New to DTP: InDesign (CS 3 or 4) or Quark 8?

_Palatine_'s picture

I've decided to learn DTP. Although I don't absolutely *need* it in my work life at the moment, I'm quite sure that having DTP skills can't hurt in any field. I don't mind the financial outlay, but if I can save some money, all the better.

We have InDesign CS 3 (or now 4?) to choose from and Quark 8 (which has turned out to be pretty good according to general opinion.)

Long ago I learned PageMaker, and even before that (as a kid) I actually used GeoPublish on the Commodore64!

Today I'm the happy owner of quite a few wonderful licensed fonts, and I'm especially happy with Farnham, Dolly (paired with Auto, of course), and Feijoa. These deserve all the respect they can get, so I'm particularly interested in excellent OT font handling. In place of the tragedy that is MS Word (with respect to typography specifically, no offense) I have been using Mellel, which is a breath of fresh air but still not as competent with OT handling as a DTP app would be.

I understand that InDesign is the more fashionable choice these days, and although I wouldn't mind a copy of Photoshop, I really don't need the rest of the apps that come with the Creative Suite. While Quark seems to be more relevant than in the past few years and has been dubbed the "InDesign killer" recently, I'd like to use something that is and will remain and industry standard. I might as well make the most of my experience. Perhaps Quark is a real contender again . . .

I use a Mac running OS X Leopard. RAM and speed is not an issue.

I'd appreciate any insight and suggestions.



Alessandro Segalini's picture

Considering your first sentence, I think you might want to cut out some of the design stuff to put equal time into prepress—to design something that gets approved by the client and it prints the way the client approved.
The first book I thought of : The Non-Designer's Scan and Print Book.
My experience, I have been teaching DTP last two years and I taught InDesign basics.
I remember listening to Gavin Drake e Scott Wieseler at Typotechnica 2005 but didn't get much out of it, anyway that was for Quark version 7.
Happy choice.

TheMark's picture

Hey Christian

Working with DTP since 1992, starting up with pagemaker, onto Quark and now Indesign, I really don't see a choice for you. I know all the buzz about Quark 8 being the "Indesign killer" but the facts are that Indesign was the Quark killer. Besides my own studio I often get pulled in on freelance jobs in the advertising industry in Europe and It's been years since I've even seen people work with Quark. Is it coming back, bigger and better? No doubt, but will Indesign stay on top in this race, no doubt either. People have changed to Indesign now - this took a while - and I don't think they will go back! So if you are looking for the industry standard, I would in a heartbeat choose Indesign. Have you seen the new CS4? It's amazing. Some of the places that Quark is better now is newspaper production, but that is about it. In my opinion anyway!

If you have some experience with pagemaker, Indesign will be the natural next step. And Don't even get me started on prices and level of service.

I feel though that you are leaning against a Quark solution and don't let me scare you of. I would choose Indesign, but you might be just as happy with Quark 8.

Good luck to you Christian

Paul Cutler's picture

There is a tremendous installed base of Quark users and many new ID users. I prefer ID but have to have both, since I receive files created in all the graphics programs. I basically have Quark to open layouts and check the conversion to ID.

Most of the layouts I receive from ad agencies still use Quark.


All ideas, theories and statements are subject to change without notice.

will powers's picture


You might want to wade through this discussion:

I find Paul Cutler's ad agency comment interesting. In the discussion referenced above, Patty points out that New York publishing was still using primarily Quark at the time of her first post to the thread. I still use Quark for academic and trade books. But I guess I had assumed that ad agencies had mostly gone to ID. For my needs [black type, no jackets], Quark is just fine, and I wait for eight. But ID does seem to be the better tool for a lot of ad work.


_Palatine_'s picture

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

By all means, keep 'em coming. I'm enjoying this discussion. I'm not really leaning toward any camp. Maybe I'm impressed with Quark because one is more easily impressed by an underdog. The one that tries hardest to please might have given a bit more loving to interface, capabilities, etc., this time around at least. But not knowing either InDesign or Quark intimately means I can't render any informed opinions about either product.

Best thing to do would be to download the trials and start experimenting.

agostini's picture

I started of with Quark, loved it... but because of license costs we changed to it (smile). As you mentioned before you want software
which will stay industry standard. There is just one choice: InDesign.
Adobe has so many leading products (as in Photoshop, Illustrator),
it will be impossible InDesign not being industry standard in future.

timd's picture

Has CS4 got kerning pairs, is Quark 8 as good at creating tables as CS3?

I use both CS3 InDesign and Quark 6.5, there are good and bad points to both, I prefer Quark out of habit and for certain features. I sometimes feel InDesign is trying to nanny me too much.


TheMark's picture

This is getting very interesting. Paul you said

"Most of the layouts I receive from ad agencies still use Quark."

Coming from Europe, I would like to know if Quark is still standard in the American advertising industry? I have no experience working with american ad agencies and is somewhat surprised really, for it's been year since I had to open my Quark. (Yes I still have it installed - old love you know)

Oh and Paletine... please let us know what you choose

Mark, Copenhagen Denmark

twardoch's picture

It's funny to hear that people consider Quark "the underdog". Adobe launched InDesign in the time of the absolute dominance of Quark, and it was InDesign that was considered "the underdog" — but InDesign conquered the market quickly. The first versions were too slow because the computers were not powerful enough, but these days the performance is not an issue anymore. The typography in InDesign is superior, the native integration of Adobe's native file formats (PDF, Photoshop PSD, Illustrator AI, EPS) is also a plus for InDesign.

And if you learned PageMaker before (as I did), you will find InDesign a bit easier to use than Quark, as it's closer in the concept (many people who originally created PageMaker later went to develop InDesign).

These days, it seems that InDesign is leading the way and Quark tries to follow.


_Palatine_'s picture

The good old days (or even before them) . . .

And the OS it ran on . . .

Paul Cutler's picture

>Coming from Europe, I would like to know if Quark is still standard in the American advertising industry?

Most of the layouts I get (and all of them from NYC that I can remember) are Quark. Most of the designers I know prefer ID so it's a conundrum. The installed base of Quark is so strong that companies are hesitant to change.

Basically you have to know and have both to do what I do, but I use Quark mainly to check the competency of conversions to ID.

I never finish the job in Quark or generate final PDFs from it. I just don't really like it - no accounting for taste.

I would assume considering the price and Adobe's dominance in setting standards for printing that ID will eventually leave Quark behind, but it certainly hasn't happened yet.


All ideas, theories and statements are subject to change without notice.

billtroop's picture

Christian, Typophile is not the place to go to if you want objective opinions about Quark v InDesign. Typophile has a preponderance of users who are developing or very interested in using the still-buggy and badly-supported OpenType format. InDesign won these pioneering and long suffering users' hearts by supporting OpenType long before Quark did. (At that time, in the rest of the world, nobody knew or cared what OT was. That is still largely true. But not here on Typophile!)

Now let's look at a couple of myths:

>The typography in InDesign is superior

Tell me Adam, what about InDesign typography is superior?

Is it the 'optical kerning' that totally destroys every well-constructed font that passes through it by wantonly changing the interletter spacing of every letter combination except OO?

Is it the cynical 'optical justification' feature that hurls hyphens, dashes and quotation marks out of the margin like orphans into the storm?

Is it the poorly implemented, uncustomizable paragraph composer which unintelligently impairs lines at the expense of paragraphs?

Is it the fact that InDesign won't support OT features created by your company's own Fontlab that are fluently supported by Quark 8?

>the native integration of Adobe’s native file formats (PDF, Photoshop PSD, Illustrator AI, EPS) is also a plus for InDesign.

Who was first with advanced Photoshop PSD support? Quark, or Adobe? Paradoxically, it was Quark, three years ago.

Quark 6.5 let you view, show and hide both channels and layers, and blend opacity and transparency modes; and map the psd's alpha and spot channels to inks within the
QuarkXPress Project (good for special processes such as varnishes or bump plates), enable/disable Adjustment
Layers or change their effect by editing their opacity,
or blend mode enable/disable Layer Masks. By contrast,
InDesign didn't then offer any layer or channel con-
trol at all.

In areas that are important to ad-based workflow, Quark's transparency features are vastly more fluent, and its image-editing features now do a substantial proportion of what you would need Photoshop or Illustrator for.

As for customer support, Quark earned a mind-boggling amount of resentment for its support policies about a decade ago, but in recent years, the weight of the evidence seems to be that Quark's support has consistently been superior to and cheaper than Adobe's. These things ebb and flow. Adobe for years had better tech support; no doubt it will again, when it perceives there is a competitive advantage that would be worth the investment. But that time isn't now.

What I object to most with InDesign is the assertion of 'fine typography' strengths. These are based on features like optical kerning and optical alignment that on close inspection turned out to be valueless. However, the issues are subtle and it took most users several years to realize that they actually weren't working. That might have been acceptable in a 1.0 or 2.0 product. But at 5.0 or 6.0? It simply shows Adobe's cynicism. Hurl the features out there. Don't worry about what they actually do.

I'm sure I'll be flamed for making these remarks here, but not by those weary InDesign users who have tried to get optical kerning and optical justification to work.

Thomas Phinney's picture

"Is it the fact that InDesign won’t support OT features created by your company’s own Fontlab that are fluently supported by Quark 8?"

Which specific features are those, Bill?

billtroop's picture

Re OT features supported by Quark 8 but not by InDesign, simply literally follow the instructions in the Fontlab manual to create f-ligatures, generate, and the features will work in Quark but not InDesign.

This is not OT design at a high level, but it is what happens when you RTFM and follow the instructions. This may be one of those elsewhere-documented cases where the feature works in CS2 but not in CS3.

I guess it didn't really matter when InDesign was the only program that supported OT. Even early on, though, there were complaints about inconsistent OT support between Indy, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

But now we have three major programs - - InDesign, Quark, Word -- which all support OT completely differently. (Leaving aside for the moment the rest of CS and the fact that IndyCS2 supports OT differently than IndyCS3)

The answer is common code, consistent across platforms and applications. But how can we try to sell Adobe on that when Adobe has spent six or seven years building CS into a virtually OS-immune fortress with proprietary rasterization solutions -- perhaps wisely, perhaps not? And how can we sell Microsoft on that when Microsoft isn't interested in supporting any of the advanced OT typography features -- yet? Yet, these are the two companies, with their completely different agendas, that co-operated to create OT in the first place.

Thomas, I am perfectly willing to admit that I could have been wrong, and that we would all be miserable had we let Apple handle advanced typography for both Windows and Mac as almost happened in the mid-90s. Maybe it truly would not have worked out. Maybe it would be much worse than what we have. (Like maybe Apple would have ditched GX in 1998, leaving it on Windows, while going its own completely independent way. No, that doesn't seem likely. GX would have tied the two companies together inextricably.)

But given OT's current complexity, and the inevitable fact that it will increase in complexity with time, and given Microsoft's intractable opposition -- thus far -- to supporting advanced typography features in OT fonts, I think the only rational way forward is to adopt a common code/common feature model as base theology for OT and evangelize it -- or make it attractive enough that everyone will adopt it for selfish reasons.

Otherwise, each succeeding release of Quark and InDesign will support OT differently, each doing some things better, some things worse. And users will be confused and alarmed. And other app developers will steer clear.

The goal for OpenType should be that all OT fonts work all the time, all the same, everywhere. And I'm reasonably sure you share that belief. But how to make it happen?

And shouldn't this be another thread?

charles ellertson's picture

I know type has multiple uses nowadays. Placing pixels on a monitor. Printing out a newsletter on an laser printer. All I can really speak to is printing, where the purpose of setting type is to take an author's words and a designer's layouts to enable the printer to make a plate. What's *best* boils down to "how good is the plate?" Not much else matters.

Perhaps a couple of stories will show the importance of the Quark versus InDesign question, at least, when the use of a printing press is the end result of setting type.

1. I made a lot of money in the 1990s and early 2000s because I didn't use Quark or PageMaker. When someone needed to set, say, vowels with macrons, or set a language like Navajo, Kiowa, transliterated Arabic, Chinese, Devanagari, etc. etc. etc., Quark and PageMaker users floundered about. Best they could do was make up fonts with the needed characters mis-named. We used TeX. We could write any encoding vector we wanted. The names of the characters in the typeset file were correct. You could search for them as unique strings. (things were name-based in those days).

The first and most important job of the typesetter is getting all the words spelled correctly. If you cannot set the needed character, you cannot spell the word correctly. The easier it is to set the right character, the better off you are; the easier you can do searches in revised proof, the better off you are.

So the biggest and best *feature* of OpenType is that it allowed Unicode to be brought to the PostScript Type 1 font. The rest is just a matter of comfort food.

2. Quark (or PageMaker & InDesign) didn't & still don't allow the control *for setting type* that TeX did. We use to quip to new comps that with TeX, the good news was you could make up any typesetting routine you wanted; the bad news was you had to. (Color management is a different matter.)

All the built-in features of a program usually get in the way of other features. You could argue that what killed PageMaker (the first serious DT layout program) was it had been patched so many times with new features that it was buggy, & impossible for a programmer to go back & straighten things out. This will likely happen to both Quark & InDesign down the road.

"Ease of use" or "built-in features" are usually a two-edged sword.

* * *

I was on a panel at a AAUP Production Managers meeting in 1996. A Quark user on the panel said that the most important issue with Quark was it allowed you to archive all your work in that format. I asked what he'd used for an archival format before. "Compugraphic" he said.

* * *

As was said earlier in this thread, if you use the applications program that most of the other people in your particular area use, you probably haven't made a mistake. You'll have no advantage over them in setting type, but unless you are seeking an advantage setting type -- as opposed to, say design -- So what?

bieler's picture

"GX would have tied the two companies together inextricably."


Like Apple's development of TrueType for Microsoft tied them together inextricably? I don't think so. As I recall only one third party software application supported Apple's QuickDraw GX (Adobe certainly did not, though I do know they were developing fonts for it, just in case; saw the work during a visit).

Thus far, OpenType doesn't come near the possibilities of GX, though we have heard about OT's possibilities for some many years now. Beyond expanded character sets and cross-platform capability though, what exactly does OT offer that even comes close to GX? Serious question.


twardoch's picture

> Tell me Adam, what about InDesign typography is superior?

The quality of composition in pretty much any European language other than English delivered by InDesign CS3 greatly beats Quark 8 (English is only my third language so it does not interest me that much).

Whether it's German, Polish, Czech, Russian or Greek, the results delivered by InDesign's paragraph composer are far superior and more pleasing than those made by Quark, which even in the international Passport version always produced poor hyphenation and justification, especially for languages outside of Western Europe.

And yes, optical kerning may not be a good idea for the languages for which many Western fonts have been well-fit for (English, German, Dutch, perhaps French) but the vast majority of European languages (say Basque, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Swedish, Finnish, Latvian, Estonian, Hungarian etc.) may actually benefit from InDesign's optical kerning even in well-made fonts, because the default kerning in those fonts often only takes into account combinations that occur in a handful Western languages, sometimes only in English.

It seems to me that Quark's typographic composition engine is strongly specialized on one language out of world's hundreds of mainstream languages (so it's a kind of a one-trick pony), while InDesign's typographic engine is far more universal -- even though the regular "international" edition of InDesign performs well only with European alphabets, and for Japanese, Chinese, Arabic or Hebrew one needs a specialized edition.


Paul Cutler's picture

I really like optical kerning for many older fonts (especially the ones from Adobe) which seem to be kerned rather haphazardly. Mrs. Eaves is another one that comes to mind.

Newer font designs seem to have more emphasis on kerning.

In any case it's nice to have a choice.


All ideas, theories and statements are subject to change without notice.

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