for dear life.
Indesign seemed to go from strength to strength with the latest version able to seamlessly integrate across all of the Creative Suite applications, but Quark have a hidden treasure that is dying to be unleashed if the users out there that have switched will give them a second chance….. Quark 8 brings all the required features for efficient desktop publishing into a now stable application, feature rich and ready to go QuarkXpress 8 capitalizes on the simplicity of desktop publishing within the familiar working environment we have all used for years, yes really not a lot has changed to version 3.3, or should I say, lots has changed they just haven’t moved it all around from version to version like Adobe have done with their applications. Ask yourself the question (well actually it was one of my arguements when I heard people saying how much better Indesign was) is it more efficient to recreate (of even convert with the Markzware Q2ID tool) your existing Quark document in Indesign or use ‘File – Open’ from the newer version of the documents original format to have the same features? It is well known and well documented that Quark is more effiecient operationally (click for click) than Indesign, yet people are still converting looking at the short term cost saving in the purchase price, rather than the long term operational cost in time. Check out the Pfeiffer reports on the subject before commiting yourself.
So, not many people are willing to pay for the upgrade even though Quark 8 again provides serious competition to Indesign, with major brand owners commiting to Quark (Office Depot recently signed a complete upgrade contract) I can see the future releases being even better since there is now more focus from Quark on the dynamic document creation.
The big question is though; can Quark win the users back? A lot of the users were saying that Quark 8 was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t enough for them to switch back, so let’s hope that Quark have listened to their market and will add what the users want in the up and coming future releases so that Quark remains a weapon in a company’s pre-media application arsenal. Quark are definitely trying to tempt user to make the switch with their “upgrade from any version to 8 for the same price” campaign. Check it out here.
Author: Gary George
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