InDesign Challenges Quark

You won't have much of a choice about updating. But you will have a choice on where you go from here. That choice could frame the future of your publication for years to come.

Within the coming months, if you use Macintosh computers, you're going to have to switch to System X (as in "ten"). If you're not using Macs, you're still going to have to choose soon. Macs or Windows, Quark's new software is finally out and many publications will have to update -- especially as their ad makeup departments begin receiving Quark 6 files from advertisers and agencies.

But updating doesn't necessarily mean upgrading. You have this choice: QuarkXPress 6 vs. Adobe's InDesign 2. I am not advising that you run out and buy InDesign over Quark 6. I am strongly recommending that you check out InDesign — see its many advantages over QuarkXPress 6 for yourself — before you buy.

For me — for many reasons — the choice is clearly InDesign.

I had not always felt that way. Like many of you, I'm sure, I was OK — not happy but OK — with QuarkXPress. Despite its negatives, I had come to terms with it. After all, it was powerful. It did the job. It worked OK with other software. And I had, over the years, become comfortable with its interface — especially its keyboard shortcuts.

But then I ran into Russell Viers. Russell is quite a character, quite a software consultant — and quite a fan of InDesign. I met Russell while we were in upstate New York in the spring offering workshops for the New York Press Association. My workshop was on design, his was on Mac OS X.

I happened into the middle of Russell's workshop and he was showing some of the exciting elements of InDesign. In less than five minutes, I heard myself exclaiming from the back of the conference room: "Quark is dead." Now, having had time to reconsider, well ... I still think that's true.

Here's what Russell says about InDesign:

"Forget InDesign for a second, and forget about how feature-for-feature it beats Quark. Instead, think about how Adobe has changed our industry in the past two decades with PostScript, PDF and Photoshop. Then think about InDesign and how it has grown in the past four years. Then look at what Quark has given us in the past four years. Then think about this ... it's about time for InDesign to have an upgrade (to version 3). As for me and my money, I'll stick with Adobe and InDesign. Clearly, Adobe has a technological advantage in the war — and they have shown they are willing to use it."

For me, Russell sums up the differences in his first sentence: " feature-for-feature it beats Quark."

Some comparisons:

  • InDesign offers unlimited undos. Quark does not. Quark 6.0 offers multiple undos. The default setting is 20, but you can increase it — if you have enough memory. The same is true with InDesign: all those undos take up memory and hard disk space.
  • InDesign offers the option of dragging text and photos to your document from the Finder. Quark does — but only with an extension that's still not as strong as the native feature in InDesign.
  • InDesign offers magnification to 4,000 percent. Quark's is still limited to 800 percent.
  • InDesign offers high-resolution preview of objects such as TIFF and EPS files. Quark will, too — if you get the free plug-in. But Quark creates a cache image, which takes memory away from your system. You will need to throw them away on a regular basis or slowly lose hard drive capacity.
  • InDesign offers the option of setting transparency for objects. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers automatic typographic adjustment by paragraph. Quark is still limited to line-by-line adjustment.
  • InDesign offers stroke and fill of text. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers multiple views of the same document. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers conversion of your document page directly to a master page. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers dynamic resizing of the pasteboard, linked to the size of the document. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers editable keyboard shortcuts. Quark does not. (A bonus: InDesign will let you select Quark 4 keyboard shortcuts — but why would you want to stick to your old habits with new software?)
  • InDesign offers hanging punctuation. Quark does not.
  • InDesign offers...

OK. OK. Enough. I could create a longer list of advantages for InDesign over Quark. A much longer list. And it would be unfair not to acknowledge that Quark has some advantages over InDesign in color handling and web capabilities. And Quark is the horse that got us this far.

But it's time to change horses. Quark is tired. Maybe even ... dead.

Some of you may be concerned about meshing InDesign with your existing systems. If you need details, contact Adobe. They are aggressively marketing InDesign and will be happy to chat with you about making InDesign work within your system.

I'm willing to bet that the response you'll get from Adobe will be better than any you've received from Quark Customer Service. Frankly, I consider "Quark Customer Service" an oxymoron. Example: try going to the Quark 6 user forum on the net. When I wrote this column the forum was still not there. What's there is: "Due to the upcoming restructuring of the Quark Web site forums will be temporarily unavailable. Forums will return in a reorganized format to better serve you." Well, not yet.

Another irony: the "Read Me" files for Quark 6 are in PDF format.
That's PDF.
As in Adobe PDF.
As in Adobe InDesign.

QuarkXPress may not be dead yet. But Quark Inc. seems to have made an art form of shooting itself in the foot — starting from the brain and working its way down.

Edward F. Henninger is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of OMNIA Consulting.